In the footsteps of Marco Polo

By Roger Watson | 07/12/2017

From Italy to China, with a quick flight home to England.

Photo of bridge with Connecting continents text

GUANGZHOU CITY, China—The gross domestic product of China’s Guandong Province exceeds that of many countries. Its population is more than 100 million, and its capital—Guangzhou City—has a population of 14 million. Southern Medical University’s Zhujiang Hospital, which I visited, has 2,200 beds.

Roger WatsonLast week I was in Genoa, Italy, the birthplace of Marco Polo, who did so much to tell Europe about China. After a single night at home to remind my wife she is not a widow, I flew to Hong Kong and took the train to Guangzhou. Since my first visit to Hong Kong, when I saw trains passing through the New Territories to China, I have wanted to make the journey.

The conveyance I took used to be called—eponymously and romantically—the Kowloon China Railway (KCR), which describes its function perfectly. Now it is called, less romantically, the East Rail Line. The journey takes two hours, and I arrived in Guangzhou in torrential rain. According to my hosts, when an important person arrives in a Chinese city, it rains. “Who is coming?” I asked.

Roger Watson and Mark Hayter
My week in Genoa was in fulfilment of my role as visiting professor at the University of Genova (another spelling of Genoa), one of three visits I make annually with my colleague from Hull, Mark Hayter, PhD, RN, FAAN. Between pizza and pasta, we met daily with colleagues and graduate students to discuss progress on several projects and publications on which we are collaborating. This has been a very productive group effort that has resulted in several publications, one of which was recently published online.

The weather in Genoa was superb and conducive to running in the morning before the sun rose. We happily agreed to another year of visits. I am also pleased to report that, this coming October, a second Italian nursing academic and my good friend Gennaro Rocco, PhD, RN, of Rome will be inducted in Washington, D.C., as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

Roger Watson at Southern Medical UniversityChina
I am finishing the first of two weeks as a visiting professor at Southern Medical University. My inauguration to that role took place on my first day. In addition to delivering three conference keynotes and giving a lecture at Zhujiang Hospital, I’ve spent morning and afternoons this past week teaching. Next week, things will be less hectic, and I will meet individually with staff members to advise on publications. As is typical in China, my hosts have been very generous with their hospitality. In addition to visiting Canton Tower, which was, briefly, the tallest tower in the world, we made a boat trip one evening on the Pearl River (the Zhujiang). This weekend, I explore Guangzhou and more of Guandong Province.

The rain that accompanied my arrival in Guangzhou set the meteorological tone for my visit. The kaleidoscope of weather has included thick clouds, bright sunshine, and driving rain, often in the space of 10 minutes. Determined to keep running, I went out in the pouring rain at 6 a.m. the first morning after my arrival, to the astonishment of campus security staff and sweepers. My hosts have registered me with a local fitness club, which I can see from the main gate of the campus. Nevertheless, there is constant worry that I will either become lost or be hit by a car on the way there. Has the ageing process left me looking that helpless? This constant and close attention to guests is also a prominent feature of Chinese culture.

I have no doubt I will survive the week ahead. Proof of my survival will be a blog entry later this month about the 28th International Nursing Research Congress in Dublin, Ireland, sponsored by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. During my time in Dublin, I will be inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame.

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 Journal of Advanced Nursing and editor of Nursing Open. Click here to access Blogger-resident entries posted before 2017 in Watson’s former blog “Hanging smart.” 

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