The scenic beauty of the Columbia River Gorge was so “exciting” to nine Chinese delegates that they were prompted to sing much of the way to Hood River on Tuesday.
“You preserve your environment and nature in such a wonderful way and we really admire this way, it is more in harmony with nature and we can learn from this,” said Cui Bo, delegation leader, in a translated statement.
The Chinese delegation also visited Bonneville Dam and an area fish hatchery and were equally amazed at the efforts to produce power while protecting endangered salmon runs.
“The many ways of preserving salmon is really impressive for us,” said Bo.
Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, also introduced the dignitaries, their interpreters and American hosts to one of his favorite restaurants during the tour of Hood River.
The Asian visitors sat down at the Sixth Street Bistro to sample a variety of menu selections recommended by Metsger. The District 26 legislator discovered the eatery owned by Maui Meyer during his recent campaign for re-election and now is a regular customer.
“I thought they should have an opportunity to eat some of the best food in Oregon,” said Metsger.
During lunch, Metsger also briefed the dignitaries of the American Council of Young Political Leaders exchange about the financial plight of Hood River Valley farmers. He said there needed to be more equality in the import/export market for apples and pears to protect their livelihood.
“If we work in a cooperative manner it would be a good economic advantage that benefits both of us,” said Metsger.
Speaking through an interpreter, Bo explained to Metsger that while some American products, such as soy beans, were popular in China the apples were not so well received because they looked good and stored easily but did not have enough taste appeal.
“Well, they taste good in Hood River,” replied Metsger, who appealed to Bo and his constituents, all of whom were in government service, for help opening up Chinese markets to more American trade.
Fostering that type of public policy discussion is the purpose of the ACYPL program sponsored by the U.S. State Department, according to Jennifer Jones, membership director. She accompanied the entourage from its tour of Washington, D.C. and Chicago, Ill., to the final leg of their two-week journey in Oregon.
“Since Sept. 11 these programs are more important than ever before and we wanted to give these delegates a broad range of American experiences,” Jones said.
After enjoying their mid-day meal, the delegation was loaded into vans for a tour of the orchards at the Mid-Columbia Research and Experiment Station in the Heights. Jones said the ACYPL program is open in America to rising government leaders from the ages of 25-40. She said qualifying individuals are nominated by a state governor, federal official or alumni and selection for one of the yearly trip to more than 90 counties is made by a bi-partisan committee. The nonprofit organization was formed in 1966 as an educational exchange to allow young leaders to directly observe cultural differences in government management for increased understanding.