This American Life in Beijing

I think there was an official moment over the weekend when I finally realized what I represent.

The Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology has recruited a handful of post-doctoral researchers from outside China in the past two years. The result is the residency of two French post-docs, a Japanese, a Canadian, and a British researcher.

For some reason the Americans (I am referring to U.S. researchers) come and go, and never stay long. At most the IVPP would have all of its former students and research associates who have left China for positions in the U.S. come for meetings and presentations.

So I have somehow become "the American" among the graduate students.

I am sure everything I do adds to their image of an American life: I wake up to jog around Beijing at 6 am; I wear flip-flops in winter; I drink fat-free milk in the morning; I just bought a guitar and I jam in my room.

I know English.

I have been working with half a dozen or so graduate students on translating their abstracts and helping with research methodology more commonly used in the U.S. You can even say that this is my "Fulbright moment", my role as a representative of an American student in a Chinese institution has become very clear.

I think that means I need to get to work! It dawned on me that this is a daunting job.