How A 17-year Long Friends Meet In Washington?

Noted Down By Mr. Mike Davis

April 5:

Mr. He's arrival at Reagan National Airport is a moment that I will never forget.  After corresponding for 17 years, we finally met each other face-to-face.  He was the third passenger exiting the plane.  When our eyes made contact, I pointed at him and he pointed back at me and started running towards me.  He grabbed me in a big bear hug and seemed to be in a state of total joy (as was I).

After finding our way to baggage claim and retrieving Mr. He's luggage, we exited the airport, drove south through the town of Alexandria and along the George Washington Parkway to Mount Vernon.  Mr. He was surprised at the number of birds he saw everywhere.  In China some years ago, many of the birds were eradicated in a campaign to increase harvest yields.  We stopped at the snack bar for lunch and Mr. He consumed one muffin and some bottled water.  Next we toured the buildings and grounds and learned many things about life in colonial America. We left Mount Vernon and headed for Springfield, Virginia, in Fairfax County.  We stayed the next two nights with my 86-year old mother-in-law, Mrs. Dorothy Crider.  Mr. He was amazed that she still lived in her own house and that she drove a car.  
In China anyone over the age of about 70 is considered a venerated elder, is never left alone, and is cared for by younger relatives.  Mr. He thought her house must be new, but in fact it was built in the 1950's.
For dinner Wednesday evening we met Merrilee Zellner and her friend, Martha Delaney, a financial analyst for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, at Squire Rockwells Restaurant in Annandale.  Merrilee is an internet consultant and travel agent.  
She had visited Mr. He at his cafe in China.  She has her own website for her travel business,  Two hours of good food and stimulating conversation followed.  Mr. He had some soup and fruit from the salad bar, as his teeth were still bothering him.


April 6:

This was a long day of touring in the District of Columbia (9 AM - 9 PM).  We left Springfield on the Metro to downtown, and walked several blocks to the White House.  Many photos were taken on both sides of the White House and with the Washington Monument in the background.  There were the usual hordes of people and Mr. He was amazed at all the tour buses. 

We saw the Old and New Executive Office Buildings, several nearby parks and statues, and then walked to George Washington University to meet Dr. Jim Hershberg and two colleagues, David Wolff and Thomas Blanton, for lunch at Kinkead's Restaurant.  Jim had met Mr. He at his café in Dali.  Mr. He was able to eat some mashed potatoes and scallops.  Another round of interesting and delightful conversation followed.  After lunch Jim and his friends presented Mr. He with a newly published book of the Kissinger Transcripts from his trip to China to set up Nixon's visit.  All of the guests autographed the book for Mr. He.
We next dashed off to the Voice of America to take a tour of the studios.  Mr. He asked the tour guide if he could meet someone from the China broadcasting section.  After seeing the studio facilities, we met the lady in charge of VOA's Special English Lessons program and then met Peter Chen, head of the China Section.  Mr. He was thrilled to tour the China Section and meet some of the people who worked there.  He was able to convey to the VOA people how grateful he was for their help over the years through their broadcasts in his struggle to learn English and that the success he is now experiencing is in part due to their help.  Mr. Chen escorted us out of the VOA after our tour and showed us the way to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

We took several photos on the mall in front of the Smithsonian with the Capitol in the background.  We then went to the Air & Space Museum to meet Roger Lin, a Taiwanese student at American University and graduate of Bates College.  Mr. He could not believe that there was no entrance charge for the museum and that all the museums in the Smithsonian complex were free.  Roger had read Mr. China's Son when it was first published and had started corresponding with Mr. He shortly thereafter.  He has been in the US since the age of 13 attending schools and speaks fluent English.
After the Air & Space Museum, Roger drove us to the Lincoln Memorial and we toured the nearby Vietnam Memorial and Korean War Memorial, pausing at each spot for pictures.  Next we drove to the Dupont Circle area for dinner at a Chinese restaurant named Oodles of Noodles.  The word "oodles" was new to Mr. He.  Several days later I showed him the word in the dictionary.  Mr. He was able to enjoy some soup and a noodle dish very much.  Roger dropped us off at the Metro after dinner and we headed back to Springfield for a good night's sleep.

April 7:

Before breakfast Mr. He went out to observe the street paving work in progress in front of the house.  I went out to check on him a few minutes later and could not see him.  I finally located him a half block away talking with a paving crew worker in the middle of the street.  I remember from his autobiography that he worked many years ago on a road construction crew in China.  Perhaps he was talking shop and comparing roadbuilding techniques with his American counterpart.
We headed out by car after a breakfast of oatmeal, soft whole wheat bread and jam, and tea, bound for Oxford, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore.  We drove over the Bay Bridge near Annapolis, which was fascinating to Mr. He.  He was also intrigued with a truck carrying new cars over the bridge and tried to take a photo from the car.  He frequently commented about the number of cars he saw everywhere.
In Oxford we met Fletcher Hanks and his wife, Jane.  Fletcher was a pilot during World War II with the China National Airways Corporation, flying supplies over the hump from India to Kunming during the Japanese invasion of China.  Jane had been a nurse with the Flying Tigers in Kunming and was married to a pilot who was killed just a few days before he was to leave for home.  Both Mr. And Mrs. Hanks are in their early 80s and both are still full of life.  Jane is planning a solo trip back to China in a few months for a college reunion.  Fletcher had led an expedition to a remote part of Yunnan in 1997 to find the remains of CNAC-53, which had gone down in 1943, and says he will go back for the dedication of a museum which is being planned, possibly in Kunming, to house the salvaged remains of the plane.  He had sent us videos about his trip and about the Flying Tigers, which were both fascinating.  We had lunch at the Robert Morris Inn (Mr. He s first experience with crabcakes, I believe), toured the village of Oxford, caught the ferry to St. Michaels, toured the waterfront there, then returned to Oxford.

