Nanjing – Day 2

Posted May 26, 2009 by baj337
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The Central Hotel in downtown Nanjing will be our home for the next few days. As the name implies, it is in the center of downtown and overlooks one of the busiest streets in the city. The accommodations are very nice, and the housekeepers pay close attention to every detail!

Sunday was primarily a day of sightseeing. We traveled to the ancient city wall constructed centuries ago to protect Nanjing from outside invaders. Today the area is a park where many people can come to walk, have picnics, and relax among the great old trees that are throughout the park. A good portion of the morning was spent exploring the Dr. Sun-Yet Sen Memorial Park and several ancient tombs with surrounding symbolic statuary.

Later in the afternoon, we traveled to the Confucius Temple area where we toured, and then did some shopping in the open-air shops all around the area. For dinner, we met with RMU President Dell ‘Omo and Provost Jamison and their counterparts and faculty from Nanjing Medical University for a festive dinner, complete with entertainment at one of the restaurants in the Confucius Temple district. Dinner was very enjoyable and a good time was had by all.



Posted May 26, 2009 by baj337
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Dr. Woo, one of our RMU Rooney scholars last semester, met us at the hotel on Saturday morning to see us off on the next leg of our journey through China. Dr. Woo and Sobrina from the SHC Foreign Affairs office were terrific hosts and guides throughout our stay in Suzhou, and we were sorry to leave them on Saturday morning.

Leaving Suzhou, we headed for Nanjing with a stop in Wuxi to visit the expansive and renowned Buddhist temple complex located there. The statue here is enormous and there are hundreds of steps to climb in order to reach the base of the statue. Just about all of us climbed them all, me included! Inside, you can go up even higher as well as visit several historical displays. Next to the statue is an absolutely exquisite temple that was recently completed. It is a magnificent structure. Incense fills the air as it burns in huge urns. The architecture of the temple is awesome.


A few hours later, we arrived in Nanjing, and stopped at the Nanjing Medical University for dinner before checking into our hotel a few blocks away. Just like Shanghai and Suzhou, Nanjing is a very busy place and full of activity.

Friday, May 22

Posted May 26, 2009 by baj337
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Friday morning found us heading to another ancient canal area around Suzhou called Zhouzhuang. The canals were lined with open-air shops selling all types of items as well as restaurants. In addition, we visited several old homes along the canals that have been preserved in their original states. They were truly exquisite examples of Chinese architecture from the past. We all shopped in the store and bartered with the shopkeepers to (hopefully) get the best prices for our purchases. I picked up a silk tie for 5 yaun– about 95 cents in US currency! The students had a blast negotiating back and forth–some of them really drove a hard bargain! We stopped for lunch in one of the small local restaurants that lined the open-air marketplace.

In the afternoon, we drove about one hour outside of Suzhou to Taihu Lake and a small rural town where we visited another old Chinese home and surrounding gardens. This house was another excellent example of beautiful carved woodwork and craftsmanship from an earlier period.


We rushed back to the city for the scheduled 5:30 pm agreement signing ceremony between Suzhou Medical COllege and Robert Morris University. Once back at the hotel, we had exactly 30 minutes to transform from tourists to dresses and shirts/ties. Amazingly, we pulled it off!!! Off we went on the bus to the Suzhou Medical College campus outside the city, and we literally pulled up at 5:29 pm!

The signing ceremony was a formal affair that began with introductions from the Presidents of both universities and statements of welcome and collaboration. After the documents were signed and exchanged, a group picture was taken and everyone present-students, faculty, and administrators- all headed back to the Sanyan Hotel for a celebratory dinner.

At this excellent dinner, numerous toasts were made among all of the guests, and karoke entertainment in both Chinese and English followed with faculty and students. The rendition of “Hey Jude” by Drs. Davidson and George will be a lasting memory for all! Many friends were made that night! Afterwards, students from SMC and RMU interacted among themselves to make a memorable international experience!

Thursday May 21: Suzhou

Posted May 26, 2009 by baj337
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On Thursday morning, we headed to the Humble Administrator’s Garden, one of China’s four most famous gardens. These landscapes, waterscapes, and exquisite buildings were built as early as 1509 AD under the reign of Zhengde during the Ming dynasty. The gardens were peaceful as many paths and bridges meandered throughout the complex. Of special interest was an extensive bonsai garden that contained thousands of perfectly manicured bonsai plantings of all different sizes and shapes.


