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Cerabino: Mastering cultural exchange in Riviera Beach; it’s Chinatown.


When you think of Riviera Beach, does the country of China come to mind?

Probably not.

There’s nothing especially Chinese about Riviera Beach, which is more Outer Mangonia than anything else.

If you Google “Riviera Beach and China,” the first entry that comes up is China Wok, a restaurant on Broadway that features a free krab Rangoon with the purchase of $25 or more.

Which isn’t to say that Riviera Beach is home to lots of Chinese restaurants either. In fact, the Yelp! listing down the page, the one that says “The Best 10 Chinese Restaurants in Riviera Beach,” features eight restaurants that aren’t in Riviera Beach.

But Riviera Beach is all about China these days. In fact, this past week, there was a delegation of Chinese educators in Riviera Beach, and there’s talk of a student exchange in the future.

It’s part of a continuing effort in expense-account diplomacy launched by the city’s Mayor Thomas Masters, who has fashioned a role for himself as his city’s global ambassador.

Masters began traveling to China in 2012 to search for entrepreneurial opportunities and cultural exchanges. That first trip ended with little to show for it, unless you count the $6,000 Masters overspent on his travel account, money the city wanted back.

Masters went to China again at the end of last summer on the city’s tab to a global economic forum, but with the Chinese picking up his hotel tab at the Shangri-La Hotel in Changchun City. And that trip ended with another money issue for Masters.

He apparently forgot to apply his $750-a-month car allowance to make payments on his car. This resulted in his car getting repossessed during a city council meeting a month after his return from China.

Masters blamed the temporary repossession of his car on a “misunderstanding” and being distracted by his China trip.

Think of it as a jet-lag repo.

The mayor getting his car repossessed during a city council meeting is the second thing that pops up when you Google “Riviera Beach and China.” That’s not a lot to show.

But maybe it’s about to change, considering that the mayor’s outreach efforts seem to have landed something.

The delegation of Chinese educators who arrived in Riviera Beach last week were lured by Masters, who beamed as they toured Suncoast High School. Finally, something to talk about beside issues with his expense account and visits from the repo man.

“It’s no longer a local thing, we’re in a global world now, and we’ve got to relate to one another,” Masters told WPTV-Channel 5 during the Chinese visit to the school. “I just think all kinds of good things are going to come out of this trip.”

Yes, there’s no telling what people from other lands will learn by dropping into Riviera Beach.

For example, the arrival of the Chinese delegation in Riviera Beach coincided with a lawsuit filed by Riviera Beach Public Works employee Kimbley Scott.

Her lawsuit complained that her department head, the recently resigned city Public Works Director Brynt Johnson, made a variety of unwanted sexual advances at work, including “reaching down Scott’s pants to grab her undergarments and give her a ‘wedgie,’” the lawsuit alleged.

Do the Chinese know about wedgies?

I don’t know what the wedgie situation is in China. But I’m guessing this could be one of those global learning opportunities.



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