Kids Part of China's State Visit
Kids from both cultures get together to set the stage for Presidential visit.
The Blair House is the official guesthouse for the White House, which is just across the street. It is actually four connected houses with 120 rooms and 35 bathrooms—much bigger than the White House!
“Only prime ministers, presidents, kings, and queens stay here,” explained Capricia Marshall, U.S. Chief of Protocol. Marshall hosted A Taste of China, an event at Blair House, that brought kids from the Chinese Embassy and a local D.C. school together to mingle, cook, and learn from each other.
In 1979, after full diplomatic relations between U.S. and China were established, then-Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping stayed at Blair House. Hearing this anecdote, I was wondering if he could have imagined that 32 years later, kids from both cultures would talk so freely with one another in this house.
Currently, Chinese President Hu Jintao is staying at Blair House. Before he arrived, however, I got to participate in A Taste of China.
At first, I was still a little nervous, especially as I worked on pronouncing my questions correctly in Chinese. I had a bad case of butterfly stomach!
Upon arrival, however, the friendly atmosphere in the room stilled the fluttering butterfly wings. American and Chinese kids mingled eagerly and even had to be shushed by Ms. Marshall so she could give her official welcome.
She introduced Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and his two special guests—his two daughters—as well as the Ambassador of China to the U.S. Yesui Zhang. She also singled me out as a Scholastic Kid Reporter and mentioned my trip to Shanghai Expo last year! Wow, my butterflies were gone!
We all learned a lot at the event. We cooked Chinese food in the Blair House kitchen, learned calligraphy, and saw a show. The first act was a demonstration of kung fu show. Two young boys wearing their kung fu outfits and red belts bowed as the music started.
The music was kind of spooky and low with lots of drums. Not the kind of drumming you hear from rock bands, but more like that from an orchestra. After putting on their display, they taught some of their moves to members of the audience.
The next act was a young girl who played an ancient Chinese musical instrument called Gu Zheng. The instrument is eggplant shaped but much bigger than the vegetable! It is a string instrument that you pluck with your fingertips. The girl's fingers were wrapped in a special tape so they wouldn’t get hurt.
The last act was a chorus by all the Chinese kids They sang “Jasmine Flower,” a famous Chinese folk song.
During the entire event, kids from both cultures mingled well with one another and really seemed to enjoy learning about the different cultures.
When asked about the most memorable moment in his whole trip to the U.S., a Chinese boy said, “I liked it when we got to perform in front of everyone. That made me feel like all our hard work paid off.”
It certainly did—in more ways than one! The event ended when we got to eat all the good food we worked so hard on earlier.
On Wednesday, January 19, President and Mrs. Obama will host the President of China at the first state dinner for China in 13 years. I was proud to be part of the young people who helped set the stage for this important official state visit.
PHOTOS: (TOP) Kid Reporter Alexandra Zhang learns calligraphy to write Chinese characters at a state visit event in Washington, D.C., on January 12, 2011. (Bottom) A young girl from China plays the Gu Zheng at A Taste of China state visit event for kids at the Blair House in Washington, D.C. (Photos Courtesy Alexandra Zhang)