After two months of mailing cover letters, I’ve made my first, rather halting, steps toward actual employment. I’ve relocated to Washington, DC, where I’ve started two internships, one with California Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, and one with a small NGO called the US-China Education Trust. USCET sponsors sponsors scholarships for Chinese students, as well as a series of academic conferences and symposia, mostly in China, about politics, economics, and media.
I’m particularly excited about USCET, which I think will help me to gain more exposure to US-China partnerships and learn more about the different ways to be involved in US-China relations. Julia Chang Bloch, the former ambassador who runs it, seems to be really well connected within the DC diplomatic community–I got to attend a Chinese New Year party she threw last week, and met the second-in-command at the Chinese embassy, and Michelle Kwan!
USCET held another cool event last week hosted by the chair of their advisory board, Nicholas Platt, a retired diplomat who went with Nixon on the first trip to China in 1972. He had the foresight to bring a video camera along with him, and took some amazing images of what China was like in the early 70’s. Luckily, some of these were posted online for a similar event he gave at the Asia Society in New York, and you can see them here.
It was all I could do to not completely nerd out while he was showing these; they of course visited all of the major tourist sights–Great Wall, Summer Palace, Hangzhou West Lake, Ming Tombs–but they’re all completely deserted. There’s a great image early on of a neighborhood in the center of Beijing, not far from the Forbidden City, but completely devoid of the massive buildings you’d see there today. It looks like any of the hutongs you’d see in the most run-down parts of Beijing today, complete with people brushing their teeth on the street. Unfortunately, the little clip that the Asia Society put online doesn’t include the most striking image, of Shanghai’s Pudong district. The area, now a massive forest of skyscrapers, was totally deserted when Platt visited, little more than a collection of little fishing huts.
I’m not quite sure how long I’m gonna be in DC. The “plan” (to avoid grad school and find something interesting to do instead) is still in its initial stages, and will depend a lot on how these internships go and how long it takes me to find something else from here. The first week has gone well though–look me up if you come to DC!