Port city is inspiration for this writer

Updated: 2011-10-07 08:50

By Zhu Chengpei and Zhang Xiaomin (China Daily)

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Port city is inspiration for this writer

DALIAN, Liaoning - For red-haired Sumi Seissinger, Dalian is a delectable place. She can speak for hours about this coastal city in Liaoning province.

In her new book Dazzling Dalian - Expat Haven, Sumi has listed dozens of reasons to fall in love with the city, showcasing a wealth of traditional Chinese symbols like dragon, phoenix and flowers, its history, culture, tourism, and everything else she finds significant.

The book, divided into 12 chapters, includes articles about Sumi's experiences and focuses on Chinese culture, interviews with expatriates, opinions of expatriates and locals, photographs and a poem.

Russel Menzies, an Indian photographer who visited Dalian in June, wrote in a review of the book: "Dazzling Dalian -Expat Haven is now my favorite Dalian guide. Not only a valuable travel companion, it is also an expat's or visitor's point of reference to Dalian people, culture and lifestyle. I found virtually everything I wanted or needed to know about Dalian... "

Sumi still remembers the day she first heard of Dalian. "It was a beautiful spring afternoon in 2007. The sun was glinting on the slopes of the surrounding vineyards, and the river Main flowed peacefully in front of our home in Schweinfurt, Germany. My husband Arthur walked in through the door, whistling merrily. He told me his company had offered him a job in Dalian, China," she recalls.

Where is Dalian? What is it like?

Sumi began to Google "Dalian" but found very few information she was looking for. Before deciding to accept the offer, the couple and their 9-year-old daughter Mia took a trip to Dalian. During their one-week stay, they visited scenic spots such as Xinghai Square, the coastal Binhai Road, Jinshitan National Holiday Resort, tasted Dalian's renowned seafood and hot pot, and were regaled by the smiling, friendly faces they saw everywhere.

"The fantastic infrastructure, the natural beauty, and the warmth and friendliness of Dalian people convinced us to come back to stay," she says.

The family moved to Dalian in August 2007, and Sumi almost immediately began gathering information to let expats know more about Dalian and to live a more comfortable life there.

"I started on the book almost the first day I was here. However, I actually started conceptualizing it three years ago, and the writing and designing has taken two full years," she says. "It (the city) is so beautiful but seems nobody outside knows about it, so I decided to do something special about it."

Sun Jiahui, 28, who has been working with Sumi since 2007, says that Sumi, having once worked as a journalist, writes with great enthusiasm. "There were times when she did not sleep for days She may have got very tired at times but never mentioned quitting."

The book, Sumi says, would not have been published without the support of her family, friends, the publisher - Dalian Publishing House - and her five-member working team.

The team also works on a monthly city gazette, Dalian Today, and organizes activities for Dalian Today International Club. Both were co-founded by Sumi in June 2010 as a platform to bring people of different cultural and national backgrounds together, and promote friendship.

Ladon Ghalili, an Israeli national, has been living in Dalian for 22 years. She says Sumi is "a mover and a shaker I am sure her book will be very helpful. It has lots of useful information and tips from people who have been living here."

Born in India, Sumi has once lived in the United States and married a German, and has had no difficulty living in different countries. In her book, she gives five tips to make expat life a wonderful adventure:

First, find the determination and willingness to adapt. Second, acquire a good sense of humor. Third, respect the culture and people of your host country. Fourth, be optimistic and look at the bright side. For example, if you get lost in a taxi, think of it as a city tour. Fifth, open your eyes, let your spirits soar and live as you have never lived before.

Sumi is now onto her second book, Innovative Dalian - Investment Haven, expected to be published next year. "Many people ask me why I put in so much time, money and effort in doing that. My answer is simple. I have discovered in Dalian something that is lost elsewhere in the world, placidity and peace, simplicity and the grandeur of man and nature coming together," she says. "I value the warmth and hospitality of the people. This is where I feel challenged, stimulated and motivated to write, which for a writer is the core reason of existence."

"I first want to promote Dalian since it is a city that has come to mean so much to me, and then I will think about writing about China, which is a country that has become my second home."

Zhao Wenying contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 10/07/2011 page5)