On March 6 and 13, 2018, I had the chance to give two one-hour introduction lessons on German culture to the students of the Nanmen Primary School [南门小学] [(森林公园校区)]. Before going there, I wondered how and what should I teach elementary school children about German culture? What could they be interested to learn? This was an interesting challenge.

We started by finding out where Germany is. I wanted to put this in a context of something the school children can relate to, so we began a virtual journey to Germany in Hefei [合肥]. We looked at satellite images and "zoomed" farther and farther out, until other cities and the whole of the Anhui [安徽] province and then all of China and its neighboring countries became visible. We then flew over the globe until arriving in Europe, where we zoomed in again on Germany. We then compared the size and population of Germany to Anhui and China. Comparing with Anhui makes sense, because here the scales are quite similar: Germany is about 2.5 times as big there are eight German people for every seven Anhui people. China is 27 times as big as Germany and has 17.5 times as many people. We then learned how German people look like and what clothes they wear. We looked at photos of typical German people of various professions, ranging from scientists, elementary school children, bakers, police people, fire fighters, sports persons, cashiers in a super market, farmers, and fisher people. The children liked that we have many different hair colors, such as blond, brown, black, and red. Finally, we talked about Christmas and the traditions around it, including Christmas trees and Santa Claus. And then our first lesson was already over.

In the second lesson, we continued to look into the German holidays related to Children and discussed Silvester/New Year, Eastern, Fasching (the German carnival), the Children's day, Mother's day, and how birthdays are celebrated. Finally, we found out what German people eat: Different from Chinese, who like to warm/freshly cooked food for all three meals, German people usually warm only for lunch and cold food for breakfast and dinner. Then, we eat bread covered with butter on top of which we put either sausages or cheese. A typical German lunch often involves potatoes and, again, meat. After having discussed typical German dishes (and that Chinese often perceive them as too sour), the second lesson was over, too.

Teaching a class of primary school children about my culture was a very nice experience. The children were very curious, attentive, and asked interesting questions. Also I want to thank the teachers Mrs. Yang [杨老师] and Mrs. Cheng [程老师] for their support and for translating the class.

I also found that this primary school to be a very good example about the resources and efforts that China is investing in education. It does not only have a very nice and green campus, but also offers many extracurricular activities to the pupils, including, for instance, singing, dancing, painting, playing musical instruments — and the international culture class. And for each activity, there is a special, dedicated and nicely decorated room with the right equipment.

Today, the Nobel laureat Prof. Mario J. Molina visited our Hefei University [合肥学院] and gave the talk "Global Sustainability and Climate Change: Science, Policy and Risks" in our library, just across our institute's building. Prof. Molina is one of the world's leading experts on climate and sustainability. He is professor at University of California, San Diego and the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He received a Nobel Prize in chemistry for his research on the impact of CFC on the ozon layer and was one of the consultants advising the Obama administration in climate issues. Today, he was awarded the honorary professor title of our university. Here, I want to summarize his highly interesting talk on the challenges we face when trying to achieve sustainability, i.e., an economy and way of life which does not threat the well-being of future generations.

Today, I attended a Spring Festival Get-Together [合肥市春节团拜会] held by the Hefei Municipal Government. After short welcome speeches by the representatives of the city government, an array of great singers, dancers, and comedians delivered absolute astonishing and impressing performances. I am very happy and thankful for being invited to such a nice event.

On Friday, February 2nd, I attended the Hefei City Chinese-Foreign Friendship Spring Festival Celebration [合肥市举办2018年华人华侨友好人士新春联谊会] held by the Hefei Municipal Government and the Hefei Overseas Chinese Affairs Office [侨务处]. The event was really nice, at a very beautiful venue, and well-attended with over 60 delegates. A welcome speech was given by the Hefei City Vice-Mayor Qingen Peng [彭庆恩], followed by discussion contributions by several international delegates.

I had the honor to also give a short speech, which I used to thank the Hefei Administration and Hefei University for the excellent support they provide for international experts. The nice environment that they have created allows us foreigners to feel at home in Hefei. During my eight years working full-time in Hefei, I have witnessed an incredible growth and development. I am therefore convinced that this city has a great future and I used this opportunity to express these feelings. Unfortunately, I had a very bad cold on that day and therefore had to leave early.

Portrait of Dr. Zhen LIU.

The Institute of Applied Optimization welcomes Dr. Zijun Wu [吴自军], who today has officially joined our team as researcher. Before joining our institute, he was an Assistant Professor at the Beijing Institute for Scientific and Engineering Computing (BISEC) [北京科学与工程计算研究院] of the Beijing University of Technology (BJUT) [北京工业大学] in Beijing [北京], China. He received his Ph.D. in Operations Research from the Clausthal University of Technology (Technische Universität Clausthal) in Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany in 2015 and his M.Sc. in Pure Mathematics from the Sichuan University [四川大学], Chengdu, Sichuan [四川], China in 2010. Dr. Wu is an expert in Traffic Optimization (traffic analysis and congestion pricing), Operations Research (evolutionary algorithms, NP-hard problems, simulation-based optimization), Statistics and Machine Learning (stochastic process, time series forecasting, clustering and neural networks), Mathematics (measure and probability), and Theoretical Computer Science (theory of natural inspired computing).

We are very happy to have Dr. Wu in our team and look forward to working together on many interesting applications of optimization methods.

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