Kenyan Lydia Kathure now has a new life in China and wishes to become a permanent resident here. Provided to China Daily
Love overcame obstacles and paved the way to a new future in China for one Kenyan woman, her sailor and her daughter, writes Zhang Xiaomin.
Lydia Kathure, a Meru girl from Kenya, had never thought of going to China, much less living there. But when she met a Chinese man named Liu Guihai in 2006, her life changed. She was visiting a friend at a supermarket in the port city of Mombasa. Liu, first mate of a Chinese ship, was buying some food for his vessel.
"This Chinese man can speak English! It shocked me because sometimes we met Chinese people, but they usually do shopping by using body language," Lydia recalls.
They talked a lot. Later, she showed Liu and his fellow sailors around the city. They became friends.
For several months, whenever Liu's ship called at Mombasa, they met. One day, Liu asked Lydia to marry him.
"I thought he was joking. But when he called his mother, I knew he was serious," Lydia says.
Lydia's mother liked him but, as China is too far away, she was worried.
In November 2008, Lydia followed Liu to his hometown - a village in Zhuanghe of Dalian, Liaoning province.
Their marriage not only caused a sensation among the villagers but also became news in local newspapers.
The scene at her wedding is still fresh to Lydia.
"They touched my skin to feel whether I was different," she laughs. "I didn't know what they were saying but I could feel that they liked me."
At the time, Lydia could not speak Chinese. No one but Liu could communicate with her. So she followed him wherever he went and kept asking questions about anything that was different from Kenya.
One of the questions was: "Why do you Chinese eat this? Do you know that people eat silkworm pupas?"
"My father-in-law likes eating it. Once I went shopping at the market and saw hundreds of these black worms squeezed together in a basket."
Despite this discomfort, Lydia started to change. "This is my second home. I'll get used to it," she says.
Having lived in Zhuanghe for five years, Lydia enjoys her life there.
She wears stylish clothes, makes jiaozi (dumplings) and even learned to play mahjong.
"Mahjong is very interesting. In the beginning, I lost money to learn. Now I play very well. Sometimes, I go to mahjong parlors to play with strangers," she says in Chinese.
Lydia now speaks Chinese fluently. She says she learned it all from people around her.
"It's my good fortune that Lydia married my son," says her mother-in-law Hou Guihua, wearing an ear-to-ear smile.
Hou says Lydia is busy working and she helps to do housework and farmwork in her spare time. She even helps Hou to wash her feet in the evening.
Lydia now works as an English teacher from Monday to Thursday in Dalian. Every Friday, she teaches English at a bilingual kindergarten. Her 3-year-old daughter Angel is studying there.
On Halloween, she lit jack-o'-lanterns, taught the children to put on scary faces and say: "Treat or trick".
"Children are excited in Lydia's class. Maybe they were scared but it made them learn more about the culture. As a foreign teacher, she easily brings a foreign language environment to them," a teacher surnamed Gong comments.
In 2010, Liu quit his job as a seaman and set up a school that mainly teaches primary and secondary school students English.
Lydia wishes to become a permanent resident of China.
Next year, on the sixth anniversary of their wedding, she will be qualified to apply for permanent residence status.
"I love China. I will live here with my beloved husband, my Angel, my students and friends, and Chinese cuisine and mahjong," she laughs.
Also, when she becomes a permanent resident, her family members will be able to come to stay in Zhuanghe for a longer period.
Lydia has only been back to Kenya twice. When she misses her hometown, she calls her parents.
She still keeps some Kenyan customs.
Not long ago, a friend told her that an African student in the Lushunkou district of Dalian can do traditional hair.
So she went there by bus. It cost her 800 yuan ($131) and a whole day to make hundreds of small braids on her head.