Archive for October 12, 2009

Sharon’s Photos and Story from Beijing

Sharon receiving awardI have known Sharon since we taught together in China back in 1986-88, she was in a different location (Nanjing I think) while I was in Harbin.  Then we later taught together at the University of Minnesota working mostly with Chinese ITAs (international teaching assistants) up to 1993.  Now for the past decade or more, Sharon has been teaching in Tibet.  Please don’t miss the significance of what I just wrote in the last sentence.  Note also that China just awarded her for her service and that this big country is to the east of where I currently teach in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  As the crow flies, Sharon and I are fairly close in proximity but far apart in more ways than one.  I will let Sharon tell about her fantastic adventure up to Beijing.

I had the honor last week of shaking hands with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.  I’d almost missed the opportunity because I went to the wrong room, but was guided to the right place just in time.  I was overwhelmed by the experience, not because of who I met but more because of what I got to do… 
I was one of 100 foreigners working in China singled out to receive a “friendship award” for my contribution to the development of China.  I was flown to Beijing and put up in a nice hotel (in a suite of rooms all to myself!), invited to the State banquet celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and taken to the parade grounds for the big parade on October 1st.
This thing was too big for me.  I was intimidated by the other “experts” who also received the award: a nuclear physicist, a UN geologist, an aerospace engineer, a professor of rotor mechanics and another of biochemical engineering, the head of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins, etc., etc., etc.  I’m just a simple English teacher who has had the honor of being granted a visa year after year to work where my heart is at home. It was indeed too big for me.  But, that was the whole point.  I wasn’t impressed with the award nearly as much as the incredible honor it was to extend blessing to the third highest leader in China.  That was an honor that didn’t come from a degree or position or level of intelligence.  It came from something far beyond myself . . . because, really, it was too big for me.
I brought home a plaque and a medallion.  I am again in awe that I might be considered worthy to do the work here that I so love to do.  Indications are that I may not need to worry about my visa again for a while. 

Keep in mind that whatever negative things the Kazakhs might say about all the foreigners who come to visit Kazakhstan as teachers or people who are part of the oil industry from distant lands, the biggest threat to them is their eastern neighbor.  This country of Kazakhstan is the size of 4 Texases, but only has under 18 million people.  China has over 1 billion people. Don’t you think they would love to claim KZ as their own as they have done with where Sharon currently teaches? The following photos are Sharon’s and what she put on MySpace.

Bejing paradeladies in redWomen soldiers

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