China in Benin

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Benin / Cotonou / 7.6.2009 / Abdon Adjalla, 43 years old from Benin, and Shi Yajuan, 36 years old from China, with their 6 year old daughter Syndia, and their 2 year old son Owen, at the Cotonou playground. They met each other in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, in 1999.In 2001 they married in Africa, and then repeated the traditional ceremony in China, in Shenyang, Liaoning province, the birthplace of Shi YaJuan. They live in the residential district of the city, the Jacques quarter, and run a shop of imported objects in Cotonou. When they retire, they plan to divide their lives, spending a few months in China, and a few months in Africa. Abdon speaks fluent Chinese: after graduating high school he left for China using a fellowship from the Chinese government, discarding his first choice, Canada. Today there are more and more African students obtaining grants to study Chinese in China. For instance, translators are badly needed: there is a lack of translators which is hurting the communication between both sides.More and more people want to learn Chinese, and the reason is that even if they learn English, the chance to get a U.S. visa would be very low.After the first cold winter Abdon spent in Beijing, he discovered that China could also be a beautiful country, and he ended up staying for a decade. After earning his degree in agronomy, Abdon began working in Shanghai and Hong Kong, before returning to Cotonou and starting a business as a trader. Many African businessmen are not part of the Diaspora in that they don’t live in China year-round, but will go there regularly, such as Abdon.Shi Ya Juan, on the other hand, studied at the University of Textiles in Shanghai. Once she finished at age 26, she left for Benin because she had heard and felt that she could create a good business there. And then she met Abdon.<br />
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© Giulia Marchi