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.)