Business and education topics provided a full and hectic schedule today. The Savannah delegation toured the expansive, well planned (and fairly new) enterprise zone on the outskirts of Jiujiang. The zone had completed infrastructure for 5 – 10 acres of industrial and technological businesses.
Our first visit was to a company that designs and manufactures GPS units for vehicles called the “Goman.” Next, we visited a juice and beverage factory that made tasty, light fruit drinks in the apricot, orange, peach and carrot.
The GPS and beverage bottling company were both located in a special trade and enterprise zone set up by the City of Jiujiang.
Lunch was a special meal at the hotel – special because our host was the honorable vice mayor of Jiujiang City, and also because we watched the late election returns from the United States together during this time. History was made during our lunch with the vice mayor and we will never forget the toast that was made by the vice mayor to the abounding international opportunities that will result from the new President of the United States of America.
After lunch the Mayor and the representatives from SCAD took the lead on a visit to the 40,000-student Jiujiang University. The East Campus is located close to the heart of the city center and it focuses on music and dance. We were greeted by a large welcoming banner and a spirited performance by two teams of colorful, athletic Chinese dragon dancers and cheering students in the first courtyard of the campus.
Inside we saw a performance of Chinese ballet by two teams of twenty dancers, all nimble and graceful. Stephanie Simoni of WJCL was invited to join the second routine and we all thought that she had come over for rehearsal that morning as she was an excellent addition to the well-trained group.
Our next stop was probably one of the most memorable of the trip. An ensemble of thirty performers in beautiful red Chinese dresses (there were a couple of male performers in the back row) played traditional Asian music for the Savannah delegation. We were treated to ten pieces focusing on each of the classical and unique Chinese string and woodwind instruments. The ensemble took the time before each solo to show us each of the instruments and how the instruments produce music. Beautifully crated flutes, dulcimers, vertical violins, and a large harp-like instrument on a beautiful piece of highly polished wood joined in a chorus of ancient sounds of China.
The performance was skillfully presented by extremely talented and doll-like university students. We were mesmerized by the beauty and sounds of the ensemble. The group had even rehearsed a rousing version of “Way Down Upon the Suwannee River” just for the delegation. At the completion of the concert, Mayor Johnson presented the director with a gift including an invitation to the Savannah Music Festival in March and April of 2009. We would be honored to host such talent in Savannah.
We could have stayed all day but we had to visit the main branch of the University which is located approximately 10 miles out of the city center. The campus is large but beautifully planned with man-made lakes as well as natural areas in the center of the campus and on adjacent hillsides.
We first visited the expansive gymnasium and fitness facilities. The expansive indoor space could hold two football fields and includes tennis, table tennis, volleyball, indoor track and indoor basketball. The large number of basketball players inside and out may be due, at least in part, to the popularity of the NBA star Yao Ming, whose image is everywhere here.
We then visited the large school of art and design visiting classrooms to see students creatively designing and fabricating commercial products and packaging for an array of products and media. Outside a window of a classroom on the 6th floor of the art building, the Mayor, City Manager and Alderman Van Johnson watched as Mayor Pro Tem Edna Jackson “held court” with a group of over 30 English students in the common area at the entrance to the art building. Alderman Jackson had made serendipitous contact with the English language students led by an instructor from Colorado. The students were enchanted by Alderman Jackson (as most people are in Savannah and around the world) as she told them all about Savannah and taught them one of her favorite expressions from the South: “Ya’ll.”
Once again we could not linger because we were overdue for a meeting with the University President who is also a professor of management. In the President’s formal reception room we learned about the history and visionary future of the University. An American played an important part in the founding of the University in the 1920′s. Mayor Johnson and Darrell Naylor-Johnson, SCAD E-Learning Director, briefed the President about college life, learning and research at the Savannah Colleges. The Mayor presented a formal letter from the Georgia Institute of Technology proposing the exploration of a joint student/faculty exchange program with Jiujiang University.
We finished the evening with wonderful food and fellowship hosted by the President and the University Chairman of the Board, an informative theorist and economist. The food was fabulous and this time presented on a lazy susan that rotated slowly on its own! What will they think of next?!
The evening came to an amiable end as we headed back to our hotel in downtown Jiujiang. We had to get to bed because we had an early breakfast meeting at the invitation of Jiujiang City Mayor Wang Ping.