Bill Gaspard is design director of China Daily
When I came to China four years ago, there were things I never expected－being here for four years at the top of the list.
But after arriving one bitterly cold January day, I quickly warmed up to my job as design director here at China Daily. I truly enjoy and value the experiences and opportunities I've had in my time here.
Among those opportunities has been to speak with Chinese editors and journalists all over the country and to speak about Chinese design in other parts of the world.
Another great part of my experience has been to interact with other foreigners working here at various events sponsored by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.
So, it was both a surprise and a privilege to be named one of the 100 foreign experts honored at the 2014 Chinese Government Friendship Awards.
On the first day, we were individually given our plaques and medals by Vice-Premier Ma Kai in a very nice ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. That was followed by a reception back at the SAFEA headquarters.
The next day we returned to the Great Hall to have photos taken with Premier Li Keqiang and to hear his remarks about the collaboration of foreign and Chinese workers.
The premier gave an extremely warm greeting to the expat winners, followed by a short speech that was gracious, encouraging and, at times, funny.
All of that was great, but the thrill of these past two days was getting to attend the State banquet afterward.
Thousands of guests were in attendance, including the current president, Xi Jinping, and two former presidents, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. There was also the current and former premiers and, I can safely guess, pretty much all of the State leaders.
There were also diplomats from dozens of countries, along with Chinese military leaders, representatives from all the Chinese minorities in their colorful costumes, old timers who had undoubtedly been part of the revolution and Chinese from various walks of life.
In the end I got close enough to clearly see the presidents and it was a thrill. Dozens of people were snapping away on their cellphones, including a banquet waiter sneaking in a photo of the head table. And who could blame him? When else would any of us have the chance at something like this again.
But the best part was just wandering through the tables, seeing so many people from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas all laughing, toasting and enjoying each others' company. And you wish the world could always be like that.
And there in the Great Hall of the People, for at least 90 minutes, it was.
What we do
SAFEA is responsible for certifying foreign experts to work in the Chinese mainland and organizing overseas training for Chinese technical and managerial professionals.