Thursday, April 8
Vincent took us to a special restaurant along the canal for a typical Yangzhou breakfast. It was very good. After that we took a VERY long walk in a huge park known as Slender West lLke Park. We walked and talked in this serene setting. I fed doves which landed on my hands and arms. Little school kids said “hello” to me since I was almost the only westerner in the park at the time and I suppose I stood out like a sore thumb. Anyway, this was pretty cute.
We walked to a coffee shop near the canal where we had lunch. After lunch we dropped Kenny off at the hotel and Vincent took me to tour the Vision Automotive Lamp factory. I was impressed with what I saw. Among the many things I learned from Vincent was that they had over 600 employees from all over China who live in dormitories next to the factory.
Later that evening we had dinner with the Chairman of Vision and Enterex, Windsor Wong. We learned that he had been wined and dined and generally honored by the local government the night before. Apparently his companies, while not the largest in Yangzhou are held up as model companies for a variety of reasons. It occurred to me that in the US cities, counties and states often give tax breaks to companies which locate in their area in return for the companies providing employment opportunities for the local citizens. However, since Enterex and Vision don’t hire local people for the most part, I didn’t understand why the local government would make such a fuss. Vincent explained that since China has such a huge population and is a communist country, among the most important things to the overall economy are jobs – even when those jobs go to people from other areas. Of course, there is the additional aspect of the employees contributing to the local economy by their spending in town.
Most of the employees come from ‘the countryside’ and their families are often farmers. I’ve spoken to a few of English speaking employees who had either 2 or 4 year college degrees, but I suspect that most don’t. I learned from the few with whom I have spoken that they generally get to go home once or twice a year and that usually home is between 4 and 8 hours away by bus or train. Also, while the employee may know how to use a computer and the internet, usually their parents do not know. Considering the one child policy, it must be very hard for parents to have their kids work so far away and see them so infrequently.
After dinner we again took a walk on Old Street to the canal and then back to the hotel.
Friday, April 9
After checking out of the hotel Kenny & I were picked up by a driver from Enterex and driven to Nanjing. I was scheduled to stay in Nanjing for three days and Kenny was to leave for Taiwan that afternoon from Nanjing airport. The roads were good, the ride was comfortable, and our driver, Mr. Lu, was a safe driver. It was fine until we saw a car driving in the wrong direction on a 6 lane, divided highway – headed straight for us. It was relatively easy to avoid the car, but was shocking. How did the car get there? Where did it think it was going? How would it get off? I couldn’t see anywhere to make a U turn. Luckily we passed it and went on our way.
We made two sightseeing stops along the way. The first was to Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in a beautiful, huge park on the outskirts of Nanjing. There were steps, steps, and more steps. However, luckily the weather was good and Kenny and I enjoyed the excursion. The memorial was well done.
We continued on into town where we had lunch in an area well known as a destination because of the renovated old, classic Chinese street, the commercial outlets, the short boat cruises along the river and, most importantly the Confucius Temple. We saw the temple from outside, but were not interested in going in since it meant paying a fee and waiting for a cultural show to start in twenty minutes.
A few things of note in the commercial area: Every other shop looked like The Gap. Also, apparently Nanjing is known for its “salted duck”. I saw many, apparently hermetically sealed bags of this duck, which did not have to be refrigerated until opened. I am not sure how long a shelf life the unopened product has. However these ducks looked almost freeze dried and very interesting.
Kenny and the driver took me to the hotel. After a week of being ‘hosted’ I was now on my own for the weekend. I got situated and then found a supermarket so I could shop for ‘provisions’ (milk for coffee, some snacks for the room) and went to the bank.
Saturday, April 10
I had a fascinating visit with Dr. Xu Xin. Dr. Xu is well known among scholars exploring Jews in China. Currently he serves as Director of the Center for Jewish Studies, Nanjing University (which he founded), President of The China Judaic Studies Association (he was among the founders) and Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia Judaica, Chinese Edition. I read a book he had written and on a whim decided to contact him. The meeting was as a result of my bold and unconventional action and his response to my e-mail.
Dr. Xu shared with me how he got interested in Jewish life and switched the focus of his academic life from being a professor of English literature twenty some years ago to a passion for understanding and fostering relationships between Chinese people and Jews and Israel. It would take quite some time to explain his story. Suffice it to say it was a morning very well spent. I even met a few Chinese students who spoke Hebrew and an Israeli student who is writing his Master’s thesis in Chinese. I knew there was a special connection between these two peoples whose history expands across thousands of years.
Among the many stories Dr. Xu shared was the role he played in the political discussion about China establishing diplomatic ties to Israel. Fascinating! It was really an interesting and rewarding morning.
I was pretty lucky with my hotel accommodations until today. I planned to work in my room this afternoon. In mid afternoon some extremely noisy people checked into the room next to mine. I suppose the walls are thin, but the voices are also extremely loud. One woman’s voice was particularly irritating. I was happy when the group – which sounded as if they were going to have a pajama party - went out in the early evening. Of course, no sooner had they left the room when fireworks were set off about half a block or less from my side of the hotel. I am on the eight floor and have a huge window which takes up the entire width of the room. I had a great view of the fireworks, which could easily compete with the ones on the National Mall in Washington, DC on the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, with the sparkles also comes the noise. It was almost as if the fireworks were being set off right outside my single pane window….and that after I already had a headache from the irritating voiced woman.
I’ve noticed in Nanjing that fireworks tend to go off throughout the day. Perhaps it is a holiday?
Last night there were fireworks in different areas which I could hear and sometimes see. They continued for about half an hour, starting at around 9:00 pm.
This hotel is on a hill and includes a few buildings, rather than just one. My chosen budget lodging got me housed in an eight story building about 100 - 150 yards across the parking lot from the main hotel where the business center and the coffee shop are located. When I went out to make copies in the business center in the late afternoon I noticed that there were two weddings which would take place this evening, one in each building. I actually saw the photographers taking pictures of one of the beautiful brides.
About 40 minutes ago there was quite a commotion in the hall directly outside my room. I decided to look to see what was going on. There were four people – including two young people in their 20s or early 30s who were obviously dressed for the wedding and an older couple – probably the parents of one of the younger ones – trying, unsuccessfully, to enter the room next to mine. Now I actually saw the woman with the irritating voice. Anyway, it is now 10:40 PM and they just quieted down. I can only hope that it is permanent. It sounded as if they were all in the middle of my room as a result of their loud voices and obviously thin walls.
Drat! Its 10:46 and some of them came back
I called the front desk to complain at 11:10 pm. Shortly thereafter things quieted down…..