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My Sichuan experiences

By Alistair Crozier ( Updated: 2016-02-04 15:11

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I first made a trip to China in 1995, but did not make it to Sichuan until 2000 when I started a new job in Beijing. As a young diplomat at the New Zealand Embassy I administeredthe New Zealand Government’s aid projects in Western China. This included a hydatids control project in Kangding. Sadly I never visited Kangding itself.

But in 2000 and 2001 I came to Chengdu several times to discuss the projectwith local officials. Once I also accompanied my Ambassador to the opening ceremony of an early New Zealand agricultural investment close to Chengdu.

On one visit I remember taking time out to drink tea by the wall of a temple – perhaps it wasWenshu Monastery. I clearly remember the local people relaxing and playing cards all around me, with nut and seed shells covering the ground. This is still one of my favourite things to do when the weather is warm in Chengdu.

My Thai wife and I married when I was on my second posting to Beijing, in 2004. She was very homesick for spicy Thai food. To cheer her up, I began to take her to Sichuan restaurants, which she loved – we never imagined that one day we would live in the province.

The one dish we never tried was “Shuizhuyu” (水煮鱼) or “Shuizhuroupian” (水煮肉片). I recognised these characters, and told my wife it sounded like a very plain dish. When we finally tasted it, we realised what we were missing – it has become one of my favourite Sichuan dishes!

Since September 2014 my family and I have called Chengdu home. It has been a privilege to establish the New Zealand Consulate here, as the first New Zealand government official to live and work in Sichuan.

2015 was a voyage of discovery for me in Sichuan. In Panzhihua I realised that you can enjoy beautiful clean blue sky, even in mid-winter. In Zigong I learned that salt does not just come from the sea, and was amazed by the technological innovations of the former salt-miners. I spent time climbing Qingcheng Back Mountain close to Chengdu and walking by Qionghai Lake in Xichang, which both reminded me of New Zealand. And of course I discovered many, many new Sichuan dishes – the spicier the better!

I also only fully understood the deep relationship between New Zealand and Sichuan after I arrived here. In fact I am not a ‘pioneer’: My role is to strengthen and deepen partnerships that have existed for up to 30 years, in areas as diverse as trade and investment, education, science and technology, music and culture, aviation, agriculture and tourism. It has been very encouraging to see all these links continue to expand.

But my biggest discovery has been the Sichuan people, who are sometimes very similar to New Zealanders. We both like to balance our work and our leisure time, and to travel and enjoy experiences as much as material things. Sichuan people are also as friendly and welcoming as New Zealand people: When I am jogging in the park close to my Chengdu home, other joggers often wave and say good morning, just like back home.

I am really looking forward to another year of discovery and friendship in Sichuan in 2016.

The author is the Consul General of the New Zealand Consulate-General in Chengdu.

The opinions expressed do not represent the views of the China Daily website.

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