After 2 months of struggling with posting updates from Chengdu on my site, I have finally managed an entry today!
Let’s hope it continues.
After a restful Chinese New Year, full of stories which I hope to report on later, university classes started up just last week. I registered for only 2 months of Chinese at Sichuan University before returning to the States from May to August where many of you will be seeing me as a presenter in your hometown areas. I’ll be speaking about the Amity Foundation and my work as a language teacher in China, as well as the Luzhou Protestant Church and all the activities taking place there.
But the really exciting news I have to report is happening not more than 3 blocks away from me, at our US Consulate here in Chengdu.
Mrs. Obama, her mother and daughters will be alighting in Chengdu during their March 19 – 26 tour of China! The newspapers here are already abuzz with her upcoming visit and the U.S. Consulate staff is basically swamped with preparations for her arrival.
How do I know this? Well, I’ll tell you how.
Our U.S. Consulate: Bringing Local Chinese Closer to America
For those of you who don’t know about our U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, a nice intro is to check out the website: Chengdu.usembassy-china.org.cn. This will give you all the updates of what the Consulate has to offer as well as articles about visiting Americans leading workshops or talks in the area.
What has always impressed me about our Consulate is its openness to the Chinese public. There is a wonderful Information Resources Center (IRC) that is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. The website describes the IRC as “a reference facility providing up-to-date information to Chinese audiences and U.S. Mission staff on U.S. policy, legislation and social issues.” Anyone is welcome of any nationality but IDs are necessary. As a US citizen, I show my passport at our security entrance but the Chinese have their nationalized ID cards which they are required to bring.
Aside from the IRC, there are weekly lectures on Wednesday, 2:30 – 4 p.m., given by various US citizens in the city who would like to share something of America or pertinent US issues with the Chinese audience members. Those attending are of all ages and walks of life and have fairly good English listening skills to understand the talks. The presentations are on a wide range of topics, whichever the speaker is best versed in or familiar with.
Seven years ago, when I was living in Chengdu, I gave 4 of these: Winter Holiday Celebrations (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa), Pet Care in China, International Women’s Day and Halloween. In fact, my Halloween presentation, which had us carving pumpkins and dressing in costumes, is still talked about today as being one of the best lectures at the Consulate.
Yes, I’m famous!
Last semester, I was too busy with school to volunteer my services but with just 2 months to go before leaving here, I felt I could handle it. Last week, I contacted my old friend in the Consulate office, Li Tao, to tell her I’d be available for a Wednesday afternoon. Assistant Public Affairs Officer Natalie Wilkins was quick to get in touch with me for possible topics. After scanning my offered list, she chose “Welcome to Marshall! Smalltown American Life.” I will be touring our Chinese audience members via powerpoint through my Illinois hometown, followed by a fun quiz where English language pencils and stickers will be awarded as prizes and questions answered.
This will take place on April 9, plenty of time for me to put things together and get ready to wow the Chinese with my beloved American agricultural community.
“Could I Meet Mrs. Obama?!”
Of course, with my emails back and forth to Natalie, I had to ask about Mrs. Obama and if there was any possible way I could meet/shake hands with/be in the same room as our First Lady. She will be addressing a group of high school kids at some point in her time in Chengdu. And surely she and her family would have a reception of sorts somewhere, maybe even the Consulate. Any ability to join in any of these would be amazing!
Natalie said they were all very busy at the moment preparing for her landing and my request would be passed on.
Will anything come of it? Who knows, but I’ll certainly be letting you know if it does!
From Chengdu, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day and hopes of more stories yet to come.