Saturday, June 6, 2009

Shandong Jiaotong University

We left Shanghai and flew to Jinan. It was in Jinan that I experienced the most treacherous driving in my life. I tell you -- I have no fear of exaggerating just how wild the chaotic, random, serpentine, darting, swerving, braking, honking, and near death experience of riding in a Chinese taxi! Someone said that there are 54-thousand auto accidents a month in the Big Country. I can't verify that, and to be honest, I never witnessed one collision. Also, I might add, regarding traffic, that Oprah, a Chinese friend of ours, gave us one simple rule to remember -- Autos are more highly valued than people!

Thankfully, Shandong Jiaotong University sent a driver to pick us up and bring us to our first speaking engagement. The University is a provincial school with a student body of nearly 20-thousand. As we walked through the campus my eyes swept back and forth and up and down trying to take in -- and catalogue -- my unique surroundings. As we passed by several thousand Asian Collegiate, some playing basketball and tennis and some practicing Kung Fu -- they did so in near silence.

Before I was to speak to the students we were scheduled to meet with the University President and several of his key people. It was my first of many such meetings and we carefully, and somewhat nervously followed protocol -- giving due respect is very important in the Chinese culture. Our hosts followed the Asian custom of giving gifts. We were given a unique bookmarks engraved with Chinese characters. I cherish mine.

Finally, we were escorted into the the large theater-style lecture room which seated approximately three-hundred. It was a little intimidating. I kept thinking . .. what if only 20 people show up? Part of the presentation I would give required powerpoint, and also a video clip of Yao Ming. Neither my powerpoint or my video clip would load, so for my first presentation I had to make immediate adjustments (as in, just before I walked to the podium the sound and audio tech told me he couldn't load the powerpoint or clip)! Yet, when all was said and done, my impromptu changes -- made in the time it took to walk from up the steps to the platform -- went off without a hitch.

One more piece to the happy ending . . .

Approximately two-hundred Chinese students and faculty, focused, hungry, interested, and fully engaged hung on to every word I had to say. When I finished they had so many questions for Sandy and me and Robert and Sara that the English department leaders had to move everyone out of the building so that it could be closed and locked!

Pretty cool, huh!

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