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China beckoned for businesswoman

By MAY ZHOU in Brasilia, Brazil | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-15 00:09
Larissa Wachholz At CGTN commenting on BRICS issues in Beijing 2017. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

For a while, Beijing felt more like home than Brasilia for Larissa Wachholz. It was in China, where she lived from 2008 to 2013, that she started her first job and met her spouse.

Wachholz, a partner at Vallya Investment Advisory in Brasilia, joined a business consulting firm upon graduating from college. The company was working with a Brazilian government agency to conduct market research about business opportunities for Brazil in China. She was assigned to the project.

"It really caught my attention while traveling in the countryside. Often I would find that some company had already established business relations with Brazil," she said of her research.

She had one of the most memorable experiences when she and a colleague went to Guizhou province for a week and a half. They first went to the countryside to see tea being harvested.

"I had never seen tea leaves picked before. We were in the middle of the mountains, mothers with their babies, huge baskets on their back. It was really impressive."

Later, at a nearby farmer's market, while they were looking at peppers and vegetables, mothers with small children motioned to them a photo studio across the street.

"Suddenly we were surrounded by 15 or 20 children and babies. They wanted to take pictures with us, and their mothers were so happy. There was a professional photographer to take pictures of the whole thing. I really have very fond memories of that day."

After the project was finished six months later, Wachholz decided to stay in Beijing. "I was fascinated by cultural differences, and I like being challenged in environments different from what I am used to."

She continued to work in Beijing consulting on China-Brazil related business deals. Meanwhile, she enrolled in a two-year master's program on contemporary China at Renmin University of China.

"It gave me a different look into the business transactions that I was working on. It gave me more clarity to my understanding about China. It helped me to do my work better, because China is a policy-driven country. We have to learn how to understand and interpret the policies so we can work with the businesses. The program was eye-opening," Wachholz said.

After completing the Renmin master's program, she enrolled in a summer program at Peking University in 2012 and 2013.

At a function celebrating the 35th anniversary of China-Brazil relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, she met another Brazilian who was working at the Brazilian embassy in Beijing. They fell in love and eventually obtained their marriage license at the embassy.

"I have the fondest memories in Beijing. The imperial capital brings all the feelings of greatness, the fact that you are in the middle of a place that on one side you have the Great Wall and Forbidden City, all these great symbols of power. The hutong is interesting. My fondest memories of China were of day-to-day living in Beijing, going around by bicycle," Wachholz said.

She also practiced calligraphy and cooked Chinese food. By the time she left Beijing for Brasilia in 2013, Wachholz had visited all but five provinces in China, amassed a deep understanding of the country, made many friends and could speak intermediate-level Mandarin.

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