Following our tour of the gardens, we walked a few blocks to the Suzhou Museum. The present museum building was designed by world renowned architect I.P. Pei and opened in 2006. This museum displays works of art from the Wu region, which includes Suzhou and surrounding areas. Included among the 30,000 items are treasures, painting, relics, crafts, and calligraphy.

In the evening, we took a bus tour of the “industrial” (new) part of Suzhou which took us to some of the new buildings including a multi-colored lighted auditorium/arena and an amusement park with a large ferris wheel. It seems like every square inch of this area was lit up in a variety of colorful lights of all sorts and colors!

Visits to Suzhou hospitals

Posted May 22, 2009 by baj337
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The remainder of Wednesday afternoon was spent visiting and touring several hospitals in Suzhou. Our bus driver has been most accommodating and he is a very skilled driver in what looks to all of us to be nearly impossible driving conditions, particularly during the rush hours. There are pedestrians everywhere along with bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, people pulling carts, cars, buses, and trucks. The only thing missing on China’s roads are large tractor trailers! All of these people and vehicles feel that they have the right-of-way and everyone else be damned. The incredible thing is that it seems to work very well!! We haven’t seen any accidents of any major consequence yet! But we have seen hundreds of close calls in just a few days! Keep your fingers crossed that this continues!

Our first stop was the 2nd Affiliated Hospital of Soochow in Suzhou. A very busy place to say the least! We toured the Emergency Room areas first. In China, ERs are not utilized in quite the same fashion as many American ERs are. True and serious emergencies are treated in Chinese ERs. You don’t go to the ER here for a band-aid like many do in America! Following our tour of the existing hospital, we traveled across the street where a new large additional hospital is just being finished and will open in a few weeks. The facility was state-of-the-art, with all brand new equipment and the latest in hospital architecture. Our last stop was to the Maternity Center of Municipal Hospital, which specializes in pre- and post-natal services. Like many areas of Suzhou in general, this hospital complex was newly constructed and reflected state of-the-art technology. It was interesting to observe an uncluttered atmosphere throughout both of the operating hospitals that we visited. It was obvious that the one just ready to open will have the same characteristic.

After returning to the hotel and following another traditional Chinese dinner, we headed out for an evening of sightseeing in the rain. Our tour guide took us to one of old canals that are prevalent in Suzhou. The rain and mist certainly added to the mystique that made all of us feel that were in a old classic Chinese movie. All kinds of shops lined both sides of the canal and most were dimly lit but open. The sidewalk was very close to the water, and one small slip could put you in the water. Classic red Chinese lanterns lit the canal and walkway. We checked out the shops and dodged puddles of water for about an hour before retreating to the relative comfort of our bus. Returning to the hotel, we were all pretty soaked and ready for bed. Our shopping excursion is better suited for a dry day!

Coming next—A day of sightseeing in and around Suzhou!


Down to Business Today! (Wednesday)

Posted May 22, 2009 by baj337
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After an 8:00 am breakfast of Western-style food at the hotel (“Western” means eggs, bacon, toast, juice, and COFFEE!), we boarded our bus (our new home-away-from-home) and headed to the Shihu Campus of the Suzhou Health College, just outside of downtown Suzhou. This campus of the school is almost brand new and is spread out over several acres of flat land. The College has 6,400 students who study in Nursing, Pharmacology, Stomatology (mouth disorders, false teeth), Eye technology, and basic sciences. Upon our arrival in a light, but steady rain, we were escorted to the board room with a very large mahogany wood table in the center and rows of chairs behind. Our students from RMU as well as about 20 students from SHC who are interested in coming to RMU occupied the seats behind the table. RMU faculty (Dean Davidson and Associate Dean George, and me-now known as Dr. Johnston, at least in China! sat at the conference table across from the President of Suzhou Medical College, assorted department heads, and other nursing school administrators. I felt like we were at the Geneva Peace Conference or attending an arms control treaty negotiation! Since none of us could speak the others language (except for a few basic words like “Thank-you” or “Yes”), a translator room the school’s International Relations office was present. The President welcomed us, and then we were all introduced. Following an exchange of future cooperative goals, the President took us to an area of the school which has displays tracing the history and evolution of the College back to its founding in 1911. This extensive display revealed a lot of interesting insight into the development of health care in China.

