There are currently more than 7,000 Chinese living in Kenya, most of whom keep to themselves and maintain their culture and traditions. But this is changing. And as Chinese people and industries come to the country, China is also opening up to Kenyans.
Wendy Chelimo is five. Her father Henry Rotich is from Kenya’s Rift Valley, and her mother Xu Jing is from the Far East. Now they live in Nairobi, Kenya. The couple met 16 years ago in China, when Rotich was on a Chinese government scholarship and Xu taught him Chinese. They got married in 2006. Henry says his proficiency in Chinese helped, but a few similarities in their cultures also made it easier.
“My husband behaves almost like Chinese. He knows how to deal with Chinese people and how to deal with me,” said Xu, who is a teacher at the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi.
“It’s been wonderful because through Chinese, I was able to get jobs all the way from (my) first year,” said Cameline Ngure, a 23-year-old Kenyan student from the Confucius Institute, who works for the United Nation as a consultant for public information in the Chinese language.
Elizabeth Wanjala, another student from the Confucius Institute, has been selected for training in China. She will be among the very first Kenyans to operate the standard gauge railway in Kenya. “I got an opportunity to teach Chinese children English through my teachers. That was my first job. And this job that I got now with the Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation was through a career fair organized by the Confucius Institute here,” she said.
Success stories like these fill Xu with pride. She is counting on her students to work hard this year and get the maximum benefits from government scholarships and jobs.