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life essay: part 7

Contrary to what we had been taught, I was finding that Americans weren't all bad. Our experience with the bodyguards from the State Department proved that. They were very courteous, and not at all heartless. When they pulled you back in line, it was because they were trying to guarantee your safety; as long as you didn't wander off, they were very nice. Besides being dedicated to their duty, they were also extraordinarily kind to us. It was difficult for me to believe in my heart what the adults had been teaching us: that all Americans were class enemies who couldn't be trusted.

By the time we got to New York, I started to wonder if it was even true that all of our hotel rooms had been bugged with secret listening devices by the American government. Was it really necessary for us to watch everything we said?

One day, feeling silly, I faced the telephone (without picking it up) and said, "Hey, I want chocolate, I want chocolate, I want chocolate." Then I turned to the mirror and said: "I want ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream." Lastly, I ran over to the flower vase and said: "I want banana, I want banana, I want banana." I was having lots of fun. Then somebody came to tell us to get ready for that night's performance, and I forgot about the whole thing.

Later that night, when we returned to the hotel, I pushed open the door-and nearly died of fright. My bodyguard was horrified as well.

There on the desk was chocolate, ice cream, and bananas.

At first I thought that they were gifts from our sponsors--and that everybody else on the team had received them as well. Surely it was just a coincidence that the gifts happened to be the foods that I'd been craving. I ran to everybody else's room to check. "Hey, did you guys find any fancy gifts on your desk?"

Nope.

My room was the only one. After that incident, I became a little more cautious.

The last stop and climax of our U.S. tour was Washington, D.C., where a select few from our team performed our wushu routines on the White House lawn. After the performance, we were officially introduced to the American dignitaries and posed with them for official pictures. As I remember, President Richard Nixon stood with one of my female teammates, and I stood next to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. At one point, Nixon turned towards me and said, "Young man, your kung fu is very impressive! How about being my bodyguard when you grow up?"

"No, " I blurted out. "I don't want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!"

People were stunned. There was an uncomfortable silence. Nobody had expected me to give that kind of an answer-least of all myself.

Kissinger was the one who finally broke the silence. "Heavens, such a young boy and he already speaks like a diplomat!"

It wasn't until a few days later, when we were wrapping up our visit in the States with a dinner at the embassy that somebody showed us that our visit to the White House had made the New York Times, complete with picture and headline. The article described the entire exchange, and went on to wonder what kind of educational methods they were using in Red China if even the youngest representatives were trained to reply with such nationalist fervor.

The Chinese government, naturally, had no problems with the answer I'd given President Nixon. They praised me highly. What a clever boy to give such a patriotic answer!

Once again, I'd earned a perfect score. One hundred percent. A+.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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