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An Italian Professor Inks her Version of Stories

Source: Science and Technology Daily| 2021-10-28 09:28:46| Author:  LONG Yun

Sara Platto in the Ceremony of Chinese Government Award. (COURTSEY PHOTO)


September 30 was a big day for Sara Platto. Dressed in a beautiful gown, the Italian professor received the Friendship Award, the top prize given out annually by the Chinese Government to honor outstanding foreign experts in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

"It was a great honor. I still cannot believe that I was presented with the Award," Platto told Science and Technology Daily via a video interview, radiating an infectious enthusiasm.

Her convenient life in China

Platto started her China chapter in 2007, when the Chinese Academy of Sciences invited her to talk on the subject of the connection between dolphins and human beings. Since then, she has forged a deep connection with China.

Her WeChat social media account name is Hailong (meaning dragon in the sea, in Chinese), because Platto devotes her life to animal protection, and dragons portrayed in Chinese legends are protective figures for other living things.

Platto is now an associate professor of Animal Behavior and Welfare at Jianghan University. She spoke highly of the flexibility and understanding existing in the working environment in China, making her feel comfortable and more integrated with her network.

In terms of her daily life, she noted that China has a well-organized and fully developed e -market. Shopping through online retail giant Taobao and the use of phone payment app Alipay, make life very convenient.

"I have not seen physical money for a while due to the prevalence of these platforms," she said.

Wuhan, her home

Platto said Spring Festival in 2020 is one she will never forget. She could have returned to Italy with her son at the beginning of the pandemic but chose to stay in Wuhan, Hubei province. But the decision was not easy.

"I believed in Wuhan and China. After a discussion with my son, Matteo, we reached consensus that Wuhan is our home [after which] we chose to stay," she said. Unlike some anxious people around her, Platto said she thinks that, "Life is not that difficult."

She remembers with much laughter that when the lockdown in Wuhan began on January 23 of 2020, it was Matteo's birthday. She had to hastily change the original birthday party plan, moving the birthday celebration online.

During the lockdown, her university, neighbors, and friends shared food, information, and ways to deal with life during that time. Platto specially mentioned the supersized package of food her university sent her. "That package was so large, [that] I shared some of it with my neighbors."

Through the pandemic, Platto developed a deeper connection to Wuhan. She said although her neighbors repeatedly queried her decision to stay in Wuhan, her clear answer that she had decided to stay encouraged them to some degree and ignited the trust between them.

"Now, I feel much attached to this city and the people around me after we fought against COVID-19 together," she said, adding that the city and the people make her feel safe and warm.

Her role in building bridges

Platto highly values her role as a scientist in defending the truth. "I am a scientist who constantly questions everything, and I have to speak out the truth. My friends and I felt hurt and upset when we saw fake news about China and Wuhan circulating during the lockdown period," she said.

"I hope people outside China see what is happening in Wuhan," said Platto, suggesting the city is appreciated for what it is without any biases. She shared her stories on social media in different forms, which became popular. At the same time, she voluntarily shared advice on China's anti-COVID-19 practices to help people prevent infection, believing it was a time for all people to unite.

In July 2020, Platto published a book titled Buongiorno, Wuhan (Buongiorno means Good day in Italian) to share her and her son's stories while in lockdown, aiming to teach people the courage, the responsibility and the solidarity to look to the future with optimism. "It is not just a book about our life in lockdown time, but a book that portrays our daily life in China with joy and love," she said.

The book has been selected by some Italian middle schools as students' reading material. Platto was invited to have conversations with the students to help them gain a better understanding of China.

In the interview, she repeatedly mentioned the importance of bridging the gap between China and the world outside. At least for now, part of her mission is fulfilled.


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