Monday, June 09, 2008

Let the Fun (and Planning) Begin!

We recently spent a couple of days attending an orientation in DC for Fulbrighters and their families who are going to China during the 2008-2009 academic year. Here are a few highlights...

Meeting our fellow "adventurers." It was interesting to hear about the everyone else's plans and reasons for going to China. Eleven of the 18 Fulbrighters are bringing kids with them, and these kids range in age from pre-school all the way up to high school. Some of them will be living in 北京 and may even be classmates of Julie and Z.

Hearing from Fulbright "alums." There were three former Fulbrighters in attendance, and they kindly shared their experiences, both the ups and the downs. (A current grantee has apparently had major toilet problems...)

Logistics, logistics, and more logistics. Walking away from the orientation, I definitely had a better sense of all the work that goes into running a program like this. There are State Department issues (when should we apply for visas and what kind of visas should we get?). There are grant administration issues (when will we get paid?). There are U.S. Embassy issues (who are our contacts once we reach China?). And then there are issues we care about as a family (when can we get into our apartment?). How to fit all of this together is a challenge on all fronts, to say the least. But, hey, we knew what we were signing up for!

The Chinese Embassy reception. In some respects, the highlight of the orientation was a reception held at the residence of You Shaozhong, the Minister Counselor for Education. The Minister's house is a beautiful place, right at the edge of Rock Creek Park (overlooking the Hungarian Embassy, one of our old haunts...go Magyar!). All four of us had a chance to use some Chinese, especially Julie, who got involved in an extended conversation with one of our hosts (sounds like we may even have an invitation once Julie's interlocutor returns to 北京!).

All in all, it was a whirlwind experience. Some questions were answered, others were raised. New friends were made (hi Marcus!). Ready or not, here we go, down the home stretch...

~Steve

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