It’s a pretty big deal here. Out of the 4,000 foreigners in the province, only 20 of us — six teachers and 14 businessmen — were selected for this biennial award. It’s given to foreign experts for contributions to “the economic and social development of Hunan Province.”The ceremony was last week. I got a metal-and-wood plaque (at right), a gold(-plated) medal, a classy red-and-gold pen, a red-and-gold thumb drive, a certificate, and a night in a ritzy hotel in Changsha. The governor of the province, Xu ShouSheng, handed out the awards. It may sound like nothing to an American, but in China government bigwigs only appear in public for really special events, like earthquakes or diplomatic visits.
(In the photo above, Xu is front row center, next to the African-American woman, teacher Jackie Martin.)
Besides all that, the uni picked up the tab for the round-trip bus fare and the two extra nights in a cheaper hotel I had booked to turn the two-day awards ceremony into a four-day holiday.
On the downside, there was no cash award and the food at the hotel was nothing special. (No chili peppers — what is up with that? We’re in freaking Hunan!) Overall, though, I came out ahead, considering my bosses and the students are bursting with pride about my winning.
It also forced me to buy a suit, my first in literally decades. It cost 893 yuan (about $140). Fittingly, my tie was a Chinese brocade that my college gave me as a Christmas gift a while back.
I’m not sure if this video is visible in the States, but here’s a news report on Hunan TV about the awards. It’s all in Chinese (sorry!), but you can look for me around 1:26.
Here’s another which I can’t embed. Around 1:50, Gov. Xu puts the medal around my neck.
The two foreigners speaking at the banquet were a French engineer working at Lysteel, Marc Burty, and Jackie Martin, a longtime English teacher who hails from Virginia and teaches at Central South University of Forestry and Technology in Changsha.
I haven’t found an English listing of the winners, so herewith is my contribution to “all the news that’s fit to print.”
- Noel Trinder, Australia, CEO of Better-Life Commercial Chain Share Co. Ltd.
- Norbert Knuetter. Germany, operations manager, CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co. (They make China’s bullet trains.)
- Sun Pu, USA, assistant general manager, SANY Heavy Industries
- Samantha Jenkins, United Kingdom, professor of chemistry at Hunan Normal University, Changsha
- Lesley Jane Pereira, Australia, associate professor, Central South (Zhongnan) University, Changsha
- Berthold Ottens, Germany, director, Global Mineral & Gem Exhibition Hall; one of his achievements was to discover a new mineral in Hunan, now named ottensite.
- Alexey Alexeevich Andreev, Russia, researcher, Hunan Miao Wang Biotechnologies Inc.
- Mario Pastore, Italy, general manager Changsha Xi Mai Mechanical Construction
- Ian Lee Alberts, United Kingdom, technical director, Hunan Yingrun Biotechnologies Inc.
- Elena Piyankovskaya, Russia, voice coach, Hunan Institute of Science and Technology, Yueyang
- Pablo Garcia, Spain, R&D director, Hunan Norchem Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
- Uchida Osamu, Japan, general manager, Zhuzhou Shiling Transportation Equipment Co. Ltd., which is also involved in China’s high speed rail and city metro systems
- David Sink, USA, project manager, Timken-XEMC (Hunan) Bearings Co. Inc. in Xiangtan
- Jianjun Chen, USA/China, professor, Hunan Academy of Forestry; Chen is also a professor at the University of Florida
- Peter Robinson, Australia, English teacher, Hunan Business College, Hengyang
- Dawid Juraszek, Poland, English teacher, Hunan Institute of Technology, Hengyang
- Rosanna Leggatt, United Kingdom, teacher, Lixian Number 6 Middle School, Changde
Most of these winners work in the more heavily populated eastern half of the province. Only Ms Leggat and I come from the more rural western half.