Sunday, May 08, 2005

Foreign Guests

I had dinner Tuesday night at my sister's with her two daughters and four foreign guests. The visitors were from a delegation sponsored by some US Government agency and they were toouring the US to learn more about trade issues. It was a very interesting evening.

The visitors were:
  • Nikolay Stoyanov, a Bulgarian journalist and reporter for the Trod Daily in Sofia.
  • Adriana Gonzalez Bedoya, director of the Enterprise Development Centers Program of the National Confederation of Chambers of Commerce in Bogata, Colombia.
  • Ola Al Farwate, an economic reporter with Al Ghadd in Amman Jordan.
  • and Ramon Pasquier, a journalist and "moderator" in radio in Caracas, Venezuela.

All spoke good-to-excellent English, which was a good thing since my Bulgarian and Arabic are a little rusty. It was a great opportunity to learn about the attitudes of politically-active, young (30-40ish), modern professional foreign visitors to the US. They were part of a 16-member delegation that was spending several weeks in the US. They had been in New York City for several days, were spending a couple of days in Greensboro, then separating to travel to other cities (St. Louis, Milwaukee, and two others I don't recall) before reuniting in Seattle.

Here are some interesting things that came up:

  1. Nikolay is the first Bulgarian I've ever met, and not at all a stereo-typical citizen of what I think of as one of the "darkest" of the Soviet satellites. The closest I've come to knowing a Bulgarian is watching "Casablanca", when Rick saves Annina Brandel's virtue from Captain Renault by letting her husband will at roulette. He wore his hair in a fashionable pony-tail and talked of the strong influence the French had on Bulgaria, with many French words incorporated in the Bulgarian language. He also reminded me that dispite Bulgaria's past ties with Russia, they were part of the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq.
  2. I think the visitors were somewhat left of center politically, though only Ola was particularly outspoken. Ramon didn't have much good to say about Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but then I'm not sure anyone in this country does either.
  3. All except Ola smoked--somewhat of a surprise since I know almost no smokers.
  4. I was the first person they had met who voted for George Bush. Their first stop was in New York City, so maybe that isn't too surprising. More surprising was that my sister, both her daughters, and one husband had all voted for Kerry.
  5. Ray Stewart, my niece Cathy's husband and one of the most liberal people I know, and I talked at some length with Ola from Jordan. She asked if we believed the 9/11 hijackers had acted only as AlQeada agents and not as a part of a wider conspiracy. Ray and I both believe they had (this is one of the few things we agree on politically), but I was surprised that someone as well-informed and widely-traveled as Ola might believe that the hijackers were pawns of a larger conspiracy sponsored by some other organization and not Al Qaeda.

I wish I could have stayed and talked longer, but I had an early morning Wednesday for the last day of school, so I left fairly early.

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