Editor's note: Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. is sending updates to The Times while he's in China.
We landed in Beijing on Sunday at around 4 p.m. after a 14 hour plane flight. The accommodations on the international flights impressed me, after all, the only time I have ever gone overseas was in my submarine. As you can imagine, the plane flight was faster, and less cramped. So I enjoyed flying much more than submarine duty!
Once we landed in Beijing Airport, we were astounded to see a brand new airport there. It's much bigger than O'Hare, much cleaner, and brand new. We learned that it was built especially for the Olympic games held last year, and it is quite impressive. It was a great first impression on our delegation.
At the airport, we were met with Government officials from Shahe City, Hammond's sister city, who rented a bus to take us to our hotel in Beijing. Keep in mind that Shahe City is over four hours from Beijing, so them picking us up was a very nice thing for them to do for us. In the Shahe City delegation was the Deputy Mayor, a member of the Communist Party, a member of the National Media, a photographer from the national media, as well as three interpreters for our group of ten.
We laid low on Sunday night, after all, we were all exhausted from the long flight.
Today (Monday... while you were all sleeping) we did tourist stuff. Keep in mind, that at all times we were walking around, we had national media following our every move, filming us and taking pictures. This trip is big news in China, we're on all the local media stations and many people are walking up to us on the streets to take pictures of us, especially Tom Dabertin who is a foot taller than most Chinese nationals! We also had a a member of the Communist party with our group the entire time. I'm not sure if that's normal or not, maybe they just don't trust us region folks!!
Today we visited Tianamen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. All were awe inspiring, however, for me, the Great Wall was stunning. It took us 45 minutes to scale one leg of the wall and it was exhausting. It took over 1,400 years to complete the entire wall at the cost of 10,000 lives. To give you an idea of how long this wall is, it's longer than a wall built from Washington DC to San Fransisco and back again. In fact, even that wall would be a little shorter than the Great Wall. I can see why it is a wonder of the world, to see it in person was amazing, a once in a lifetime experience.
After the touristy stuff, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a formal dinner party in our honor, sponsored by the not-for-profit Sil Foundation. This is the organization that sponsored the trip, free of charge, for our delegation.
We gave a presentation to around 40 Chinese millionaires and billionaires about the advantages of investing in Hammond. The presentation centered around Hammond's past, Hammond currently, and what the future holds for our fine city. Once we get home, we will make this presentation available on gohammond.tv for you all to view.
We finished our presentation speaking about the EB5 program, which is an American program that allows foreign investors to become naturalized citizens of the United States provided certain criterion are met. The investor would need to invest over $1 million in the USA, and create at least 10 American jobs in the process. If those criterion are met, the investor could attain their green card and become legal American citizens. Obviously, in China, this is very appealing.
I think, overall, our delegation was a huge success on its first day. You could tell we were a hit, because in the Chinese culture, if they drink alcohol with you, they trust you. Thank goodness I'm Irish, we did drink a lot of wine as well as another clear liquid that would have caught fire if a match were near it. I'm not sure what it was called, but it was tough to hold down after a few shots.
Overall, I think our first day went well, I'm looking forward to sending more installments as the developments occur out here.