Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Friends from Jiangxi

Many of you are curious as to how this all came about.  How did I -- a simple, stay-at-home mother of a houseful happen to find myself hosting a dinner for 30 Chinese government officials???

A good question!

It all started back in the spring when my husband was invited by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (from the University of Georgia) to travel to China and teach a class on Public Administration and Local Government to government officials from the Jiangxi Province.  Alan spent two weeks in China in June, one week as an instructor and one week as a tourist.  While in Jiangxi, he had a rich experience as both a teacher and a learner and really connected with many of his students.  One of the men in his class told Alan that he was now his "little brother," which he later learned was a great honor!

On November 11th, a group of these Chinese officials traveled to the US, where they have been learning more about American government, exchanging ideas, and building ties with local leaders.  These government officials have been in Georgia since arriving, and will go on to visit Washington, DC and New York City before returning to their homeland. Because of the relationship Alan built with them while he was in China, they made a special point of coming to visit him, so they could see where he lived and worked.

Several weeks ago, when Alan learned that the group was coming to Georgia, he asked me if I would be willing to host them in our home for dinner.  Despite my initial qualms, I agreed, and the rest, as they say, is now history!  :)

Alan and his "big brother!"  ;)

When the time came for them to arrive, I felt nervous and intimidated, not knowing what to expect  nor how we would communicate.  I expected these Chinese leaders to be stiff, formal, and distant.  I couldn't have been more wrong!  I was totally blown away by how warm, friendly, expressive, and eager to get to know us they were!  I soon learned that a true desire for friendship transcends any language barrier!

Hannah took lots of pictures for me, but unlike our many Chinese guests, I do not have an expensive camera!  My point-and-shoot really struggled to perform with all the motion, the lighting, etc.  So, sadly, most of my pictures are blurry -- but they are all I have -- so I am going to post them anyway!  If they look too blurry, just assume you've been on the computer too long!  ;)

This is the first picture, which was taken as they walked in the front door!  Take note of their joyful faces, so eager to see Alan again and meet his family!!

The man on the left is Alan's "brother!"  Here Alan is introducing him to his many "nieces" and "nephews!"  :)

Almost immediately, we were surrounded by Chinese on every side, many of them snapping our pictures and taking videos, as they began to lavish us with gifts!!  We felt like celebrities, for sure!

Here, Alan's "brother" is giving him the gifts he brought from China.

 See all the excited faces?  They are watching me open a special gift . . .

A beautiful pearl necklace from their country!!

Here is an up-close look!

But that is not all!  They had more gifts for me and something small for all ten of the children!!

I can't remember everything they said about this plate -- but it was made in their province out of carbon that absorbs impurities in the air, so you use it in your home to purify the air.

Here's a closer look!  It is very beautiful!

I do wish the pictures were clearer . . . but I hope they will give you a glimpse of our enthusiastic guests and the amazing evening we shared together!

Here are pictures of us all becoming better acquainted.  Some spoke no English and required a translator; some spoke a little English; and a few spoke it fluently.  I especially enjoyed talking to Miss Ju (below right), who spoke beautiful English!  At one point during dinner, she told me that all of the women were talking and saying that they wish they could be like me, and have ten children!!  It brings tears to my eyes to remember her saying that, and to think of the sadness that the women feel because they are only allowed to have one child.  :(

Of course, they were all astonished by the height in our family, and there was much discussion of how tall each son was, with plenty of references to Yao Ming tossed into the conversation!

Josh pulled out his phone and used a metric converter to convert each person's height to centimeters, which helped our Chinese guests better understand how tall these guys are!  :)

Our little Matt has never met a stranger, and his open, friendly manner draws people to him wherever he goes!  As you can see from the "classic Matthew picture" below, he quickly won the hearts of the Chinese men and women!  I think one of the ladies was ready to take him home with her!!!

How can you become friends with people from the other side of the world in such a short time??  I have no idea!  But our hearts were mysteriously bonded together during this magical evening!

Still more to come!  Next post will include our menu and pictures of the meal!


Miss W said...

A very interesting post. I had been wondering silently... :) These cross-cultural encounters with a bunch of strangers can be very enriching.

OurLilFullFam said...

Hi I found you blog through Tricia (mommy 12).

What a neat thing to experience! What a blessing to them and to you!

I cannot imagine the agony those women must have not being allowed to have the children they want.


tlmalcolm said...

Wonderful post and a wonderful experience. It is so very important that we open our hearts and homes to people of other cultures and religions! We learn very quickly that we are not so far apart in our hearts as we are in miles.

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