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Kenya’s SGR employees anticipate cross-cultural exchanges

Students of University of Nairobi’s Confucius Institute are also expected to stage thrilling performances at an event to mark the Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year which falls on February 16 this year

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A Kenyan journalist poses for selfies with female train driver Concilia Owire (C) and Alice Mugure (L) during the launching day of the Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Mombasa, Kenya, May 31, 2017. Credit: Xinhua/Sun Ruibo

Alice Mugure relishes speaking in Mandarin to her Chinese supervisors at the Nairobi-Mombasa Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger train where she has worked as an assistant locomotive driver for the last nine months.

In her late 20s, Mugure is convinced that proficiency in Chinese language is not only a vital ingredient in her line of work, but also boosts her appreciation of a rich culture in China where she has visited twice.

Mugure became a star attraction when she mimicked a marching soldier shouting orders in baritone voice during rehearsals for Chinese Spring Festival performances to be held on February 14 at the SGR Nairobi terminus.

The rehearsals were hosted by the University of Nairobi’s Confucius Institute whose Kenyan students are also expected to stage thrilling performances at the event to mark the Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year which falls on February 16 this year.

Mugure told Xinhua on the sidelines of the rehearsals on Sunday that she was excited by the prospect of participating in the Spring Festival that is expected to usher in a new chapter in Sino-Kenyan cultural cooperation.

“The spring festival will provide a platform for cross-cultural understanding between Kenyan and Chinese people and I look forward to thrilling performances,” said Mugure.

Kenyans working for Chinese firms will join their colleagues from the Asian nation to celebrate the Spring Festival on Valentine’s Day, two days before the festival starts in strict-speaking terms.

Mugure and her colleagues have been preparing to stage outstanding performances and electrify both the Kenyan and Chinese audience during the festival.

The fluent Mandarin speaker confessed that she felt honored to be granted a chance to entertain guests at the Spring Festival celebration in her home country.

“I was in China during the Spring Festivals held in the last two years and am glad to celebrate the event on my home soil. It is my hope that the celebrations here in Kenya will be exceptional,” Mugure remarked.

Her extended study tour in China between 2015 to 2016 and again in the first quarter of 2017 has increased her appreciation of the country’s rich cultural heritage.

“I am now accustomed to the Chinese culture, it is good though it takes longer to master it. I love the Chinese dance and food,” said Mugure.

She added that other aspects of Chinese culture like martial arts and love for outdoor activities offer inspiring lessons to Kenyans yearning for physical fitness.

Both the Kenyan SGR employees and students from the Confucius Institutes domiciled in the country’s four main public universities are expected to stage plays, song and dance at the Spring Festival’s main gala.

Concilia Owire, a 23-year-old assistant locomotive driver at the SGR passenger train dubbed “Madaraka Express”, said the Spring Festival presents a golden opportunity for enhanced cultural understanding between Kenyans and their Chinese friends.

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“I feel good to celebrate the Spring Festival while in Kenya and we will have a chance to learn new aspects of Chinese culture,” said Owire.

She too visited China in the first quarter of 2017 to learn the practical aspects of driving a locomotive.

Owire is currently studying Chinese language at the University of Nairobi’s Confucius Institute in the hope it will help improve her interaction with colleagues from the Asian nation.

The diploma holder in electrical engineering admitted her appreciation of Chinese culture especially meditation and martial arts that have a positive impact on physical and emotional health.

“As far as the Chinese culture is concerned, I love the meditation part and martial arts. They are very helpful in my profession where physical fitness is a vital attribute,” Owire remarked.

Evans Ngugi, a 24-year-old locomotive technician at the SGR passenger train, agreed that martial arts that is the embodiment of China’s cultural prowess, has therapeutic power.

“I am enjoying learning Kungfu, it is refreshing and helps us maintain physical fitness,” said Ngugi adding that as a veteran footballer, he found it easy to learn Kungfu.

Ngugi and other young male colleagues will be staging a Kungfu performance during the Spring Festival main gala in Nairobi.

The mechanical engineering major said he anticipated fruitful interactions between Kenyans and their Chinese friends during the ceremony.

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“Having been selected to perform at the Spring Festival celebration, am optimistic there will be robust Afro-Chinese interactions,” Ngugi told Xinhua.

Brian Chege, a student at the University of Nairobi’s Confucius Institute, said that staging a play at the Spring Festival Gala will be fun and thrilling.

“Our play will focus on how SGR has transformed lives and I look forward to seeing the beauty of our diverse cultures on display at Spring Festival gala,” said Chege.


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