I can pinpoint the exact moment that I first felt at home in Chengdu.
On a warm summer evening in August 2013, shortly after I arrived in Chengdu with my family, we set out to do some exercise. My children, Finn, aged 11, and Neve, aged 9, love to skip, so we took our 3- meter long skipping rope. We found a nice, flat space in a local neighborhood park and starting to take turns skipping - two turned the rope, while the other two skipped.
Soon, we began to attract the interest of curious onlookers, who were also out enjoying the warm evening. It must have been a funny sight - a laowai family skipping with a giant rope, the kind they might have used back when they were in primary school.
A little girl, about the same age as my daughter, cautiously approached. Neve, who didn't speak any Chinese at that time, beckoned to the girl to jump with her. The two girls started jumping together.
Before long, the girl's parents had joined in. Onlookers gathered. After a while, we had people of all ages crowding in and lining up to skip with us. Even an old grandpa joined in the fun.
This simple event - everyone jumping and laughing together - made me realise how much the people of Chengdu and Australia have in common. While we work hard, we also know the importance of relaxing and spending time with family and friends. Like Australians, Chengdu people like to laugh, and they never take themselves too seriously. I guess that's why my family and I have felt so happy to call Chengdu home.
I'm not the only one. I've been surprised by the depth of connections between Australia and Chengdu. In my role as Consul General, I'm lucky enough to see examples of this every day. I’ve seen Australian architects designing housing and apartments for the growing population of southwest China’s cities. I've seen a major Australian bank employing hundreds of local finance graduates here in Chengdu. And Ive seen an Australian logistics firm building warehouses to support the region's growing e-commerce industry.
But it is not just business connections. A Chengdu hospital is working with Australian know-how to restore hearing to deaf children; students are studying Australian history and literature at a university in West Chengdu; contemporary Australian musicians and composers working with traditional musicians at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music to create new pieces; and Australian chefs bringing the flavors of our fresh, high-quality produce to the restaurants of Chengdu.
Like our skipping game in the park, it is clear that the people of Australia and Chengdu are keen to jump right in. Building a stronger relationship between our two countries means we have to be confident to have a go, try new things and make new friends. So if you happen to see me in the park skipping with my family, don't be shy - come and join us!