Impressionen aus China

Impressions from China

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Group foto in front of the Wuhan school
(click for larger image)

These pages are dedicated to our hosts of the School for the Blind in Wuhan, who showed us their wonderful school, city and culture.
From left: Two principals, Tan Shu Ya, Tanja, me, Huang Haiping and the principal Mr. Jiang

Diese Seiten sind unseren Gastgebern von der Blindenschule in  Wuhan gewidmet, die uns ihre wunderbare Schule, ihre Stadt und ihre Kultur gezeigt haben.
Von links: Zwei Mitglieder der Schulleitung, Tan Shu Ya, Tanja, ich, Huang Haiping und der Schulleiter Mr. Jiang


We left Beijing for Wuhan by night train on the evening of March 17th. Tanja, who accompanied me there, and I took from the campus and showed the driver a slip of paper with "Take us to Western railway station" written in Chinese. I also had a city map on my knees to discourage any "sightseeing" trips, and we arrived without a problem. Finding the right platform was the next challenge. The display was full of chinese characters, but the arabic numbers indicating time and platform gave us a good idea, confirmed by a person at the service desk.

We got on the train with no trouble and easily found our beds. There where six of them in each compartment, three stacked in one column (The picture showes Tanja sitting on one of them). People gaped at us, two european women travelling alone on a night train, but they were friendly. I couldn't have been less scared in Germany. We settled down for a 12 hour journey, wondering what Wuhan would be like.

Wuhan is 1200 km south of Beijing on the banks of the Yangzi river (or Chang Jiang, as it is called in China). We arrived there early in the morning and where welcomed by Huang Haiping, a massage teacher from the school, Tan Shu Ya, who introduced herself as Julia and was our interpreter, and a man who drove the van (We never learned his name).

They took us to our Hotel, "Zhongnan Garden".  We went to our room to take a shower while they waited for us in the lobby. After that we went to have breakfast. The dining hall was in a different building and we walked through a beautiful garden to get there (hence the hotel's name). There were bushes and flowers in full bloom, the temperature was about 20C, in short, after dry and dusty Beijing, it was enchanting.

Chinese breakfast is very different from western. There were beans and other vegetables, spring rolls, steamed stuffed buns (similar to Dim Sum), spicy noodles and different kinds of sweet soups. I've always preferred spicy food for breakfast, and I enjoyed these meals throughout our time in Wuhan.

The school

The school building is light-flooded and has a friendly atmosphere.
The boy reads and writes Braille. He uses slate and stylus to write, which is now rarely done in Europe or North America. But braillewriters are expensive and the Wuhan school had only a few. For more info on Braille see Braille Technology.
The girl uses an abacus to calculate. It is widely used by all students in China, and they reach a high efficiency.
Other subjects include music, Computer and Massage. Most of the students learn massage as their career, and they can make a good living of it.
Some of these pictures were taken at schools in other cities.
Music is another important subject.The school has many talented students who perform across the city. We got to see a performance and pictures of the students, teachers and us were taken afterwards. 

The City

Wuhan has three major parts that once where independent cities of their own: Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang. It has a population of over 7 million people. The school and our Hotel were situated in Wuchang.

The town's landmark is the Yellow Crane Tower. It sits amid the city on Snake Mountain, surrounded by a park. In the second image you see the park with the city in the background.
From the tower we had a view over Yangzi river, though it was a little hazy that day. On the other bank the turtle mountain with a television tower on top is visible. There is a story that a pair of cranes summoned Snake and Turtle to sit on the banks of the river to tame its floods. A statue symbolizing this is standing in front of the tower (see above). We were given a small version of this as a gift, and it now sits in my living room.
Close to the city lies a big recreational area, "East Lake". Up on a hill was another tower. Inside we watched a performance of traditional chinese music.
Walking around the touristic sites at Wuhan was a little weird, since we were the only non-asian people there. Sometimes, we were more of an attraction than the buildings around us. Some people asked to take a photo, others did so secretly. In the five days we stayed there, we caught sight of only one other "long-nosed" person.
While we enjoyed the warm spring weather in Wuhan, a sandstorm hit Beijing. We were really lucky...
Haiping showed us around Snake Moutain and East Lake. She used a small translation computer to help with communication. Julia (see second picture) is a translator at an university museum, and her English was probably better than mine. She translated not only language for us, but also served as a cultural interpreter.

When Tanja and me had to leave Wuhan for Beijing after five days, we felt that the time had been way too short. We had only begun to understand the rich and unfamiliar chinese culture. I am immensely grateful for the hospitality we experienced there, and for the grace and patience with which our ignorance of their customs was met. I sincerely hope to go back one day.


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