A Good Day in Brazil at FUMEC

            Before I get into a description of the highly productive day we had on Thursday, I need to revisit my original post about our Brazilian adventure.

            I failed to recount our last travel issue of the day.   After our long visit at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, the plan was to go to our hotel, check in, put on comfortable clothes and go out to dinner.   Problem was that the hotel had our arrival date in the system as May 28 instead of April 28 and there were no rooms.   Matter of fact, due to a major soccer tournament, there were no rooms at any hotel within a 40 minute drive.   Ultimately (about 9 p..m.) we got check into a nice hotel on the outskirts and had a late dinner.  If you are familiar with the Fogo de Chao or Texas de Brazil franchises in the US, you have some idea of the sort of place we had dinner on both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

            Last night, I failed to post this photo taken in a hallway at the University of the District Federal (UDF).   Even a non-Portuguese speaker should be able to figure out that this is a men’s room restricted to use by faculty and staff.   A very few of us are still around who can still remember such distinctions in American universities.

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            I had also intended to post this photo of Marc Whitt and his new best friend (some say long-lost cousin) taken at the PUC’s fine Museum of Natural History.

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            The entire day Thursday was spent on the campus of the University de FUMEC (Fundacao Mineira de Educacao e Cultura (Education and Cultural Foundation of Minas Gerais).  This is a private institution of near EKU’s size with remarkably similar specialized programs.  These include bioenergy research, aviation, occupational therapy, environmental health, public safety and security, and that is not an exhaustive list.   There was discussion of our Eastern English Language Institute during which the interesting question of whether we could mount such a program for non-English speaking faculty.   We should soon be signing an agreement to explore possible partnerships with this institution.  In fact, we believe we may well develop different types of relationships with several institutions as a result of this trip.  Immediately below is a photo of some FUMEC aviation students using a pc-based flight simulation program.   The program, which is very close to EKU’s in scope and mission, also has a large flight simulator, similar to the new one at EKU.

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In the first photo below you will see our group outside at FUMEC.   You will recognize several of the faces, but two you will not know are Rector Antonio Loures, to my immediate right, and Presidente Air Rabelo, to my left (which makes him right most in the picture).  The bottom shot shows the irrepressible Marc Whitt engaged in conversation with students who are engaged in publications writing and design.

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The Start of our Brazilian Adventure

            Our trip to Brazil has – so far at least – been both challenging and rewarding.   The challenges started Sunday, our day of intended departure on a week-long trip to Brazil, hopefully to return with letters of intent between EKU and several Brazilian institutions for student and faculty exchanges; perhaps even a dual degree program.  Our travelling party was Marc Whitt, AVP for University Relations; Dr. Neil Wright, Director of International Programs, Provost Jana Vice, Joanne, and me.

            Just before Joanne and I were to head to the Powell Building for the Student Alumni Ambassadors spring banquet, I had a call from the airline.  Our flight scheduled to leave Louisville at 6:55 p.m. had been cancelled.   I called the airline and got us booked on a flight from Lexington to Chicago at 6:53.   This would put us in Chicago for our connection to Sao Paulo at about the same time as our original Louisville connection.   Don’t ask why we weren’t on the flight from Lexington to begin with.   Cutting to the chase, however, it mattered not.   The flight from Lexington was delayed to the point that it would have missed the flight to Brazil.   We decided to start over the next day, booked again from Louisville.   We left Richmond in plenty of time to get to Standiford Field at least two hours ahead of time.   We had not factored in the semi that would wreck at the 22 mile marker.   We made our flight by a narrow margin.

            Our plans then called for a flight from Sao Paulo to Brasilia.   We had a couple of hours to clear Brazilian customs.  No problem there.   When we checked in at TAM, a Brazilian airline, there was no record of any reservation except for Marc Whitt’s.   After some anxious minutes  – mostly Marc’s – the matter got resolved and we were soon en route to Brasilia.

            Our associates, Trent Argo and Vanedeson Ximenes of International Education Group met us there and we kicked off the afternoon with a visit to the Universidade Catolica of  Brasilia.  Most of the discussion there focused on online education and that institution’s considerable venture into the virtual campus.  It appears to me that the strongest potential for a relationship here is with our College of Justice and Safety.  The campus has an impressive library.

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            Late in the afternoon we visited the Brasilia campus of the UDF Centro Universitario, also in Brasilia.   UDF stands for Universitario Distrito Federal, the latter term equating to the DC we append in Washington, DC.  We visited there with campus CEO Fabiano Ferraz, who has visited with us at EKU.   We will see him again Friday in Sao Paulo, where the institution has another campus.   There is a rich array of possibilities there.