After saying our farewells to Mr. And Mrs. Hanks, we headed south via US Route 50 and US Route 13, down the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.  We reached the Bay Bridge-Tunnel and stopped at the fishing pier in the middle of the bay for more photos.  We continued on to my home in Portsmouth, Va., arriving around 9:00 PM.
Having been without E-mail for 2 days, Mr. He used the opportunity to catch up on his electronic correspondence.  My wife Dottie and daughter Jennifer went out to get some Chinese food from a local restaurant and brought it back home for a meal around the dining room table.  Mr. He enjoyed the soup, noodles, vegetables, and rice dishes.

April 8:

Mr. He relaxed during the morning and looked at every inch of my home.  Dottie gave him a tour of each cabinet and closet in the kitchen.  He was fascinated by our Waring blender.  The azaleas were in full bloom across the back fence.  Mr. He was very interested in my small Dutch barn shed where we keep our lawnmower and garden tools.  He even took a picture of the inside of the shed.  He then had me take a picture of him pushing the mower.  When he explored our city trash bin, he was surprised to find that we were throwing away pine cones.  Our pine trees seem to drop a dozen a day.  In China, pine cones are used for fuel for cooking and heating.
We next headed out to WalMart to get Mr. He's film developed.  It turns out that there is a Chinese WalMart in Kunming that Mr. He had visited.  While the film was being processed, we roamed the store and noticed that nearly every product in the store was made in China.  The photos turned out very well.  On the way back home I showed Mr. He Churchland High School, where my daughter graduated about 7 years ago.
That evening Dottie made some homemade Chinese dishes from the "Yan Can Cook" cookbook.  Mr. He seemed to really enjoy that meal and ate more than he had consumed in the previous two days.  After dinner the parents of my son s wife, David and Elizabeth Harris, came over to meet Mr. He.  They had been missionaries in Belgium some years ago, and Elizabeth had taught English in China last summer.  A pleasant hour of tea, coffee, and conversation followed.  
Mr. He presented them with an autographed copy of his autobiography.  David commented that he had seen both of Mr. He s books at the house of friends who have an interest in missionary work in China. Later that evening, Mr. He worked on his correspondence till after midnight.  He had his own room (my son s former bedroom) with a desk and computer and seemed to be very comfortable there.


April 9:

After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, tea, soft bread, jam, and grapefruit slices, Mr. He resisted our attempts to cajole him into touring the main attractions of Hampton Roads.  He wanted to write some letters and said he might go out later in the day.

My wife looked out the kitchen window when Mr. He was taking a smoking break and called to me to have a look.  He was sitting in the grass under our pecan tree near the azaleas enjoying the sun and the solitude.  I went out with my camera to capture this moment on film.  Later in the day we lined up our three cars (another thing that amazed Mr. He) and took a photo of Mr. He behind the wheel of the first car, me driving the second, and my daughter driving the third.

Early in the afternoon the telephone rang and the caller requested to speak to Mr. He.  Howard Cohen of Baltimore, MD, who had visited Mr. He's café with his wife Jane in July of 1999, had sent Mr. He an E-mail recommending the book "The River at the Center of the World" by Simon Winchester.  Mr. He's son had responded to their E-mail telling them that he was in the US and passed along our phone number.    Mr. He was quite amazed that my daughter had washed two cars and mowed the lawn for us and thought she was a good dutiful daughter.  He gave her a pair of Chinese slip-on shoes with rubber soles that actually fit her perfectly.
Unfortunately, the afternoon tour of Hampton Roads never materialized.  Mr. He continued working on his correspondence all afternoon, all evening, all the way till 3:30 AM.  He is truly dedicated to keeping up his correspondence.  He prepared around 30 letters thanking everyone he had met during his trip.  A couple more letters were posted to Chinese addresses.  My wife prepared more home-cooked Chinese food that evening and Mr. He enjoyed another hearty meal.  He seemed very much at home with us, which was very gratifying to all of us.


April 10:

After many photos and hugs we bid goodbye to Dottie and Jennifer and headed north over the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel to Hampton, west to Richmond on Interstate I-64, and north to Springfield on I-95.  Mr. He was very surprised to see the old James River Bridge a few miles upstream from the new bridge-tunnel.  He couldn't understand why two bridges would be needed so close together. 
Mr. He lasted about half an hour before falling asleep in the car.  He slept for most of the remaining two and a half hour drive.Back at my mother-in-law's house in Springfield, we had a hearty meal of Chinese food that my wife had sent up the road with us.  Mr. He had some mail waiting, which he opened and then packed away.  We left for Reagan National Airport around 1:00 PM and drove past the Pentagon.  He had never heard of the Pentagon, and I explained that it was the headquarters of our military services.

At the airport, we checked Mr. He's luggage and made our way to the departure gate.  I had downloaded maps of Newark Airport, where he was to change planes for his flight to Brussels.  I found out the gates at which he was arriving and departing in Newark and tried to explain to him where he had to go to change planes.  When departure time came, Mr. He gave me another bear hug and kept turning around to wave every few steps down the departure ramp to the plane.  I felt like I was saying goodbye to a family member.  He is a truly wonderful man, this son of Mr. China.  I hope to be able to see him again someday, somewhere!

Note: Three months later, in July 2000, the company magazine of Mr. Mike Davis,the "NR&C News Reviews Comment" published an article about Mr. China's Son's unusual visit to Mike. To see the details about why and how they have become good friends , please click the magazine.

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