As mentioned in a previous post, the days here are stupid crazy. The brilliant crew from HUST have our days so action packed that our brains barely have time to keep up. Fortunately, in the midst of all the adventure, our beloved hosts had the foresight to slow things down somewhat and, four days into our visit, ran an opening ceremony.
The ceremony was a chance for the boys to see just how much importance the university places on these cultural exchanges. The opening ceremony was a veritable who’s who of the academic hierarchy of the Confucius Institute, and the HUST College of Languages. After listening to some speeches from the Chinese hosts and Mrs Kennedy, the students were invited to perform their number one hit, Mò lì huā (the jasmine flower song) and God Defend New Zealand, which they did with great gusto. This was followed by a rousing haka to acknowledge all the dignitaries and the fantastic work that they had put into making this trip a possibility.
Once the morning’s antics concluded, it was time to get a little more fibre in our diets, and we were taken off to the Yangtze Optical Fibre and Cable Company. The O-F double C (for those cool cats), is China’s premier producer of fibre optics and operates in many countries around the globe. We were lucky enough to have the company’s General Vice-Secretary (at least I think he was) show us around. An extremely knowledgeable and humorous man, our tour guide extolled the virtues of his company, his products, and the good that his company was doing around the globe. Peering through darkened windows into the sterile environments where the optical fibres were being produced, one could only stare blankly as terms such as 80 gigabits per second, and 3.17 million meters of optical fibre per month, were bandied about. Nevertheless, we somehow got the strange feeling that despite all of our own governments talk about high speed cabling, New Zealand is a little behind the times!
From the O-F double C to another museum, we soon found ourselves at the HUST History Museum. Here in an old redbrick building, we learnt how the university has its roots in the old Tongji Medical Hospital, established by Erich Paulun, a German living in Shanghai over a century ago. During the Japanese invasion of 1937, the medical school moved around the country, eventually merging with the Wuhan School of Medicine in 1950. From there, with the assistance of the Central Government of China, the university as it now stands began to develop. The government in 1952, had the goal of developing a higher education programme for the rapid development of the country, and Wuhan was to become a major centre of this ideal. Eventually, after surviving the cultural revolution, the Dot-Com bubble burst, and Y2K, the former Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Tongji Medical University, Wuhan Urban Construction Institute, and the Wuhan Science and Technology Vocational College combined to form the new Huazhong University of Science and Technology, or HUST for short. So, to keep a long story short, HUST has an incredibly impressive pedigree of some of China’s top academic institutions and the scary thing is, it is only going to get bigger and better.
Finally, to top of the night, the boys were treated to a lecture by one of China’s premier dancers, Vivian Yan. A stunningly tall, slender and intelligent woman, Vivian described the origins of Chinese cultural dance, and its manifestations throughout the regions. She then taught the boys some simple Chinese movements that were performed with great gusto, and maybe a little less refinement than the demonstrator anticipated. If you’ve ever watched a new born camel take its first steps, you’ll get what I mean. Nevertheless, the boys worked hard on their ‘Chinese dance hands’ and Jack Hurley came away with the prize for best male dancer. The boys also had the chance to watch a traditional Chinese dance from one of Vivian’s students and before we knew it, another day had come to a close, and with it, the promise of the following day and a trip to Malong Middle School.