Day Nine

In the evening, the Board of Education of Pine Plains Central School District entertained the teachers of the Chinese delegation at Stissing House.

An interesting anecdote. America as a country only has a history of less than 300 years, but the American people praise their history highly. Some local people told me that Stissing House was the oldest restaurant in Pine Plains which was claimed to be set up in 1785. Whichever restaurant you go to in America, you would be told that it is the oldest one there.

Stissing House, a two-storey wooden house, is located at the crossroads in the center of Pine Plains. There is a clock tower standing beside it, forming a landmark of Pine Plains. Although the exterior of the restaurant is not very attractive, there is a very big parking lot behind it.

The full name of the restaurant is Stissing House & Tavern. Though it was a "tavern" by name, we didn't see anyone who had put up here for the night. Maybe there were not too many tourists visiting Pine Plains. I still remember, when I came here in 2000, a local celebrity told me, "We are very happy that you can come to visit a rural area like ours!"

The school is very near to Stissing House, only five minute drive. It was already 6 o'clock in the evening. The wind was piercingly cold outside. Everything was shrouded in darkness except the twinkling lights of the vehicles driving by occasionally. We got out of the car and entered the restaurant. It was unexpected that the interior of the restaurant was dim. Some candle lamps flickered in dimness, and many people walked about in the lamplight with goblets in their hands.

We went upstairs directly only to find that we were there even earlier than our hosts! The tables had already been arranged in the U-shape. On each table there were two candle lamps and there were three more on the windowsill. We Chinese might not adapt ourselves to the layout, and abruptly felt a solemn atmosphere. After a short while, people arrived one after another. When we met each other, we exchanged greetings and then chatted endlessly holding the goblets.

It was not until 7 o'clock that everyone was seated. The waitress came up to ask us to "order dishes". It actually wasn't "to order dishes" in its real meaning, because it was different here from China – no "dishes" could be ordered. After learning for several minutes, we finally got a clear picture of American "dishes" and decided quickly what to order: every one of us ordered a soup, a salad and a "staple food" which was salmon, chicken or steak.

When we finished up the staple food, Ms Kaumeyer, Superintendent of Schools, inaugurate the meeting and made a few welcoming remarks. Then Ms Helene McQuade, President of the Board of Education, made a speech. The head of the Chinese delegation also gave a speech in reply and presented Ms McQuade with a gift.

The dinner ended around 9 o'clock.