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            Tuesday evening we attended a gala celebration of the SENAC-DF (again Distrito Federal) in which the 43 year old work force education organization recognized seven of its 1,000,000 graduates.   In the photo below, you have Alano Nogueira Matias, a law enforcement professional at Senac, Trent Argo of IEG, Dr. Flavia Silveira, president of the three-year old college that is part of Senac, yours truly, Joanne, Janna Vice, Mark Whitt, Neil Wright, and Vanedeson Ximenes.

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            Wednesday (today) we visited the Senac facility and here you see Janna Vice, with Ximenes doing interpreter duties, explaining Eastern;s QEP of critical and creative thinking and communications skills.   Senac is intent of finding an opportunity to partner with EKU.   Train the trainer programs, faculty development, and curriculum development look like the best opportunity.

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            After our Senac visit, it was off to Brasilia International Airport for a flight to Belo Horizonte for more institutional stops.   Again, only Marc had a ticket.   This time it took much longer to fix and we really just made our flight   TAM representatives hustled us through Security and escorted to the gate for just in time boarding.   A most suspicious mind would wonder if Marc was trying to strand some of us in Brazil                 

            From the airport it was off directly to the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, a fine institution of 60,000 student very interested in both exchange and joint degree programs.  I am very much interested in partnering with this distinguished school.   We enjoyed chatting with students at the campus television station (it broadcasts over the local cable) including these students working on news reporting assignments.  

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 After a tour of the beautiful campus (it used to be a seminary and looks down on Belo Horizonte) we toured their Museum of Natural History which features native Brazilian dinosaurs, including these raptors. 

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            Tomorrow will include visits to other institutions in Belo Horizonte, a city of 2.6 million.   This will include conversations with one institution very interested in aviation and biofuels research, two areas in which EKU has a strong mutual interest and is very much engaged.  

            Depite the travel challenges, this has been an enjoyable and productive trip.   We have three days to go.  I believe it will turn out to be truly productive and of great benefit to our students and faculty as we continue to work to enhance our international opportunities.

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Last Days in China

Our last full day in China was packed with sightseeing during the daylight hours. We began by arriving at Tian’anmen Square at about 8:30 am.  It is a vast expanse with Chairman Mao’s tomb at one end and the entrance to The Forbidden City and the Imperial Palace at the other.   In the tomb you can view Mao’s embalmed body.  We did not go in.   In the photo below you can get some feel for the scope of the square.  The building in the distance is the entrance to The Forbidden City.  The person to the right hand side of the photo is “Frank,” our English-speaking guide, who was both knowledgeable and charming.   He and his wife are expected a child in May, their first.   Under China’s one-child policy, should they decide to have a second it would cost them 200,000 yuan (about $30,000) to get a national ID card for the second one.  The second photo is of one the light poles on the square.  It bristles with video cameras, as do them all.

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The Imperial Palace covers many acres and has what Frank told us tongue-in-cheekly 9,999.5 rooms.   The .5 is apparently a small room that they hesitate to count as a full room.  Even in the snow, the splendor of the place was impressive.  Frank reminded us that before the Vatican City was built The Imperial Palace had already seen many years.  One of many buildings was the Hall of Central Harmony.

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En route to Prince Gong’s Mansion we passed some Beijing residents of all ages enjoying a form of seated “ice skating” on a sizable lake, frozen over by the city’s coldest weather in 50 years.  We also saw what could only be described as “pedicab central.”  At the Prince’s Mansion we saw some low-tech but effective snow removal in action. 

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That evening we were the guests of EKU graduate Allen Yang at Beijing’s famous Roast Duck Restaurant where Peking Duck was the featured (and delicious) dish.   I will write more on this delightful evening in my closing comments.  But, in the photo below, are (from left):  Dean Bob Rogow, Jackie Chen, Vice President of Taishan Invest; Doug Whitlock; Jason Wu, Vice President of Bangkok Bank; Dr. Chang-Yang Lin; Allen Yang, President of VipStore.Com; and Nina Liu, Quality Control Specialist with Zheziang Medicine Company.  The other photo is of two representatives of our partner institution, Liaoning University of Technology at Zinzhou, with Joanne and me.   They are Darren Wang, Director of International Relations, and MA, Xin, Dean.  The duck is not really standing on Joanne’s head.

