A man stands guard during the reception ceremony of the first batch of locomotives for the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway in Mombasa, Kenya, on Jan. 11, 2017. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
NAIROBI, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Ephraim Muguru displayed the discipline and focus of a trained military officer as he held two flags aloft waiting for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger train to arrive at the Athi River Terminus on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
The 29-year-old station assistant was attentive as he prepared to wave the green and red flags to signal the arrival of the modern commuter train that had earlier departed from Mombasa Terminus.
Shortly, the SGR commuter train, dubbed Madaraka Express, arrived at the Athi River Terminus and dozens of passengers alighted.
Muguru was in ecstatic mood as he welcomed alighting passengers destined for different parts of Athi River town, which is one of Kenya's oldest industrial hubs.
The university graduate has mastered his vocation that involves signaling the locomotive driver to land safely at the terminus while directing alighting passengers to hop into the platform as they exit to their respective destinations.
Muguru's job, that he has been carrying out for the last one year, is key to the safety of the SGR train and throngs of passengers.
His office is perched above the platform equipped with the latest computer software to monitor in real time as passenger and cargo trains approach the Athi River Terminus.
To ensure smooth running of the trains, it is controlled via the Centralized Traffic Control System to ensure maximum efficiency and safety.
As part of his daily routine, the Kenyan man has to disembark from his office and move downstairs to the platform, a few minutes before any train approaches the terminus.
Muguru has perfected his craft thanks to the mentorship he received from Dai Weigang, the Chinese station master.
Muguru had kind words for Dai describing him as a jovial leader who interacts freely with his Kenyan colleagues. "We have a workplace that is fun and friendly," Muguru told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Dai said he had developed a strong bond with nine Kenyan colleagues whom he has been supervising at the Athi River station for the last couple of months.
The 43-year-old veteran in modern railways operations used to be a station master of the Fu Hai Station in Heilongjiang province, northeast China.
He never dreamt of landing a job overseas and had braced for a quiet retirement in hometown.
"The moment I received a letter of appointment to work for Kenya's SGR commuter service, I took up the offer with gusto and with conviction that discovering the magic of other parts of the world could be a game changer in my life," Dai told Xinhua.
Now he spends the bulk of his working hours monitoring the arrival and departure of the Mombasa-Nairobi train service while prodding Kenyan colleagues to be up to task.
Dai has been able to overcome initial language barriers that hindered interaction with Kenyan colleagues and has put extra efforts to improve his proficiency in English that happens to be the official language in the East African nation.
"Before coming to Kenya, I had almost forgotten my English but now am able to communicate with Kenyan employees at the basic level after sparing sometime to improve on my grasp of this language," said Dai.
"As a Chinese expatriate based in a foreign country, I am obliged to learn and respect their customs which will eventually cement our bonds of friendship," he added.
"Mr. Dai remembered all our names when he met us for the first time," said Hannah Mwangi, a 31-year-old SGR crew member. "He always persuades us to be polite with passengers and become passionate with our job," she added.
Mwangi credited Dai for acquiring requisite skills and emotional intelligence to enhance her capacity to offer quality service at the SGR commuter service.
She added that Dai is a good listener and a passionate mentor who is ready to make sure Kenyan employees are acclimatized with railway operations.
"He has taught us to be polite and calm when handling all customers' grievances," said Mwangi.
She noted that due to Dai's influence, she has learnt a lot of Chinese words and is considering joining a Confucius Institute to improve his proficiency in Chinese language.
Muguru agreed that Dai has been a source of motivation to the Kenyan staff and is always ready to enhance their competence in railway operations.
Prior to working for SGR, Muguru used to meet his basic needs through casual labor at construction sites in Nairobi.
"The workload was heavy yet the wages were very low. Besides the meager income, the casual jobs were seasonal and could hardly sustain me," Muguru said.
He added that the SGR commuter service granted him the first formal job since graduation from a local university.
Government data indicates that the Chinese-built SGR project has accumulatively generated over 30,000 jobs for Kenyan youth, and trained more than 5,000 professional technicians.