You just said that you are the Canadian Team Attaché for the 2008 Olympic Games. We'd like to know more about that. What is an Attaché and what are the main responsibilities for an Attaché?
There's also an interesting story in this. I've been in contact with the Canadian Olympic Committee for about two years. They started preparing for the 29th Olympics in Beijing before the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games started. The Secretary General of the Canadian Olympic Committee then told me that they planned to finish most of their preparation before the Torino Olympics because they needed to be early if they wanted to book the best hotel rooms or rent the best apartments.
When I first got into contact with them over two years ago, I found that they were more than familiar with the Olympic Games in general. They've all participated in several Olympic Games before, so they kind of have a routine when preparing for the Olympics. However, they know almost nothing about China, because it's the first Olympics to be held in China. So they were liable to encounter a lot of difficulties that we cannot even imagine. For example, I wrote a Dashan Guide for the Canadian Team, which is a tourism guide especially designed for the Canadians.
Some of them came to China in April and went to some of the restaurants I recommend in the guidebook. Later they told me that the restaurants are great - the food was great, there are English menus with photos and no major language obstacles - while the only problem was that those restaurants don't accept credit cards. For a foreigner who has been living in Beijing for the past 20 years, I would never want to use credit cards in restaurants, because you know, Chinese don't. But when they raised this question, it struck me that I should include ATM locations around the restaurants in the guidebook as well. Later I did.
I think most foreigners, especially people from Canada, a country with many immigrants, are not complete strangers to Chinese culture. For example, there are many Chinese residents and Chinese restaurants in Canada, so they don't need to be taught how to use chopsticks or that China is a country with a 5000-year-long civilization. Those things seem natural to them. Most of the Canadians I know already have their own impressions about China. There are rights and wrongs among their impressions, so some aspects of China will come as a surprise to them. But the Chinese and I can never predict what specific surprises they'll come across.
I voluntarily asked for more involvement in real life in China when I was still a student at Peking University. And I think that's where I got the edge that took me into TV shows, national performances and even cultural communication work later in my life. I didn't want to be just another foreigner in China, I wanted to get into the real life of the place. So I'm always encouraging foreigners to move out of their own circles and stop worrying about the language barrier. In fact it's not that difficult to communicate with the average Chinese. You can always use gestures and there are a lot of Chinese speaking good English now. So I hope all foreigners will get over their hesitation and start talking to the Chinese.
Before the Olympics, you explained a lot about China to your Canadian friends and built a communication bridge between China and Canada. After the Olympic Games start, will you shift your work emphasis? Or are there any new duties for you as the Canadian Team Attaché?
Most of my work before the Opening Ceremony is basically preparatory, including the writing of Dashan Guide. The publishing of this guidebook may be finished this afternoon, that's more than a week before Team Canada arrives at the end of the month. But when the Olympics start, I will try to free myself from other work and become a standby helper to the Canadian delegation. My role will be transferred from an active one to a passive one. I'll be anywhere that needs me.
Covering the media will also be part of my job. There will a lot of reports and shows in the Western media; the Canadian media in particular will want me for interviews and comments. So to me, high flexibility will be required during the Olympics. There are also some cultural events to which I've been invited for host duties in advance. One will be held at the Great Hall of the People and another one will be at the newly opened National Art Center. So I'll be spending some time in my own profession.
We learnt that you have been planning to introduce Canada to Chinese athletes for 2010, because the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Canada.
I want to become a two-way cultural ambassador - introduce China to foreigners and introduce the western world to China. For example, I used to teach Chinese in TV shows that were specially made for Canadians and I am now working with CCTV to produce teaching shows in which I teach Chinese to ordinary foreigners. I believe that the bridge for communications must be two-way and mutual communications should be further strengthened.