I spent my first night in America at a Marriott hotel in San Francisco in January of 1990. My mother, my sister, and I had just left China then to join my father in New York City. We were new immigrants with very little material possessions. We had to fit everything we owned into 2 suitcases each. We were supposed to fly from Beijing to San Francisco, and then from San Francisco to New York. Our flight from Beijing to San Francisco left 9 hours late because of mechanical problems with our plane, and we missed our connection flight to New York City. The airline put us up at a local airport hotel (which happened to be a Marriott), and we were also given food vouchers to eat at the excellent hotel bar and restaurant at dinnertime. A TV was playing in the background showing a Major League Baseball game. I loved watching sports programs in general, but for the life of me couldn't figure out how the game was played. As I saw players hit the balls and run the bases in what appeared to be in a incoherent manner, I became more and more confused. The night left two lasting impressions on me. First of all, french fries and fried shrimp were delicious. Secondly, I thought baseball was an impossible game to follow.
The first several years in America were tough for our family. My mother worked as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant to help support the family while my father struggled to find professional employment. We struggled to survive from day to day. Eventually things got better and better. My father found a good job. Even my mother was able to graduate with an accounting degree studying part-time while working 60 hours a week. I was accepted into a prestigious private university, where I met a young man who was an avid Atlanta Braves fan. He patiently explained to me how the game was played. Baseball started to make more sense to me. But I still was not a fan. The game appeared to be too slow. After college, the Atlanta Braves fan and I got married. We had two kids, first a girl and then a boy. When my son turned 5, he started playing in the neighborhood's Little League. The first time he hit a home run, as I watched him joyously run the bases with the hugest smile on his face, I became a real baseball fan.
Last summer I visited China on a business trip. By then I had risen to be a senior manager of Fortune 50 company in the US. I spent a night at the lovely Marriott Ningbo hotel, where I enjoyed a nice glass of wine at the hotel bar. A TV was again playing in the background showing a baseball game. A group of fashionable-dressed young Chinese men were following the game intently and cheering their favorite team on. It is amazing how much progress China has made during the last 20 years, and to me those young men symbolized that progress. As I watched them, I couldn't help but think about the incredible journey that my family and my homeland of China have gone through over the last 20 plus years. I am proud of that journey. I am happy that both Marriott and baseball have accompanied both my family and my homeland on that journey.