Monday, April 16, 2007

Meeting the Ambassador

Last week I got a call from the Office of International Exchange and Cooperation at Xiada saying that the American Ambassador to China, Clark T. Randt, was going to be visiting and would like to meet me. I couldn't get any information about why or who else would be at the meeting or anything else -- just that I was supposed to show up at the assigned time at the assigned place!

When I got there, I was delighted to discover that the meeting would include Xiada professors who teach American culture, history and politics. I had a very interesting conversation with one about his work on the American Revolution, and he has invited me to come speak to his class.

It was funny, all of the Chinese professors said they had noticed me walking through campus with "two little girls -- are they yours?!" I knew we stood out, but had not realized quite how memorable we were! I'll have to keep my eye out for these faculty members, now!

The biggest surprise was that one of my former students was traveling with the Ambassador! I knew Michael was working for the Ambassador in Beijing and had been in China for about a year, but I had no idea he would be at the meeting at Xiada. It was great to hook up with a Texas Wesleyan law alum, and I was not at all surprised to discover Michael in a political post, given his presidency of the Student Bar Association in his student days! His official title -- and quite important it sounds! -- is First Secretary & Special Assistant to the Ambassador. He is on the right in the photo above. It's always nice to see our alums who are doing well. And Michael is doing well in an extremely interesting position.

Also traveling with the Ambassador were members of the Guangzhou Consulate staff, whom I met during Fulbright orientation. That makes sense since Xiamen is in the Guangzhou Mission's area. It was nice to renew acquaintance with them, as well.

It was interesting to hear my Chinese colleagues describe their work on American history and politics, and pose difficult questions to the Ambassador. One is working on a book about America's relationship with Iran, and asked the Ambassador about that. Another asked the Ambassador what he found to be his biggest obstacle in working with his Chinese counterparts. Being a diplomat, the Ambassador spoke at length on these subjects, and said very little! (I was reminded, while watching the exchanges, of a line from one of my favorite books, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers -- where she describes the loser in a diplomatic exchange as "having ceded, without noticing it, rather more than he had gained, and told in ten words more than he had learned in a thousand." The Ambassador was definitely the winner in these exchanges!)

Not to take away from meeting the Ambassador, but the best things about the gathering was renewing old relationships and making new relationships with Chinese colleagues.

1 comment:

mimifrancoise said...

How funny to meet a former student. I bet you were surprised. I am sure you were glad to be able to speak with native English speakers (and adults).