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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reaching out

One of the facets of my current job involves taking part in what are called Outreach activities. These involve sending one or two foreign service officers along with one of the locally employed Chinese staff to visit some of the cities located in our consular district, which includes the provinces of Ānhuī 安徽省, Jiāngsū 江苏省 and Zhèjiāng 浙江省. On these trips we usually meet with officials from the local Foreign Affairs Office, visit hospitals, companies and NGO's and give visa talks to interested students and businesspeople. The idea is to get out of Shànghăi 上海 and develop contacts in places that don't normally receive much attention from foreign government officials, and we're often warmly welcomed in the cities we visit.

This evening I returned from one such trip with two of my colleagues, an overnight visit to Tónglíng 铜陵, a city in the southern part of Anhui Province noted for its copper industry. The following are some photos of the non (or semi)-official aspects of our trip:

Preparing to depart from Shanghai's Hóngqiáo Railway Station 上海虹桥站 for Nánjīng South Railway Station 南京南站. From Nanjing, we took a bus to Tongling:


The lobby of the Anhui Tóngquètái New Century Hotel 安徽铜雀台开元国际大饭店. The great thing about staying in cities out in the provinces is that you often pay three-star prices for five-star facilities:


The view from my second-floor room balcony:



Many cities in China have urban planning museums, which can be very interesting. They usually have mock-ups of their grand designs for the future. In Tongling's case, it's called the Xiwu Development Zone, and signs of construction could be seen everywhere as we were driven around the city. I inadvertently caused some embarrassment when I asked how much the overall cost of the project was, only to find out the two officials guiding us around the museum didn't know:


New apartments are going up all over the development zone, in scenes being repeated all over China. Our Chinese colleague wondered where all the residents were going to come from. The answer was it was expected people currently living in the older sections of Tongling would move in, along with those migrating from the surrounding countryside:


That evening, I went for a walk in the rain in the area around our hotel. Despite having a population of nearly 750,000, Tongling was the quietest city I've so far visited in China. That was partly due to the hotel being located in the development zone. The hotel fronts an attractive lake, which in turn is close to the Yangtze River 长江:







Back in my room and watching Chinese opera on TV:


The view from the rear of the hotel:


This appeared to be an outdoor bar of sorts, but the weather put paid to that notion:


The view from the front, just as we were getting to ready to leave:


 Considering its long history as a copper mining and processing, it should come as no surprise Tongling has a museum devoted to the subject. It turned out to be quite interesting, though plans are afoot to move the collection into a mammoth building in the new development zone later this year:






Before our last official function, a visit to a large copper and aluminum wire manufacturer, we were taken to see the International Copper Sculpture Park, an attractive park containing a number of (you guessed it) statues made of bronze. The authorities of Tongling, like their compatriots across the country, clearly have a lot of money at their disposal to spend on modernizing their city. It should be noted, however, that local government debt in China is reaching alarming levels:





An interesting dish that appeared at the end of our lunch: puffed barley and shrimp wrapped in a crunchy fried shell of some kind. Quite tasty. In case you're wondering, Tongling's culinary claim to fame is ginger:

 
A quick pic of yet another condo project, taken from the car as were being driven back to the bus station:


Traveling by public long-distance bus - one of the "perks" of working for the government:


Back at Nanjing South Railway Station for the train ride back to Shanghai:


















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