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The next day (our last) we went to the Summer Palace and stopped briefly at the Bird’s Next Olympic stadium.  En route we witnessed the Monday morning Beijing Traffic, pictured below.  At the entrance to the Summer Palace were a pair of lion sculptures, of which I picture one.   Lions similar to these were at the entrance to every Imperial Chinese facility we visited, most public buildings and some hotels, office buildings, etc.   None were more impressive than those at the Summer Palace.   Likewise, we saw many Buddhist Pagoda’s in our travels, but none any more beautiful than the one on the grounds of the Summer Palace.   One of the more interesting features at the Summer Palace is the marble yacht.  It wouldn’t be able to cruise the lake even if it were not frozen in.  The Bird’s Nest was the signature facility of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

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Retrospect

The twelve hour flight from Beijing to Chicago gave me plenty of time to reflect on our nine days in China — even with a couple of extended naps.  I decided I was glad — for reasons on several levels — that we made the trip.  One of those reasons, I must admit, is that Joanne and I (our entire delegation, for that matter) truly enjoyed the trip and each others’ company.  More importantly, though, was my conviction that the trip was truly beneficial to Eastern Kentucky University.

We renewed our agreement with Zheziang Medicine Company, an arrangement that has been valuable to both parties.  We visited with Zheziang University of Technolgy and confirmed their interest in developing a relationship with EKU.  We had contact with our valued long-time friends from Liaoning University of Technology and heard from them once again how proud they are that we are their only partner in the USA.  And, we engaged with successful friends and graduates of the University in their home country.  The appreciation for the latter was obvious.

We got to know better one of the leaders of the first generation of Chinese entrepreneurs, LI Chun Bo, an impressive man who, as already noted, truly values developing human capital.  We saw EKU graduate Jason Wu, a senior executive in a major Asian financial institution.   And, we saw the face and enthusiasm of the second generation Chinese entrepreneurs in our alums JIN, Xiao Yong, Allen Yang, and Jackie Chen.  We listened as they told us there were other EKU graduates in China in whom we could take equal pride.   They volunteered to help bring more together if we visit in the future.

Joanne and I have traveled internationally to a number of countries.  Our trip to China confirmed what we have found in our other trips.  People are more alike than they are different everywhere we go.   Once you get past the trappings of culture and the barrier of language, you find that people everywhere enjoy a funny story, value companionship, want peace, and love their children and grandchildren.

For me, speaking with our Chinese EKU alumni I learned again that the Essential Eastern transcends borders.  These folks from halfway around the world speak of the place with the same appreciation and affection as those of us right here in Richmond, or as EKU grads anywhere in the states.   The conversation about favorite professors sound the same, despite the accent.   The descriptions of the life transforming power of an EKU education — The Power of Maroon — are, I have decided, a universal theme for Easten women and men.  We sat around that table in Beijing, 8,000 miles from home — Chinese citizens,  Americans both native born and naturalized– as family.

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Goodbye Xi’an; Hello Beijing

Friday in Xi’an included a visit to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (remember, we saw the little one Thursday afternoon) and a trip to the archeological activity where the Chinese government continues to excavate the site where some local farmers discovered some pottery fragments and ancient bronze weapons while digging a well.   

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was begun by a Buddhist monk named Xuanzang who travelled to India about 1500 years ago and was one of the leading figures in solidifying the place of Buddhism in the Chinese culture.   He named the temple to commemorate a myth he learned in India.  He was a scholar who translated many Buddhist writings from their original Sanskrit into Chinese.  The Pagoda, which has a pronounced lean which can be seen in the first photo below, was built in 652.   The second photograph is of a statue of the monk Xuanzang with the pagoda in the background.  By the way, both of these shots are vertical and are truncated in the square thumbnails in the blog.   Double click on any thumnail to the full frame of the photo.   The same is true for horizontal; they are also cropped square in the thumbnails.  

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The first emperor to unify China under a central government was Qin (pronounced Ching) Shihuang.   He became King of Qin in 247 B.C. at age 13.  By 221 B.C. and age 39, Qin had unified China (in a not so very peaceful process) under his rule.   He almost immediately ordered two things:  the connection of a series of provincial walls into the 7,000 mile long Great Wall of China and the creation of a terracotta army of more than 7,000 ceramic soldiers, a host of horses, chariots, etc.   The army’s purpose was to guard his eventual tomb and give him a fighting force in the afterlife.   This army is what the local farmers discovered.   In the gift shop, I bought a book about the terracotta army and had it signed by Zang Xingman, one of the farmers who make the discovery.

The photos below are part of the figures in pit one and of one of the carriages intended to transport the Emperor’s spirit.  This chariot was on loan to the Kentucky Horse Park a few years ago as part of an exhibit about the significant role of the horse in China.

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Then we were off on a late afternoon flight to Beijing, China’s 18-million population capitol city.  It was dark and very cold when we arrived, went straight to our hotel and to bed.  

