MUSCATINE, Iowa — Drive to Chicago, board a jet, fly for nine hours and step off the aircraft in Finland.
Fly for another four hours and you could get to Beijing.
Or, wake up in the morning, stumble down the stairs, make a pot of coffee and fire up the computer. That’s what I did today. For the effort, I opened up an email from Mike Montandon in Finland.
But please let me back up for a minute.
Using a new feature on WordPress, I was able to see Thursday night that someone in Finland had read this blog, so I sent out a tweet that said: This shout out is for the person in FINLAND who read my blog today. #SmallWorld.
An hour or so later, Montandon sent a tweet in which he said: “Howdy, Chris. That’s gotta be me. 🙂 Drop me a mail. Nice to see the work you do!”
In a follow-up email, he said: “Really like the work you do raising Muskie’s profile internationally!”
He went on to say he is a supporter of the Muscatine Sister Cities program and has volunteered in the past as a translator when members of the Sister Cities program in Russia have visited Iowa.
“I’d be interested in (helping with) the Chinese Sister City and visiting Hebei Province with any Muscatine group that would plan on going,” he said.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has officially started working on plans for a Muscatine Sister Cities visit to China. But don’t bet against a delegation going to Beijing after Vice President Xi Jinping, who paid a visit to Muscatine last month, becomes president in China early next year.
And Yang Guoqiang, the Consul General of People’s Republic of China in Chicago, told a Muscatine group Wednesday that more visitors from China are likely.
Cynics will laugh at that promise. After all, why would anyone want to visit Muscatine, right? But it could happen.
A Google search for the words Muscatine and Jinping yields more than 900,000 results. Many Chinese have at least heard of Muscatine. And they have had the world’s fastest-growing major economy for the past 30 years with an average annual growth rate of more than 10 percent.
That means there are Chinese who have money to spend. Perhaps they could be encouraged to spend some of it to see the city where Xi made his first trip to the U.S. in 1985.
Inquiries have reportedly already been made by a Chinese resident on the West Coast who is interested in buying the former home of Thomas and Eleanor Dvorchak on
Bonney Bonnie Drive, where Xi stayed when he visited Muscatine 27 years ago.
Anyone who has lived five minutes in Muscatine has likely heard or read the Mark Twain quote about the community:
And I remember Muscatine — still more pleasantly — for its summer sunsets. I have never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them. They used the broad smooth river as a canvas, and painted on it every imaginable dream of color, from the mottled daintinesses and delicacies of the opal, all the way up, through cumulative intensities, to blinding purple and crimson conflagrations which were enchanting to the eye, but sharply tried it at the same time. All the Upper Mississippi region has these extraordinary sunsets as a familiar spectacle. It is the true Sunset Land: I am sure no other country can show so good a right to the name. The sunrises are also said to be exceedingly fine. I do not know.
Don’t get me wrong: I like Twain as much — maybe more — than the next Muscatine resident. But maybe it’s time to capitalize on the potential presented by 1.3 billion possible tourists from China.
After all, the slogan “Xi slept here” is a lot shorter and easier to remember than that quote from Twain.
And we do live in a Twitter world after all.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @csteinbach