U.S. teenager dreams of bringing U.S., China closer

09:49, November 18, 2009      

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In her dreams, Hannah Rudoff often feels like the Chinese butterfly kite hanging in her bedroom, flying, shuttling across the immense ocean between the United States and China.

In many ways, the 14-year-old girl living in Portland, Oregon, feels deeply connected to both nations and both cultures.

"I love China in many ways," she told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"The Chinese are always kind to me, and I love to make friends with them. The Chinese foods are so delicious, and I love the dumplings most. I like Chinese leaders, because they take care of their people and give Chinese kids a lot of hope. I couldn't wait for my next trip to China," she exclaimed.

Born in the Chinese city of Suzhou, she was adopted by a U.S. couple at the age of one and a half.

Although Hannah was brought up in Portland, she has stayed in touch with her Chinese roots by learning Chinese from a very early age.


Hannah had no idea what the Chinese language was until she was 4 years old, but her fondness for Chinese culture was "love-at-first-sight."

In 1999, when Hannah's U.S. parents brought her to the newly-opened Chinese department in Portland's International School, she suddenly fell in love with everything Chinese.

Yafei Liu, a Chinese language instructor there at the time, still vividly remembers what happened to Hannah on that day.

"She kept asking her parents to let her quit the kindergarten she used to go to and stay with me to learn Chinese," Liu told Xinhua.

"I must learn Chinese!" Those are the exact words Hannah told her parents at the time.

The little girl has been studying Chinese since then, and now she can speak Chinese quite fluently.

Hannah has also developed a special bond with Liu, her Chinese teacher who treated her like a family member.

Liu, originally from China, used Chinese textbooks to teach Hannah so she could become immersed in Chinese language and culture despite growing up in the United States.

In 2005, Hannah passed the Chinese Proficiency Test at the age of 10, becoming the youngest person to pass the Chinese government-sponsored test in Portland.

Because she did so well in learning Chinese, Hannah was granted a scholarship from China and attended a Chinese language summer camp in Beijing in 2006.

In 2007, she became a volunteer at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Center and stayed there for two weeks.

Hannah worked hard there and made a lot of friends among the center's staff, local kids and adults.


A series of events that took place last year broadened Hannah's understanding of China.

In the weekend following the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, China, Hannah watched news coverage on rescue and relief efforts at the home of her Chinese teacher Liu.

She broke into tears when thinking about her friends and those lovely pandas in Wolong, which were also in the quake zone.

Moreover, she was deeply touched by the TV footage showing Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao bringing confidence and courage to the unfortunate victims in the quake zone. "Chinese leaders are so good," she said at the time.

Later, Hannah decided to write a letter to the Chinese leaders and give them a thumbs-up.

"Dear Grandpa Hu and Grandpa Wen, your love to the quake-affected in Sichuan has again won worldwide respect for China. I hope all the leaders of other countries can also make it this way in their administration," she wrote.

"I admire your people-first style and selfless spirit, and I pay my respect to you!" Hannah concluded.

The letter and her classmates' letters to China's leaders and armed forces were later published in the Overseas Version of the Chinese newspaper People's Daily and received great attention both in China and worldwide.

In that year, Hannah also became an avid fan of the Beijing Olympics and won an award in a global Chinese essay contest to celebrate the event.


In the eyes of her parents and her Chinese teacher, Hannah's special affinity with China put her in a unique position to help bring the two nations closer.

That's also Hannah's ideal.

Liu, her longtime Chinese teacher, told Xinhua that Hannah once said she wanted to become a translator.

Thus, she could "introduce good things from the United States to China and vice versa."

According to Liu, because she has been immersed in Chinese culture for a long time, Hannah has adopted many Chinese traditional values, including respect for family, parents and teachers.

At the same time, she is in many ways also a typical U.S. teenager -- open, active and optimistic.

Excelling at both academic and social skills, she is a good public speaker, dancer and equestrian.

John Rudoff, her adoptive father and also a cardiologist, told Xinhua that his adopted daughter, his only child, had been active from a very early age in the local Chinese community.

Every time there was a celebration in the community, Hannah would be invited to be the master of ceremony or a performer.

John and his wife, Joanne, supported their daughter's participation in those events full heartedly and even fell in love with Chinese themselves, thanks to Hannah's influence.

John said that besides her expertise in Chinese, Hannah also had great social skills.

"She can get along very well with other people. She makes a lot of friends every time she goes to China," he said.

John added he firmly believed his daughter was predestined to have a successful career involving both U.S. and Chinese cultures.

"She is sort of born for that," he said.

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