Twelves years ago in August I moved to Shanghai. I spoke no Chinese and my friend who had taken me from Hong Kong to Shanghai had moved on to Beijing. Needless to say, I was a bit lost. Living in a country where you don't speak the language is overwhelming, but you still have to eat, so out the door I went. One night I was standing on the corner ordering food off a cart and practicing the one phrase I knew, "What is this?" The man cooking the food kept chattering back to me in Chinese. I was fully ready to nod and point and hope I liked what I ordered when I heard someone call out to me, "Do you know what he is saying?"
"No!" was my desperate answer. The woman who had called out to me invited me to sit at her table. Catherine had just finished her classes in English at the school where I was soon to be teaching and she was celebrating with her friends. They pulled up a chair and I sat down. Since that time, Catherine has become one of the dearest people in the world to me. When we realized that we share a birthday, we decided our meeting was fate.
Eleven years ago, also in August, I stood in the driveway of my housing unit, handed Catherine the last of my renmenbi (the Chinese currency was not traded on the open market and so couldn't easily be exchanged outside of China), gave her a hug and left for the airport. Though we chat and send emails, I haven't seen her since.
In October, Catherine, her husband and daughter will be touring New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. This is their first trip to the US and I'm driving up to D.C. to play tour guide. So far we have a lunch cruise on the Potomac planned and I'd like to take them to the National Museum of the American Indian. Catherine requested to see things she couldn't see in China and the exhibits and cafe at that museum fit the bill. Depending on what's playing, we'll check out one of the free shows at the Kennedy Center.
Have you visited (or lived) in Washington, D.C.? What do you think I should make sure they see? If you've not been, what would be on your list to see?