On Tuesday morning we were up early to check out of our hotel. This is going to be one of the challenges of this first trip to China. The schedule has us visiting 5 cities and four schools; signing with 5 different schools; meeting the Ameson team in the Nanjing office; and attending a two day international conference in the Nanshan Education District (where some of us will also be presenting). We are constantly "moving" and some nights in the hotel/city just for the evening.
Before checkout, Jeff Mitchell of Tuscaloosa Academy and I headed out onto the city streets for a morning run. We've been successful to date with having good workout facilities, and so venturing onto the busy streets has not been necessary. No such luck today, so we decided to give it running outside try. Much like any busy downtown area, the running on sidewalks has its limitations and certainly crossing the streets can break your pace. Our experience today was made more challenging by the busy intersections (bikes and cars and nearly no rhyme or reason of who can make what move when!) and the sight of two foreigners (one who is probably 6'4") running was a real curiosity for them. We were just glad to survive the crossings while marveling at the people sitting at small stalls for breakfast of hard-boiled egges or dumplings before work and a group of retail workers gathered in front of the store reciting some kind of company mission.
Our morning was dedicated to visiting a local school, one that Jackson Academy will be working with and accessible via a short walk from the hotel. The walk was about 1/4 mile and took us down the main street, turning off into a side street running between some lower rise apartment buildings. It was hard to believe a beautiful school was at the end of this short walk as the street/walkway was unimpressive and the smell coming from the "stream" running alongside it indicated raw sewage. Fortunately we quickly arrived at what we learned was only one of three entrances to the school. Peering into the gates it looked like we were entering a small college campus with handsome buildings surrounding a lush, garden with towering trees.
We were greeted by English teachers who walked us through the garden (and would later take us on a tour), and then up to the school's board room. This building in particular is lovely, with what looks like cherry wood moldings and railings, and a view looking out on the garden and koi pond.
Much like the other ceremonies we are around a very large table, this time arranged such that we are all on one side and the Chinese are on the other. We were joined by Jeff Wang from the Ameson offices, a great young man with whom I have been exchanging emails in advance of a Lovett student coming over in July, and Mr. Liu, an Ameson executive. The principal arrived late, having been detained by a presentation to another independent school (from California) and its student/teacher delegation. (We did not get to see them as their schedule had them in classes on another part of campus.) Once again, the formal signing included brief introductions to each school and pronouncements of support for the cooperation. This school in particular has a history of international exchanges with schools worldwide, and their student accomplishments are also impressive.
In what has become a daily routine, we are taken after the signing to a local restaurant for a celebratory lunch. We are usually taken to a reserved room with a large round table with a "lazy susan" in the middle. Dishes to share are placed on the lazy susan in stages, coming sometimes two or three at a time, and other times one at a time. Nothing is removed until it is finished. As we have two vegetarians in our group, we have a combination of meats, seafood, and tofu-all prepared in ways that do not resemble what we Americans think of as Chinese. We'll have duck (sometimes slow-cooked, sometimes just the skin basted with a sweet sauce and fried); slivers of beef with broccoli rabe or green beans in a barbecue-like sauce; a whole steamed fish; shrimp with hot peppers (which are unpeeled and you have to suck out the shrimp much like eating crawfish); scallops; tofu and noodles, tofu soup; hot pot soup (like hot and sour soup but often with a whole boiled eggs and sometimes mysterious objects); a bowl of eel (looks like a bowl of worms and apparently tastes like it looks); and often watermelon for dessert. Beverages typically include water (though sometimes unbottled which we cannot drink); cokes; or, Chinese beer. The later, TsingTao being one example, is similar to a very, very light beer in the United States and has relatively low alcohol content.
After lunch we had a little time to wander the main street (other than a candy shop we did not find anything of much interest), we piled into our van to drive a couple hours over to Yangzhou to spend the night and where I will sign with a school tomorrow. The drive was not particularly scenic, although as we got close to Yangzhou we crossed over a section of the Yangtze River. Tankers and other boats could barely be identified in the pollution haze, but one would imagine this is a beautiful area on a day when the conditions are better. The pollution, combined with the rain and fog of the "rainy season" seems to be following us on our trip. (Even the photos I tried to take crossing the river would not show anything but "fog.")