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.

From Nanchang to our Sister City

Today the delegations from Savannah, Hinesville and Brunswick had breakfast together at the Jiangxi Hotel in Nanchang and then were sent on separate paths to visit our respective sister cities. Hinesville headed for Yichun, and Brunswick left for Ganzhou. The Savannah bus to Jiujiang City was delayed by heavy fog– allowing some of us to to take a half hour tour of the neighborhood behind the hotel.

The area, like hundreds in Nanchang, was a warren of dark, twelve foot lanes separating eight story brick walk-up buildings covered with balconies and hanging laundry.   Ground floors are filled with endless small shops selling everything anyone could ever need (like Internet-access galleries) or that they don’t need like the shop full of pastel colored, floor length chiffon gowns (for rent, sale, or photo taking) displayed on dozens of life sized mannequins.

On the  ride to Jiujiang City, we  left the suburbs and open-door shops on the outskirts of Nanchang behind, passed dense lowland farm areas and forests on the foothills before we suddenly reached Juijiang, a truly lovely city.  Though very densely developed, Juijiang is built on the dramatic Yangzte River, which is one of the largest in China (and which looks much like the mighty Mississippi).  Also the city has lovely boulevards, lakes, and historic attractions.

When we reached our destination in Jiujiang, (pronounced “Jo-Jong”) we were greeted by the representatives from the local government and met Littleboat who was one of Savannah’s primary sources of information prior to the visit. Littleboat and our new friends treated us to a fantastic lunch of fish, duck, beef, rice noodles, and other traditional dishes. Chinese tradition calls for seating guests at a round table with plates of food served on a large, rotating “Lazy-Susan” platform that allows guests seated around the table to share each dish.

After lunch, Mayor Johnson and the Savannah delegation visited Suojiang Tower, a 400 year old structure that casts a long shadow across the Yangtze River at 10:00am each day. It provides the City with a “safety barrier” against potential flooding.

From the Tower, we visited the Jiujiang Urban Planning Exhibition Center to take a look at a sprawling model of planned redevelopment and future of the areas in Jiujiang City, much like the model that we saw in Nanchang. The model provided a bird’s eye view of the Jiujiang Ports, major roadways, rail lines, vertical building plans, natural resources such as Mount Lushan & Puyong Lake, and the city center.

After visiting the Exhibition Center we had to hustle back to the hotel for the Sister City Signing Ceremony.  The ceremony and the celebration banquet festivities were nothing less than magnificent. The document signing was in a large, attractive hotel conference room with facing tables for each delegation.

Jiujiang Mayor Wang Ping reviewed the present and future direction for her City and the reasons that Savannah and Jiujiang should form a partnership– primarily trade and economic development, tourism, education, and cultural exchange.  Mayor Otis Johnson reviewed Savannah’s visions and affirmed the reasons for forming a Sister City Partnership.

The two Mayors were then seated at a smaller table to sign and exchange the partnership documents. Then official gifts were exchanged– with Savannah presenting the gifts specially made for the trip; Jiujiang presented beautiful porcelain bowls made in the Jiujiang provincial areas.

After the signing, the City of Jiujiang hosted a wonderful banquet of exotic and traditional Chinese foods. Mayor Wang Ping and her staff were charming, interesting, and very hospitable. At the end of the meal, the delegations took a short walk to the riverfront to view the Sister City Wall with the newly installed Savannah-Jiujiang Commemorative Plaque. The Savannah Delegation, and the people of Jiujiang, were treated to a unique waterfront fountain and light show with music videos projected on the falling fountains of water. Move over Elvis! In the large plaza next to the lake front we watched about a hundred ladies dance-exercising and Mayor Wang (and even ladies from our delegation) smoothly joined in the routine. The Mayor and her delegation then escorted us back to our hotel ending a truly remarkable day.

(Pictures to come.)

This morning, the delegations from Savannah, Hinesville and Brunswick toured several businesses including a “Beautiful Look of Kohler” industry and Tellhow, a leading company that makes generators and building control systems. We also toured a building that featured a model of the Jiangxi Province to get a perspective on the development plans for the area. The delegation’s morning exploration ended with a tour of the Tengwang Pavilion. The Pavilion was a beautiful tribute to the 3,000 year old history of the Jiangxi Province.

The day ended with a media interview and dinner with the Jiangxi Province Vice Governor, Mr. Sun Gang, and three important officials from Jiangxi. Mayor Johnson proudly presented Vice Governor Sun with the wrought iron sculpture made by John Boyd Smith, and a wonderful banquet followed. After the obligatory toasts, all delegations will rest well tonight as we look forward to heading off to our sister cities in the morning.

(Click on any picture to view a larger version)

  • Delegation departs Savannah on November 1
  • A 16 hour flight and 12 hour time difference later, they arrive November 2 in Shanghai-Pudong, China and make a connection flight to Nanchang to put them in Eastern China close to our Sister City Jiujiang

Around the world in 26 hours.  Delta brings efficiency and comfort to the edge (as in very cramped and uncomfortable). Each day they load hundreds of people into a Boeing 747 and fly for 16 hours from concourse E in ATL to Shanghai.

Going east actually means going north at 500 mph at 40,000 feet– from Atlanta to Lake Michigan, Ontario, Canada,  and over the Northwest Territory of Canada.  Then the flight goes over Siberia, Northern China, south toward Beijing and crosses the Huongpu River and its port at a few hundred feet where we landed smoothly and into Pudong International Airport just east of Shanghai.

Our group (Savannah, Hinesville, and Brunswick) quickly gathered its gear and braved the fortunately-”light”, but extremely scary to us, Sunday traffic across Shanghai to its eastern and more-domestic airport.  We passed a mixture of Asian-modern midrise and high rise housing and office buildings which only partially obscurred the small and more ramshackly “old China” building and neighborhoods.  Cranes and construction were everywhere with work underway even on Sunday and even in the dark.

We made our East China Air connection with 2 minutes to spare and some of us fell instantly asleep for most of the one hour flight to Nanchang. The provincial capital city, Nanchang is a city of 4 million (we think, but small by China standards) which is developing furiously but has attractive streetscapes, trees, and street level shops topped with apartments.  Office towers dotted the darkened landscape.

So after innumerable hours with short and fitfull naps, everyone got a light but totally authentic Chinese dinner and got some well-deserved bed rest to ready ourselves for a busy first day in Nanchang in Jiangxi Province.

The Savannah delegation departs for China on November 1, 2008. Members of the delegation include (from left) Mr. Tom Clappier, Savannah River Landing; Mr. Michael Brown, City Manager of Savannah; Alderman Van Johnson II; Mayor Otis Johnson; Mayor Pro Tem Edna Jackson; Ms. Jenny Payne, City of Savannah Management & Financial Services; Ms. Margarita Bourke, City of Savannah Public Information Office; Mr. Darrell Naylor-Johnson, Savannah College of Art & Design.

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