Commentary: Misunderstandings on the Way to Door County Sister City

By Mark Jinkins, Fall 2015 Door County Sister City Jingdezhen Delegate

Just arrived in Shanghai, so now it’s just a couple of hours plane ride to the “Porcelain Capital of the World,” the Door County Sister City in China – Jingdezhen. Before I get there, I have to clear misunderstandings on “the bills” and “The Bills.”

Photo by Mark Jinkins.

Photo by Mark Jinkins.

“The Bills” are the two people charged with leading the Sister City effort. Those two are Door County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Bill Chaudoir and Door County Soil & Water Conservation Department Head Bill Schuster. The Bills have related how communications between different languages (and different cultures) are ripe for misunderstandings. See “no problem” below.

“The bills” also has a much more direct meaning to me, and this is where Door County itself may be misunderstanding. Many have asked or implied that someone else is paying for my journey, but the truth is “the buck stops here”(and starts here, too!).

Now there might be a reason for misunderstanding because Door County did approve “up to $5,000” for the Sister City Jingdezhen delegation, but that is to host the Chinese delegates visiting Door County. To be clear, not one cent goes to those who journey to Jingdezhen, the journey I am on.

The expense is the burden of our own pockets. Airfares and hotels, food on the road, local transportation, and more (as most know from their travels, always incidentals and they do add up); even the visa to allow entry into China was a couple of hundred dollars in personal expense. Nothing is cheap even in the Chinese RMB (aka yuan). Getting from Pudong International Airport to my hotel was 54 yuan, plus hotel in the thousands of RMB – I’ll let you determine the exchange rate.

“Why” is also what many have asked? In my case, some is what I consider a duty to “give back to the place I love” as the Door County Community Foundation says in its tagline. This delegation to Jingdezhen is not the maximum 10 from Door County that Jingdezhen greeted most recently (others wanted to go but all dropped out as schedules and costs prohibited), so I am a “delegation of one” representing Door County. Also in my case, this journey is the freedom to have an adventure. Although I’ve been to China and visited tourist sites such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Terra Cotta Warriors in the last decade (when one of my children was living in China), my own lack of knowledge of the art of pottery – porcelain in Jingdezhen – prompted me. Learning has always been adventure to me, both professionally and personally. What knowledge can I bring back to the Door?

An email communication from China on a portion of the Door County Square that is being constructed in Jingdezhen says “no problem,” but as I learned from the Door County Civility Project, written communication so often results in misunderstandings. One person’s “no problem” may mean everything is 100 percent OK, while another’s “no problem” may mean there is a problem but I don’t want to go into it.

Understandings of this (and other issues) are what I hope to give back to the place I love, Door County. Please send me your best wishes, and prayers, too! All are welcome! Xie xie!

Mark Jinkins has been on many nonprofit boards serving the Door County community (currently the Door County Community Foundation, Hope Church, and the Door County Community Opportunity Investment Network “COIN”). He retired after more than 30 years as an attorney with Pinkert Law firm. Mark enjoys golf, bridge, reading, travel and other adventures.


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