I always like to be back in Hefei on the USTC campus in the fall – my home in China.Without really planning, I found Chairman Mao came along with me – in the Mao biography I was reading, in the Mao leadership case study for my students, in the images still common around town, in some ways the locals keep his memory alive.It is so good to be back and see previous students and new ones.My leadership class of international students was a collection of talented young people from Iran, Pakistan, Azerbijan, Korea, Indonesia, Ghana, Somalia, Botswana and Tanzania – future leaders, all of them.This year on campus started with a welcoming party for new international students – an awesome intercultural evening.Students come to USTC on scholarship from all along the Belt and Road Initiative – the renewal of the ancient land and sea Silk Roads.Students showcase their cultures and are also introduced to some aspects of China.Even their kids get into the act. Many students bring their families and I meet the new foreign babies that are growing up in China.The International Guest House is my home on campus and I settle in to my routines.Always my time in Hefei starts with a visit to the beautiful Kai Fu Si Buddhist Temple – a place that always inspires feelings of awe and gratitude. I am inspired by the magnificent lines andElegant details andthe peace of the central courtyardAnd endless staircasesThe sweep of the roof tilesand the golden imagesKai Fu Temple in the sunshine is a marvel. How this survived Mao’s Cultural Revolution is a mystery to me.My second favorite place in Hefei is the Temple Market surrounding the City God’s Temple. It is a fascinating place to eat and browse and buy unique treasures.I do a lot of eating in Hefei!One of my favorite foods is noodle soup – the food of Mao’s revolutionary peasants.My trip to Hefei is never complete without the ritual trip with my Besties to Sanhe Ancient Town to see the new ancient additions.It seems to be more authentic every year.We spend time people watching.I often think I could live in Sanhe and work in Hefei – they are only about 30 kms and 1000 years apart.The absolute highlight of 2019 in Hefei for me was a day trip driving in the countryside. First we stumbled upon a village where the street was lined with noodles drying.We drove past kms of noodles and arrived at a farm selling beef on the hoof.And then to a goose farm with a very entrepreneurial owner – a terrific guy creating a unique tourist attraction including a communal kitchen where guests can prepare and cook food like back in the Mao era.We ate with some students who had just prepared a traditional lunch and then we got special attention.Using WeChat to connect, we left very best of friends. I will add to this tale next year!On we drove, and found an spectacular moated country home.This, too, probably only survived the Cultural Revolution because of the owner’s collaboration with Mao’s enterprise.It was a perfect autumn afternoon drive in beautiful Anhui. If you know me at all, you know how much I love aimless Sunday driving!As I continue to explore and gather images of the new China in Hefei, I wonder – what would Chairman Mao think?
This has been the second stop on my Dragon and Phoenix Tour of China 2019.