Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nanjing to Shanghai

We are on a train as I write this, from Nanjing to Shanghai. This also marks roughly halfway through our trip and in so many ways it feels like we have been here forever and other times it feels as if we just got here, especially as we prepare to pack and travel to the next destination.

Nanjing turned out to be a really great trip for a number of reasons. One was the fact that we didn’t have to think or use our brains for anything and were relieved of the previous stresses of finding our way around and getting taxis, buying train tickets, changing air tickets, ordering food, or even PAYING for food. It was quite a relief also because Luci and I were pretty fried by the time we got here, after hurtling barriers in Beijing and Xian.

Yushu Chen, my colleague who was at SDSU for one semester as a visiting scholar was our guiding angel for sure and helped us with mundane tasks like shipping boxes, getting around town, taxis, etc etc.

We got checked into a fairly swank hotel which ended up costing us a mere $38 a night – a whopping $19 per person. that was a coup. We also got picked up at the airport by Yushu and her University driver. We crashed pretty hard and on top of that Luci was getting sick so we needed the rest. The first day we went to the campus to have a tour – these people do not mess around – the forestry university really takes that subject seriously, especially in the scientific field: they showed us a wood library – literary a library with over 3000 species of wood samples, and they told us there were 1600 known species of trees in China alone. They also had an entire library of microscope slides with every tree cell and a lab with microscopes. Oh how could I FORGET, before we went on our tour we had to meet all the officials of the program – it was a bit unnerving we all sat at this large conference table, all men on one side and yushu, luci and I on the other, we made the usual pleasantries, card exchanges, gift giving, etc. and then we just sort of sat there, fidgeting, trying to make small talk, staring at our tea etc. finally it was time to do the tour. They also take ergonomic study seriously with a contraption that looked like a torture device designed by one of the professors, a woman, and they had computers in there to measure and devise the ergonomics based on measurements taken off this device. Then we went to the design room which was filled with projects by students, including drawings, paintings, CAD drawings, models etc. and another room was filled with student projects for the furniture courses. I have to add that they could use a bit of excitement in there, the projects looked like 3-D projects and the fact that they only have two weeks to do the construction doesn’t help either.

The woodshop there is a working Festool ad - they had the entire facility outfitted with Festool, with a tablesaw, jigsaw set up (the jigsaw is upside down under a table so I guess it was sort of a table jigsaw), the router table, etc. But then in the next room there are huge CNC machines - and it seems like a big jump from Festool to CNC with nothing inbetween.


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