Whenever the 52-year-old Danston Mbaya passes by Moi International Stadium in Nairobi's Kasarani, he feels elated for being part of history.
28 years ago, Mbaya was part of the support team for Chinese technicians from China's Sichuang International Cooperation Co. Ltd (SIETCO) who were constructing the sports arena where he was employed as chef specializing in Chinese culinary.
From chopping firewood, Mbaya was gradually promoted to the kitchen to cut vegetables and meat in preparation for cooking after which he joined the mainstream cooking staff.
"Mr. Xu, who was the chief chef spotted my potential and taught me how to prepare Chinese meals, a role that I played with dedication and in return I became his favorite 'son' out of 11 other workers," Mbaya told Xinhua on Thursday in an interview in Nairobi.
The 60,000-seater sports facility was built in 1987 for the 4th All Africa Games by SIETCO as a donation from the Chinese government and is currently used mostly for football matches.
The stadium was closed between January 2010 and March 2012 to undergo major renovations at the cost of 10 million U.S. dollars, which was funded by a grant to Kenya by China.
Mbaya said Xu, who has since returned to China, played the father-figure role, occasionally imparting pieces of advice to him.
"I was not married when I started to work for the Chinese firm. It is Xu who advised me to tie the knot and start a family," Mbaya recalled.
"When I last communicated with Xu and informed him that I was a father of five children, he went'waa'," Mbaya said amid laughter.
Mbaya has a son at Kenyatta University and two other children in secondary schools with the remaining ones studying at lower levels.
"I would not have become who I am today had it not been for the Chinese who turned my life around. Given another chance, I would still take the same route," said Mbaya, who dropped out of school in Standard 8.
"I am giving my children the best in education so that they do not become like me who discontinued education owing to lack of school fees," he said.
Though he does not speak Chinese, Mbaya understands the language and said his bosses do not have to only use English when giving him instructions.
He credits the Chinese with hard work and described them as good employers who are very willing to provide counsel.
He still recalls vividly the words of their accountant named Zhangli who advised him to always save money for a rainy day.
"I took the advice fervently. I would not have educated my children if I did not heed the wise counsel," Mbaya said.
Still attached to SIETCO where the company is constructing residential houses for sale to clients, Mbaya is presently the company's culinary supervisor, with three Kenyans under his charge, where they prepare meals for about 50 Chinese construction engineers.