After this, we boarded the bus and took a driving tour of the extensive campus. Stopping at the School of Nursing complex, we began a detailed tour of the Nursing facilities. One entire floor of the building has been transformed into a prototype of a typical Chinese hospital ward complete with beds, nursing station, and other components found in a hospital. Here, students can practice in a real-life setting. Going upstairs, we were shown several simulation labs that allow students to practice nursing assessments using technology similar to the SimMan that we have at RMU. Other classes in session were practicing bandaging and other techniques.

Between 10 am and noon, we gathered in a classroom where RMU students and faculty as well as SMC students and faculty presented brief overviews of our respective Schools of Nursing. Professor Woo, one our RMU Rooney scholars last semester, presented a history and description of the Suzhou Medical College and its affiliated hospitals. Drs. Davidson and George presented for RMU. Last, Jennifer Maley, an RMU Nursing Graduate Student and Trauma Coordinator at UPMC/Presbyterian gave an overview of trauma services in the United States. Following a question and answer period, the entire group was taken to the school’s canteen for a “Chinese with a touch of American” lunch. The American component was french fries and ketchup!

After an enjoyable and quite sociable lunch, one of the nursing faculty members from Suzhou Medical College was gracious enough to give me a personal tour of the College’s library. The library is housed in a brand new multi-story glass building with a beautiful water plaza in the front.


The library collection exceeds 420,000 books, of which 280,000 are print and 140,000 in electronic format. 15,000 periodical titles are received. The library director (formally known as the “library leader”) was available to accompany us on our tour. My Nursing faculty escort was bilingual and able to interpret my questions and the “leader’s” answer which resulted in a very productive, impromptu meeting. Unlike American academic libraries, computers for database access and other applications are NOT located in the library. These hardware and software resources are available, but separate from the library. The definition of a “library” appears to be more traditional than in the United States. I found it great that the library “leader” wore a white lab coat while at work!!

Once we gathered back at the bus, it was time to leave the campus and visit several of Suzhou’s hospitals located in the city.


Shanghai to Suzhou – our journey continues …

Posted May 20, 2009 by baj337
Categories: Uncategorized

On Tuesday, our well-versed tour guide arrived at 8 am to escort us on a 1/2 day excursion highlighting various sections of Shanghai. After checking out of the hotel, we loaded up the bus and headed for a section called The Bund. It is mixture of old and new construction with the older architecture reflecting a definite British influence. After walking through this section of Shanghai, we drove to the gardens a few miles away. The gardens were an area of tranquil ponds, plantings, and original Chinese buildings dating back many years. However, in order to enter the gardens, we went through a literal maze of shops and open air bazaars that were selling all sorts of Chinese merchandise from trinkets to silk to jade to jewelry. We stopped at one shop that sold pearls, and the staff there opened a clam for us and gave each of us a pearl. The same shop also prepared and served some of us a several varieties of Chinese tea. One type of tea was in a ball that when placed in hot water actually opened up and bloomed like a flower in reds and pinks after a few minutes of steeping.

Next we went to a jade factory to learn about the making and history of jade products. After viewing the factory and many examples of jade on display, we went into a huge gift shop area to purchase a variety of items. (Fran– I got your black pearls here-they are tres elegant!) Earlier, our very animated tour guide wrote our first names in Chinese and gave them to us to have stamps made-another Chinese tradition. My name is 3 characters long and is pronounced “boo” “hoo”. None of us left this fantastic shop empty handed!

Our last stop in Shanghai was lunch at a four star downtown hotel. Lunch was traditional Chinese food served from platters and bowls on a large piece of round revolving glass. As the numerous plates went by, we would help ourselves to a portion. Over 20 items from main fare to soup to fruit were served. A great way to end our adventure in Shanhai!

By early afternoon, our stay in Shanghai was at a close. We were on our way to Suzhou–about a two hour drive. After arriving at the Sanyuan Hotel, our hosts from the Suzhou Health College provided us with a genuine Chinese dinner in a private dining room at the hotel.

After a busy day, we all returned to our rooms for some rest and to prepare for our Wednesday trip to the Suzhou Health College and School of Nursing where Professor Woo has just returned from her semester at RMU as one of our Rooney scholars. Our day on Wednesday will be very full with tours of the nursing school, presentations by faculty on nursing in our respective countries, and tours of several Chinese hospitals.

More to come tomorrow!