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Guangzhou to Hong Kong, by some kind of sea transport

I’m writing this on the ferry from Zhuhai (pronounced joo-high), a city near the gambling resort of Macau, to Hong Kong. Tom and I had a whirlwind tour of Guangzhou (formerly Canton, the major Chinese trading center), visited a university in Zhuhai today, and will spend tonight in Hong Kong, China’s best-known SAR, Special Autonomous Region. Zhuhai is one of China’s five Special Economic Zones.

Tomorrow Tom will return to the States, while I continue on my travels. He’s been working on a paper for one of his classes and just pointed out the global nature of this: he’s a UK-born American citizen writing about Alaska and about the Kalahari Desert (for an anthropology class, I think, or maybe it’s for “Nationalism and the Global Community,” I can’t keep track) while riding on a hydrofoil in the South China Sea. (It’s not actually a ferry, and maybe not even a hydrofoil: Tom insists that it is in fact a catamaran. How do boys know these things?)

The main thing I have to report about Guangzhou is that we were treated to one magnificent meal after another, to the point that even I couldn’t keep up and had to start just tasting dishes, and keeping busy with soup and tea. Ellen Wong, the young English-speaking editor from the Guangdong Provincial Publishing Group, our partners on two publishing projects, has again been my guide. Last year she got me to try chickens’ feet, and this year was Tom’s turn. Apparently chickens’ feet are a major U.S. export to China, and Tom, normally an adventurous eater, struggled with this because he’s had an occasional job butchering chickens on a farm near his college in Iowa. He knows chickens much more intimately than I, and that held him back. But dim sum comes from Guangzhou, and Ellen urged him to try what is one of the standard dim sum (or “morning tea”) dishes. At lunch we discovered something better than peanuts for testing chopsticking skills: stir-fried sea slugs.

We went to Zhuhai to visit Professor Paul Hockings, an anthropologist whom we’ve worked with for many years and who is now the Acting Dean of Arts and Sciences at the new United International College, the only college in China where all teaching is done in English. The campus has 1,200 students and is expected to grow to 4,000; new buildings are rising on land donated by Beijing Normal University, which has a branch here, and is closely affiliated with the Hong Kong Baptist University. We’ve already sent some of our publications to stock the new library. It’s a tremendous setting, against sharply rising conical hills covered in lush greenery, and the buildings are designed with corridors open to the breezes from sea and mountain (but with overhead cover: it’s been pouring most of the day and the climate is warm, humid, and damp). Ellen had told me that the campus looks like a resort, and the whole area has something of a resort feeling: clean, well-groomed, lots of flowering shrubs and new buildings.

Our visit was much briefer than I would have liked, but I was able to discuss several major new projects with Paul and with a colleague, and it’s good to have a chance to see something of the Pearl River Delta, an extremely important region in China, both economically and environmentally. For me, the chance to meet scholars working outside the U.S. or Europe is quite wonderful: they have a global perspective, and global networks, that are crucial to our efforts at Berkshire Publishing.

Tonight, assuming that Tom gets his papers finished and e-mailed back to the States, we’ll be exploring Hong Kong on what is the third flying visit I’ve made there. Fortunately I’ll be back in 10 days and will have a little more time to familiarize myself with another important entry point to China.

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