Flying home for Christmas

By Roger Watson |

Best wishes for the festive season and forthcoming year.

Blog by Roger Watson

Roger Watson returns to the United Kingdom after five weeks in China.

Roger WatsonWUHAN, Hubei Province, China—Since the posting of my last column, I have remained in China to complete the terms of my scholarship. Activities continued with lectures to students and local hospitals as well as individual and group meetings with staff members and students. At Wuhan Union Hospital, where I gave a lecture two years ago, I met five students—three Syrian, one Iraqi, and one Tanzanian—who were pursuing their doctoral degrees at the hospital. I have long predicted that China, instead of being a net importer of educational expertise in nursing, will soon be an exporter. I think this has started.

Roger Watson with Wuhan colleaguesThe meetings, held without benefit of an interpreter, were mainly to advise on research projects and draft publications. My Chinese is confined to the basics: “ni hao,” “ir bing pijiu,” and “xie xie,” translated hello, two cold beers, and thank you. Despite excellent English reading and writing skills, the general level of spoken English and comprehension amongst the students was quite poor, so the meetings were quite long and exhausting. Ascertaining exactly what was being done and what they wanted to know from me could be quite frustrating at times. But I remain awestruck by the general level of industry, willingness to try, and sheer patience that the students showed as I struggled—sometimes less patiently!

It was a busy week. First, I was invited by the UK consulate-general in Wuhan to have lunch with their trade and investment officer and consul for trade and investment. It was good to be briefed at the highest level on what the UK is trying to achieve in China and to see where my university and nursing colleagues can contribute. This is not the place to reveal state secrets, but suffice to say, I’ll be back next year in connection with these meetings and will report on that in this column.

Second, it was my birthday—64 years old. I celebrated by taking five students who have been helping me to a Japanese bar where we drank beer and had Japanese food. The students, who are in their mid-20s and early 30s, were quite anxious about the whole event. I was astonished to learn that none of them had ever been to a bar in their lives, which was another cultural insight for me. However, history was made as I was able to pay for the whole evening. In 14 years of coming to China, I have never been permitted to buy a meal for any colleagues or students.

Back to Yangzhou
I made a very quick return visit to Yangzhou in my final week. Amanda Lee, associate dean (international) at the University of Hull, was visiting, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to exchange notes on mutual activities in China, discuss progress with our collaborators in Yangzhou, and for me to brief her on my meetings with the UK consul. With both of us being involved in international activities, we rarely meet in Hull. Frankly, this was a welcome distraction and a break from my time in Wuhan.

Lee also introduced me to the wonders of the Google Translate app, the most endearing feature of which is that it is free! (Other apps are also available.) I had been paying for an app that worked poorly, so I cancelled that and installed the free one. The fun feature of the app is that you can point it at Chinese characters, and it tells you what they say.

Because I’ve been slightly bored in my last few days here, I have been going about my hotel and even out in the street pointing my phone at signs. A whole new world has opened for me along with some curious entertainment for local street traders. If the angle is wrong or all the letters are not included, the translation will be off. For example, my room service menu lists “the first film” as one of the items. With a slight adjustment, it read—correctly—“chicory.”

Generally, the weather in Wuhan has not been good—initially, not too cold, but latterly, very cold. When it rains, it comes down in torrents so heavy you can’t go out. Because the air quality, except for two clear days, has been poor because of smog, it has not been a pleasure to walk outside for long, so I explored very little.

I did walk to Wuhan Museum to see some fascinating artifacts, including extraordinary jade and porcelain ornaments. However, after a few hours, I was coughing, and my eyes were stinging. At times like this, I wonder about the health of the local population and my own health. China is taking steps to reduce pollution, but winter brings a surge in the levels of smog. My life here has, essentially, revolved around my hotel room, visits to the nursing school, and dinner in a friendly noodle bar where I worked my way through the menu several times.

With its array of unusual sights and smells, China is always a good place for haiku. My efforts are recorded in my haiku blog. Last year, Jim Mattson, editor of Reflections on Nursing Leadership, drew my attention to Pulse: Voices from the heart of medicine, which publishes all manner of reflective pieces on medicine, including a weekly haiku. One of my entries has been accepted and will be published on 20 December 2019. My submission for next year was rejected, but I will keep trying.

This has been my longest visit to China. It’s been mostly enjoyable and productive, but I am glad to be heading back to the UK and my family. Best wishes for the festive season and forthcoming year. RNL

Roger Watson, PhD, RN, FRCP Edin, FRCN, FAAN, professor of nursing at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom and a frequent visitor to Australia and China, where he has visiting positions, is editor-in-chief of JAN and editor of Nursing Open. Click here to access Blogger-resident entries posted before 2017 in Watson’s former blog “Hanging smart.”

You can also listen to this post as a podcast.

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