Mon, February 13, 2012
China > China & World > Vice President Xi Jinping visits US

U.S. Town ready to welcome return of special guest

2012-02-13 02:12:21 GMT2012-02-13 10:12:21(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING,Feb.13 (Xinhuanet) – The small town on the banks of the Mississippi River is "Feeling Great", abuzz with excitement and recalling happy memories as it looks forward to the return of an old friend - Vice-President Xi Jinping.

It was 27 years ago that Xi visited Muscatine, an agricultural center in the U.S. heartland, when he led a delegation to learn about farming technology. The delegates were all given badges to wear sporting the town's slogan: "Feeling Great".

Sarah Lande, a resident of the town, had the same feeling early last month when she got a call from Iowa State Governor Terry Branstad.

"Sarah, guess what, I think Xi is coming to our state," Branstad said.

"I was really surprised and excited. I also felt humble, honored and, of course, a little proud," Lande said.

Lande, 73, and her husband Roger, 74, were among several families in Muscatine to host Xi in April, 1985.

Xi, then a local official in North China's Hebei province and director of Shijiazhuang Feed Association, led a five-member delegation to learn about agricultural technology in Iowa, the state that calls itself the Food Capital of the World.

They were visiting as part of an Iowa Sister State program after Hebei and Iowa cemented the relationship in 1983.

The delegation spent two weeks in Iowa, visiting farms, feed suppliers, and grain processing and food biotechnology companies.

The three days Xi spent in the small, charming town of 23,000 left him with fond memories.

The Muscatine Journal covered Xi and his delegation's trip 27 years ago. (Photo Source: China Daily)

At the invitation of U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, Xi will visit the United States on Feb 13-17. He will arrive in Washington DC to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama and other government officials, and then leave for Iowa and Los Angeles.

On Wednesday afternoon, Xi is due to meet up with old friends for tea in Muscatine before heading for the state capital Des Moines.

Lande, who was the executive director of Iowa's Sister State program for 12 years, is organizing the reunion.

She will prepare jasmine tea, champagne, spring rolls, sweets and other local tidbits for the occasion.

"He wants to meet only the people he has met before," Lande said. "There are 17 of them. It will be at least an hour. We will remember the old days."

The intervening years may have changed appearances, just a little bit, Joan Axel, who also played host to the 1985 Chinese guests, said.

"We all look a little bit different now. He remembers some of his old friends. I think he's curious about what we do now."

Many have retired, but one of the people who took the delegation on a tour around the Muscatine Foods Corp grain processing plant in 1985 still works for that company.

Xi will meet his host family Eleanor and Tom Dvorchak at the reunion. He stayed at their four-bedroom house for two nights in 1985.

The Dvorchaks, moved to Florida three years ago, but will fly back to Muscatine on Tuesday to meet Xi.

"I lost track of him after he left," Eleanor, 72, said. "I was surprised when I heard he was coming back. But we had a lot of fun then and I am more than happy to go back to meet him again."

Xi Jinping (C) at a picnic at the farm of Janet Rauch in 1985. (Photo Source: Janet Rauch / for China Daily)?

She has prepared a gift for Xi: Obama on the Couch, a book by Justin Frank, a highly regarded expert on psychoanalysis.

"I hope it will help Xi understand the man (U.S. President Barack Obama) better and help them get along, so it will lead to a peaceful and successful relationship between China and the U.S.," she said.

The Dvorchaks visited China in 1987 with a tour group and are hoping to go again. Their son Mark runs a China-related business consulting company in California.

Other folk in Muscatine, including a Chinese language teacher and her students at Muscatine High School, are equally looking forward to the vice-president's visit.

"He is such an important person from such an important country and all of us want to meet him in person," teacher Carol Kula said.

Aric Bower, a senior student who has studied Chinese for four years, added: "I was really amazed when I heard Xi was visiting. I never expected him to come to Muscatine."

For the local newspaper, the Muscatine Journal, it will be the biggest story of the year. Its editor Chris Steinbach has received dozens of calls from the media at home and abroad inquiring about Xi's trip.

"We will see how people from two different countries get together again after almost 30 years," he said. "It is pretty unusual and I have never heard anything like this happening before. It shows the importance of friendship and being open-minded about learning about other people's countries. I think that's pretty cool."

Sweet memories

Writer Mark Twain, once writing for the Journal, remembers Muscatine for its sunsets, while Xi remembers the town for its people.

Iowa Governor Branstad said Xi has kept the itinerary of the 1985 Iowa trip. "When I met him last September in Beijing, he mentioned many people he had met in Muscatine," Branstad said.

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