Shenzhen is just a couple of hours up the road from Hong Kong by train. When we arrived there, it was after 2100 (9 PM). I was not too impressed based on our first impression. That changed quickly the next day.
After a late supper and a good rest we were shuttled into a different world. The narrow streets of Hong Kong had been replaced by wide avenues and modern building with sweeping curves. Welcome to the Special Economic Zone, a place where a lot of money has transformed a city without a bright future into a thriving metropolis, complete with well-stocked shopping malls and Chinese people dressed in contemporary western garb (no, not cowboys boots and 10-gallon hats). There is a lot happening here. One of my talks was in the comfortable and spacious, 2-tiered auditorium of the city’s library. It is as modern and impressive as any that I have seen in NA.
My talks were to a hospital staff and a group of outdoor enthusiasts. You should know that I arrived here unprepared for the details of what I was expected to do. In fact, I think that Sun was a little taken aback that I would be apprehensive about any of this. It was not an issue of a non-NA audience. Talking with an interpreter is not such a big deal. You eventually get into a rhythm. The fact that I know Sun pretty well and that he knows our curriculum was a huge help. It was more the fact that this tour is really important for him. Wilderness Medicine is a very new idea here so my presence as the father of wilderness medicine (not my idea) means a lot to his efforts. I was treated like a minor celebrity. People made nice posters with our pictures on them to announce the events. The receptions have been much more enthusiastic and respectful than any that I receive in Maine or anywhere else in the US. More than a few people asked to have their pictures taken with me. I don’t want to let Sun down and really hope that I haven’t.
The next morning we had a long bus ride to Shantou where I was scheduled to speak to students from Shantou University preparing for a trip to Antarctica. The school is an interesting place. It is the Chinese equivalent of a small, private liberal arts college. It has been underwritten by Li Ka-shing, a Hong Kong billionaire businessman who has shared his wealth for educational causes around the world, including in the US and Canada. It really is a pretty campus in a scenic location, surrounded by rocky hills and a reservoir. There are many new buildings and interesting statues. One is of a tall metal figure made up of many smaller human forms, leaning over to address or consider a much smaller human figure. Presumably this is an expression of a common eastern view that an individual is but part of a larger whole, a piece less important in the grand scheme of things, than humanity as a whole. Another was of a group of men facing outward from each other, all in different directions. They each have overcoats on, some with open umbrellas. They are all disproportionately short with blocky bodies and indistinct facial features. Each in his own way seeing the world, some with a gloomy and others with an optimist vision of it?
The talk to students that evening was different from the prior 2. The students were young and enthusiastic, even after almost 2 hours, ending at nearly 2200.
Off to Chengdu in the early AM.