Delegation experiences area's hospitality

ALBANY -- Although they were greeted with heavy downpours throughout the day, nothing could dampen the outpouring of warmth Southwest Georgians displayed to a Chinese education delegation touring the area this week.

The 19-member Hangzhou Community Education Development Training Delegation, along with an interpreter, visited Cuthbert's Andrew College, Albany's Flint RiverQuarium and the Albany Welcome Center Tuesday. The tour continues today with a visit to Albany Technical College and a tour of Darton College Thursday.

The Hangzhou Community Education Development Training Delegation is a group of high-ranking educational officials in the Chinese government, said state Rep. Gerald Greene, D-Cuthbert. Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province in southeast China and has a population of 7 million people.

"They have been most interested in Southwest Georgia," said Greene, who was first elected in 1982. "This is a direct result of when I spoke in Hangzhou, and they called me last week and said they're coming. Everyone in the (Albany Area) Chamber (of Commerce), Albany Tech, Andrew College and Darton College all arranged dinners and receptions. They want to see how Albany Tech (and other small colleges) affect the community and the surrounding area."

Greene said the tour group had visited New York City and Washington, D.C., and will soon tour areas in California, but Southwest Georgia is the only rural setting it will be visiting.

"They wanted to experience firsthand starting in their country two-year colleges," Greene said. "The city they come from is bigger than Georgia. In one school alone, there are 49,000 students, so you can understand why they want to look at something different. They want to know about everything: private (higher education) funding, funding for what the state does, how the student pays financially.

"What we're hoping is that they bring students and that we could exchange ideas," he continued. "You never know; the contacts and hospitality (we're showing may) benefit us in an economic way. They're impressed with the laid-back and friendly way of Southwest Georgia, and Andrew College rolled it out."

Throughout the delegation's visit to the Flint RiverQuarium, the members were attentive and interested in the exhibits and the explanations of them through their translator, Demin Fan.

"It's so nice. It's beautiful," Fan said of the RiverQuarium. "There's so many specimens. It really has an educational function."

Fan was also impressed with the residents of Southwest Georgia.

"The people are so nice, and we really feel the warmness of Georgia," he said. "We offer the people of Georgia to come to our cities so we can do a return for our appreciation."

RiverQuarium General Curator Richard Brown enjoyed showcasing the Albany tourist attraction to the international contingent.

"They were interested and were a nice group," he said. "It's really nice to share this with someone from another country."