26 Sep 2014

China friendship trip a great success

A group of Nelsonians recently returned from a nine day visit to China to attend an annual international friendship forum, hosted by China's Association for Friendship with Other Countries.

As youth ambassadors for Nelson, Carla Lindley, Nayland College student and Nelson City Youth Councillor and Kristina Eddy, a volunteer broadcasting journalist from Nelson College for Girls visited Guiyang and Zunyi cities in Guizhou Province, south-west China, alongside Jeannette Jones, Barbara Markland and June Wild from the Nelson branch of the New Zealand China Friendship Society, before finishing their trip in Shanghai.

Carla and Kristina were selected by a panel, following an application and interview process. Both girls were keen to thank Nelson City Council, who directly funded their economy class return airfares from Nelson to China, as part of Nelson’s Sister City programme.

“We are very grateful to the Council, Nelson’s NZ China Friendship Society and everyone who made this trip possible. We packed a lot into nine days and learnt so much,” says Kristina.

“It was a huge culture change, with lots of people, but everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming.”

As the youngest delegates ever to attend the friendship forum, both girls were extremely well received in China, attracting a great deal of media interest. During the forum’s opening conference, Carla greeted everyone in Mandarin, English and Te Reo Māori before delivering a presentation on the importance of international friendships, which received warm praise including special congratulations from the Ambassador for Jamaica.

The delegation visited local attractions including the unveiling of a new statue, where Carla and Kristina used their Council waiata training; the moutai museum, which celebrates the history and production of this famous traditional wine; the Chen Shi Tea Garden, where they were shown how to pick and process tea leaves; and the ancient town of Quing Yan, where they enjoyed exploring historic buildings, shops and bustling market stalls.

Carla says a highlight was their visit to a middle school in Shanghai, which specialised in golf, robotics and English.

“The standard of teaching and facilities was exceptional, with an incredibly high-tech robotics lab and a mock golf course on top of the building.”

Both girls are already planning return trips to China and would like to continue learning Mandarin. Keen to develop her experience in journalism, Kristina was impressed by the variety of opportunities in China and Carla is seriously considering a career in foreign affairs, perhaps aiming to be an ambassador to China one day.

Mayor Rachel Reese says the trip was a very successful pilot for overseas youth ambassadors and a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the relationship between Nelson and China.

“Links in education and learning are an important part of the partnership Nelson is developing with China. So I am delighted that the girls are already sharing the insights they gained with the Nelson community.

“Carla and Kristina are fantastic ambassadors for our city. Both girls have seen first-hand the power of international friendships for economic development and cultural learning, and it is exciting for Nelson that they hope to pursue careers in this area.”