The 15th Chinese Bridge Competition 2016 National Finals were held in Nairobi University last year. The overall winner was a student from Nairobi University, Ruth Kimani 若曦. She went on to represent Kenya at the international round held at Hunan, Changsha, China. I caught up with her and managed to secure an interview with her despite her busy schedule in Tianjin University. Here is our interview of her experience at the Chinese Bride Competition.
What’s Your Name?
My name is Ruth .W. Kimani
Have a Chinese Name & Who gave it to you?
My Chinese same is 金若曦 (Jin Ruoxi). I was given this beautiful name by my teacher Mr Wang who actually nurtured me into greatness. He took me through book 3 and 4 of the Chinese practical course book at the Confucius institute of UON.
Why did you choose to study Chinese?
My dad’s job involves working with many people who most are Chinese people but communication was an issue. My dad nagged me everyday to take on Chinese language but I was a bit sceptical about it at first. With time I came around and finally joined the institute willingly and to say I was very interested and curious about the language is an understatement.
How long have you studied Chinese? (Years)
Its been 2.5 years since I began this journey.
How was your preparation schedule before the competition?
My preparation schedule for the competition was crazy. My classmates and I began practice 3 months prior to the competition. We had a pre-judging competition where 5 of us were chosen to represent the institute . As fate would have it, I was assigned my Teacher Mr Wang to coach me until the day of the competition. 1 month prior to the competition was the most hectic.
How many hours per day were you practising?
We used to practice from morning until evening. We had so much pressure some of us almost dropped out of the competition. We did not have time of our own, I had to stop classes just for the practice ,my life was literally soaked in the competition we were not even allowed to think of anything else. Our pronunciations, tones, expressions had to be perfect not good. Time was of the essence being late meant a scolding that would last the whole session. Going home in the evening there is nothing else I could think of . My family members were as well affected and joined the hook. So every morning after waking up I had to recite twice in-front of my mirror, twice in the shower and then twice just before I left the house. Talent preparation only made the situation worse. I was supposed to perform a dance from a minority group in China called 傣族舞 (daizu wu). My body was physically tormented by this dance I almost gave up.
How did you manage to balance your studies with the preparations?
I failed in balancing my time because I resorted to stopping school for the entire May-Aug semester and also gave up a job I had just for this competition.
What was your speech about?
My speech was about dreams enlighten the future. Basically about a dream I had in connection to Chinese that would make my future bright and in this speech i poured out my soul and my innermost feelings . I also included places and things I would want to do in China given the chance.
What was your talent show about?
My talent was a dance called 傣族舞 a minority group from South of China. Its about a beautiful girl who loved the sun , flowers and people and though this dance brought out the person I really am, mastering the moves almost killed me:-)
Were you nervous before you were called up on stage?
I was nervous before i was called out on stage , my hands were shaking like a leaf in a whirlwind, butterflies crawled my stomach but just seeing my family members and friends in the audience made me feel better, and finally my heels which always boosts my confidence and gave me an upright posture making me sway my hips from Cairo to Capetown:-) In this moment i decided its now or never so i took charge and poured myself out into the speech and no, I did not forget any word. In the end, my efforts paid off
Preparation to Go To China
In a few sentences, tell us the logistical experience and documentation that you had to do as you prepared to leave Kenya (visa, passport, forms etc).
A month later, an invitation letter from China came and in it were forms and so many questions I had to fill in. Most of the questions were too personal but I still had to fill out. In Chinese. Then came the letter where i was given the topic for the speech I was to say in the finals so I started preparing immediately 2 weeks later I got my visa which was smooth and a week later I was supposed to fly to Beijing. It was my first time flying and alone so I had mixed emotions, excitement and nervousness.
I had a stopover at Guangzhou. I proceeded to the baggage claim area, checked out my bags then checked in again. A policy of the China Southern Airlines. 3 hours later I was in Beijing tired, weary and nervous . I had to look out for a sign written 汉语桥 at the exit and soon I was in a car to the hotel .
Arriving at the Hotel i had to do an interview first, photo shoot dressed in traditional attire, submitted music and the required documents to the officials. My first impression of the hotel was perfect. It was a beautiful 5 star hotel where we were supposed to share a room between 2 And room service was on point.
Did you have time to go travelling while you were there? Any interesting places that you might have visited?
Were were about 110 contestants in total each person representing their country, to say i was not intimidated was an understatement. Most of the contestants could speak fluent Chinese , had been in China for sometime unlike me who the competition was my first china experience. We did not have free time as schedule was so tight. We would leave the hotel by 7 and be back by 11 for the 3 days in Beijing .
Though it was basically sight seeing and other activities we craved personal time which we did not have. We visited places like the forbidden city, great wall and the Confucius institute headquarters.
How many participants were there during the competition?
Were were about 110 contestants in total each person representing their country
Please summarise your experience on the stage during the competition.
We then flew to Hunan, Changsha where the competition was supposed to take place., pressure started creeping in so in 2 days the competition was supposed to happen. After the competition came an exam and we were just so busy it was not fun anymore, and unfortunately for me it was the end of the road for me.
How far did you go during the eliminations?
I did my very best that is what mattered. I would say the competition was not fare because I got to compete with people who had been in china for over 10 years making us first timers feel inferior . My experience on stage was both good and bad, after the speech was a random question the judges had to ask and to honestly I was 听不懂 so i did not know what to say, mumbled some words and left the stage.
By this time i already new I was not gonna proceed to the next round but I stayed put for the talent show and the exam Afterwards. The judges picked 30 contestants from the 110 of us for the next round. We had 5 days until we went home so we went sightseeing and did other activities . We would sneak out at night to do shopping.
By the end of the competition we formed friendships, others had even relationships, we were one big family and this was one of my best experiences last year. I was excited about going back home . This meant I could finally relax, and go back to my normal life.
You were representing Kenya, few get this opportunity, how did this feel?
After all was done, in a one word answer(Yes/No), was it all worth it?
How did Chinese Bridge change/affect your Chinese level?
The experience was worth it, my Chinese level improved greatly.
If you were to speak to those who are preparing for this years Chinese Bridge, what would you tell them?
I would advise those preparing for the competition to practice speaking alot. That is what they mostly test in the competition . That is what gave the other contestants an edge over me since they were experienced and could speak better and fluently.
Thats all for now Ruth, thank you for your time.
I wish you all the best in the upcoming competition
Ruth is currently studying at Tianjin University in Tianjin, China. She is studying Chinese Language & Culture. She will be back in July this year.
You can contact Ruth via Wechat on R32151602