 

We left at 8 a.m. this (Saturday) morning to see the Great Wall of China, specifically the Mutianyu segment, which is one of three to which the public had access.   It was in extremely mountainous terrain and it was impossible not to think of the Herculanean effort and feat of engineering this wonder of the world required.  Below are a section of the wall we traversed and a photo of our EKU band of wall-walkers taken by another visitor from Australia.

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After leaving the wall, we rode back into Beijing to visit the Yonghegong Lamasery, the city’s largest Buddhist Temple.   The sprawling complex began its existence as the home of the crown prince Yinzhen who later became Emperor Yongzheng and moved into the Forbidden City.  He subsequently converted his former home into a Buddhist Temple, specifically a Lamasery to serve the Dalai Sect.   The Dalai Lama has a reserved seat in one of the buildings in the facility. Here’s an interesting feature of two of the buildings.

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From there, we went to the Temple of Heaven, one of four major temples in Beijing.  If the building below looks familiar, you have most likely been to Beijing or Epcot.

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Our evening closed with dinner and a show at the Beijing Night Show in an ornate theater about 20 minutes from our hotel. 

 

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Tomorrow is our last full day in China.   We will spend it sightseeing and it will likely be after our return on Monday before I can return to finish the blog on this trip.  Tomorrow evening we will have dinner with some more of our graduates in China and MA Xin from Laioning University of Technology, a long time institutional partner.   I think I probably need a few days to let the almost overwhelming pace and experiences of this trip to sink in before I reflect on it with you.   One thing I know in both my heart and my head is that this visit to China is going to pay a number of dividends for Eastern Kentucky University.

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Last Day in Hangzhou; Off to Xi’ an

It has been a few days since I have posted; so there is some catching up to do.   While I have had internet access at each stop, my ability to access our WordPress blog publishing software has been spotty.   Tonight we are in Xi ‘an and before dinner I was able to upload some pictures, but as I type this in Word for later paste into the editor, I am not able to log in to WordPress.

Yesterday was our last full day in Hangzhou.   Bob Rogow, Chang-Yang Lin and I spent it visiting Zhejiang University of Technology and Aida Pharma, a pharmaceutical company run by an MBA grad of EKU, Xiaoyong Jin.   His late father was a ZUT alum and he also visited the institution with us.

ZUT is sincerely interested in building an exchange partnership with EKU.  If it comes to pass, and I must admit it is attractive, that would give us a partnership with two Chinese technical universities, the other being Liaoning University of Technology.  LUT is a 30,000 student institution and feels good about its top tier ranking of 75 out of the PRC’s more than 2,000 four year universities.   They seem genuinely student centered and sponsor annually a widely recognized international conference on small business.  They have indicated an interest in EKU becoming involved in the conference in a significant way.  Below you see Dean Rogow, the blog author, ZUT President Libin Zhang, and Chang-Yang Lin.

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Our afternoon at Aida Pharma with Xiaoyong Jin was fascinating.  We not only learned a lot about his enterprises (they are manifold) but got a solid introduction to the intricacies of Chinese real estate matters.  The government owns the land, but individuals and businesses can own the right to use it.   Bob Rogow and I had time for a walk before dinner and passed one of at least five KFCs within a few block radius of our hotel.

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That evening, the Jins hosted our group at an excellent dinner at a restaurant on the banks of West Lake.  The highlight of the evening for Joanne was the recognition of her birthday and the sharing of a beautiful and delicious cake.   The graciousness of our hosts and the conviviality of the evening will make her Chinese birthday a fond memory. 

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Thursday we took a morning flight to Xi’ an, a historic city of 8 million persons in central China.  The country’s capitol before Nanking and Beijing, it is the home of the famous terra cotta soldiers and horses.   We will see them tomorrow along with the Large Goose Pagoda, a jade factory and other points of interest before taking an evening flight to Beijing, our last stop before flying home on Monday.  Naturally, if there is a Large Goose Pagoda there must be a Small Goose Pagoda.   Here it is.

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More than 600 years ago, when Xi’ an was the capitol city, a large wall was built around the city center as a protection against attack.   It’s four-sided perimeter measures eight miles and it is very wide on top, as the photo below shows.   The haze in the photograph is air pollution, which was quite bad this afternoon.   The other photo is of one of a large number of performers who were preparing to perform at a ceremony welcoming some VIP tourists (certainly not us) just outside the wall.

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Our evening ended with dinner and a show.   Xi’ an is in the heart of the winter wheat growing region of China and is consequently famous for its dumplings and noodles.   Dinner was a dumpling banquet (it was wonderful) and the show (see below) was a tribute to the Tang Dynasty which ruled the country from Xi’ an for 300 years.

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