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At 5 a.m., Afghan businessman Zamhid Asadi (Chinese name Heping, meaning “peace”) got up to drive from Yiwu to Wenling in Taizhou. Two containers of goods were to be sent from Wenling that day, and he had to check the quantities and supervise the loading process. After nearly three hours of driving, he arrived at the shoe factory. As soon as he entered the door, he greeted the landlady in Chinese.
Asadi came to Zhejiang Normal University (ZNU) to study business administration in September 2007, and has stayed in China for nearly 12 years. He told reporters that he gave himself the Chinese name “Heping” to convey hopes and good wishes.
When recalling his first arrival in Zhejiang, Heping was overwhelmed by nostalgia because he knew little about Chinese and had trouble adapting himself to the environment. With the help of classmates, teachers, and friends, he gradually became familiar with the local environment and developed a strong affection for it.
“My classmates and teachers are very kind to me. I had a teacher who was getting on in years, and I called her ‘mom.’ She cared about foreign students very much, and often welcomed us to her home. Being a guest, I particularly appreciated her warm hospitality. I often visited school after graduation, especially when I was homesick but could not go back home soon, or when I was tired from work and needed a rest. I would go to the campus, take a walk, and sit on a bench, and soon I felt much better. My alma mater is a place I will never forget!”
Majoring in business administration, Asadi, the only Afghan student at the university, spent a year learning Chinese at ZNU. At that time, a small number of Afghan businessmen ran their own business in Yiwu, a small commodities distribution center affiliated with Jinhua. Because of Yiwu's close proximity to Jinhua, gradually the news spread to these businessmen that an Afghan student was in Jinhua. Azizi, who has been in Yiwu for many years, recalled, “I heard that an Afghan student was in a college in Jinhua and that he is competent and speaks good Chinese. I always wanted to see him. Later he came to Yiwu, started his own business, and got his own office. We are good friends now.”
During school, Asadi often went to Yiwu to translate at the invitation of these businessmen. He started to have some sense of the small commodities market and became friends with some businessmen. After graduation, he came to Yiwu from Jinhua and founded Yiwu Aoka Trading Firm, starting his own business together with two partners.
At present, the company's major business is to take orders from abroad, purchase the cheap clothes, shoes, and other daily necessities that are desired from China, and send them to their various destinations. After several field visits, he managed to establish partnerships with several businessmen in Wenling.
With the strengths of business administration education and a good command of the Chinese language, Asadi is well on his way in running his business. He commented that business development has been relatively smooth since the establishment of his company, and so has his personal life. Two years after graduation, he returned to Afghanistan and got married, beginning his own family. Asadi is now the father of three children.
Asadi shared an office with other merchants in the beginning. Now, he rents a large office belonging to his own company and has four employees. He has expanded his client base from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia and Russia.
(By Xu Xiaoqin, translated by Zhang Jiajia, edited by Kendra Fiddler)