When Richmond representatives visited China and Japan they made it a 15-day trip. That expedition was, in the words of Councilman Corky Booze, “strictly business.”
It’s clear that the delegation did conduct some business. But Booze and four other Richmond officials–Councilmember Nat Bates, Police Deputy Chief Edwin Medina, Port Director Jim Matzorkis and Operations Manager Lucy Zhou–also made the most of this long journey by doing something fun.
Photos and records from the trip make it clear that for at least five days the delegation was sightseeing. On October 19 the delegation visited Suzhou a popular Chinese tourist city famous for its exquisite gardens. The delegation then flew 900 miles to Xi’an, another historic city to visit world-famous Terra Cotta Warriors and Wild Goose Pagoda, according to the itinerary of the trip.
From Xi’an, the group then flew another 700 miles and landed in China’s capital Beijing for two days before wrapping up the half month trip that cost the city $36,120, the invoice showed. What did they do in Beijing? Tour Tiananmen Square, tour Forbidden City, tour Great Wall, tour Temple of Heaven and shopping, the itinerary showed.
“I had a wonderful trip,” Booze said, as he settled back into his seat at his office and apologized for his messy desk, stacked with files and documents. “The reason for this trip is to commemorate the 20th anniversary sister city relationship with Zhoushan in China and attend Obi Festival in Japan,” he said. “We are also trying to bring port business from China to Port of Richmond. ”
Booze spoke about his trip with passion. He hailed the warm hospitality he received along the way and eagerly dug out a Japanese newspaper that featured a picture of Richmond delegates, dressed in traditional blue Japanese robes, playing tug of war at an Obi Festival in Shimada, on of Richmond’s sister cities.
“Getting invited to this festival is huge,” Booze said. The Obi Festival is a traditional cultural event held every three years.
For Booze, it was just the beginning of a series of eye opening experiences. During the two-hour long interview, Booze repeatedly marveled at his discoveries: the speed of China’s construction, the ubiquitous security cameras, the low unemployment and crime, the lack of toilet paper in restrooms and the night market open until 2 a.m.
Another cultural discovery took place at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in China. Booze said he tired to order a box of ten Chicken wings, but instead the restaurant gave him ten separate bags, each containing one wing.
“They don’t do value meals over there. You buy individually. Their whole culture is totally different,” Booze said, with a big laugh, “it was really interesting and I kind had to chuckle.”
He defended the sightseeing and said what he observed along the way was a valuable learning experience that will help him better improve the city of Richmond. “The style of people living there makes me think how I can make the style of living here better,” he said.
Aside from traveling, the group also took advantage of the trip to seek business deals and meet government officials.
The delegates met with officials from sister city Zhoushan and received updates on a memorandum of understanding, which they expect to be signed by the end of the year, said Port Director Matzorkis, a member Richmond’s delegation.
The two cities have spent several years negotiating the memorandum, which could open doors for both sides to build a joint-venture company in Zhoushan.
The delegation also paid a visit to the project of a real estate developer identified as Mr. Wu, who is looking to develop a multimillion-dollar residential neighborhood on a waterfront property in Point Richmond.
Although they reached no immediate deals, Booze attributes the potential projects to years of relationship building.
“Before 2006 we had no business intention with them,” Booze said, but now there are preliminary plans to work together on several projects. “Would that happen if we hadn’t set up the relationship?”
“I will never, ever stop that,” he said resolutely, pausing after each word.