XI'AN, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Zhao Quanyou had never imagined that his efforts would someday garner admiration in a foreign country.
The 55-year-old equipment operator of a China-aided road project in Niue said he was astonished and felt deeply honored upon receiving a cordial invitation from Niue's cabinet as well as letters of appreciation from both the country and the Chinese embassy in New Zealand.
"Dedicated to the project selflessly, Zhao has deepened friendship between the two countries and peoples," read the letter from the embassy.
Working for China Railway First Group Co., Ltd., Zhao has been engaged in infrastructure construction for around 14 years, including working six years abroad on three overseas projects. He boasts extensive experience in operating dumper, loader and road roller.
In July 2019, he went to Niue with six other colleagues from Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, to prepare for a 46.1-km roundabout road upgrade project.
The road was built more than 20 years ago and had long been in disrepair, which impeded the development of tourism -- the local pillar industry -- and affected local people's life.
China and Niue signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in July 2018. The China-aid Niue Roundabout Road Upgrading Project is regarded as a critical aspect of this bilateral cooperation under the BRI framework.
Since the second half of 2019, the project had run smoothly and at the beginning of 2020, Zhao offered to stay in Niue so that his peers could return home for family reunions. However, the situation turned grim with the COVID-19 outbreak, prompting the closure of ports and suspension of airlines, and he got stranded in the island nation.
Initially, life in one of the world's least populous countries was not easy for Zhao.
"I was all alone, with no one to talk to or work with, not to mention the poor internet connectivity," Zhao said.
Despite facing problems such as limited groceries, communication outages and homesickness, he gradually managed to tend to himself while bringing his life and work back on track.
Zhao saw that about 20 pieces of mechanical equipment were lying unused, so he decided to ensure their proper operation. "Activating the machinery and keeping them running to prevent damages from long-time non-operation became an important routine for me," Zhao said. "I felt relieved whenever I turned on the equipment to check and maintain them."
Besides his daily work, Zhao would level the land and clear roadside vegetation to improve the appearance of the surrounding.
He recalls that once the local government sought his assistance to fix a road roller's faulty engine. He fixed the equipment, winning applauses from all repairmen at the site.
"As someone who is involved in the China-Niue project, it is my duty to promote exchanges between the two countries," Zhao said.
Having been away from home for almost three years, Zhao misses his family a lot. "I often share glimpses of my life here through messages," Zhao said, adding that China's Ministry of Commerce and the company are assisting him to prepare the paperwork for returning home.