October 30

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Coming to Kenya…..

I wrote this blog couple of weeks ago but with the re-elections in Kenya last week, I didn’t get around to sharing it with you all! 

My first impressions of Kenya…. Despite arriving at 0500 hrs on Friday 29 Oct with little sleep, I was really looking forward to my ‘adventure’ with excitement and certain amount of trepidation. Unlike LHR, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta airport is quite small. You would think that chances of meeting someone from GSK would be quite small but, never the less, I met someone called Atul Patel from IT Systems in the passport queue!

 Amref is held in quite high esteem here in Kenya – they’ve done a good PR here. I was pulled over by the customs officer but when I mentioned about working for Amref, she waved me on with a big smile and a ‘high-five’!

Outside I was greeted by several taxi drivers – they kind of pounce on you but I politely declined and indicated that I already had a lift arranged. I was surprised at myself for being so calm and collected and just taking in the atmosphere.

 Kenya 512 About 30 min after arriving, I saw a middle-aged man holding a piece of paper with mine and Patricia’s name (PULSE volunteer from Brazil). My GSK security training kicked in wanting to ensure that this indeed was the driver sent by the Mimosa Court (MC) apartment and suspiciously I asked him about where the 2 people he was waiting for were flying from and was relieved when he answered correctly. He offered to put my luggage in the taxi but I wasn’t comfortable doing that until we’d picked up Patricia.
Finally, around 0700 hrs Patricia arrived on the other side of the airport and the pair of us made our way to Mimosa Court (MC). It was starting to get hot already!  Kenya 516

The drive to MC was something else – I was like a 14-year kid old again, despite being tired from the journey, I didn’t want to miss anything! Nobody gave way to anyone – the buses pushed in with little regard for other road users – the picture below from the car doesn’t quite convey the reality. Seemed like the bigger the vehicle, the more boldly they pushed in, literally within inches of each other! And the other thing you notice is the pollution – thick black smoke especially from the matatus which you feel at the back of your throat.

Kenya 521 Kenya 519 From the airport, the landscape seemed to lack trees/vegetation – the land seemed rather dry.  Kenya 524 A typical bus-stop – folks waiting for ‘matatus’.

At the apartment, we were met by the 3rd PULSE volunteer, Sergio, who had arrived the week before from Ukraine. We decided to visit the local supermarket for some essentials like bottled water! Again, that was an experience – our bags were searched on entry!

 Kenya 528 For fresh produce, selected items are weighed, priced and packed before you take them to the till. Everything seemed to be quite expensive.

We arrived back at the apartment still quite excited when Patricia noticed that she was missing $400 – one $100 note from each of her 4 packs! She had just dumped everything, including her bag before going out to the supermarket – that put a dampener on the day as she then had to visit the local police station – poor girl! She still hasn’t recovered her money.

Our apartment is very nice but there isn’t much to do after work and we’re advised not to go out after dark which is around 1830ish. There’s 24/hr security guard at almost all buildings and private dwellings. There is such a contrast between the have and the have not’s. The city centre is like any other city centre but the local markets/stalls are quite unique. I’ll include more about the contrast in these 2 the next time so that you can see the difference where the middle/upper class and locals shop.

The weekend was spent exploring, familiarising ourselves with our immediate surroundings and getting to know each other. There are 5 GSK volunteers in Kenya that I call the ‘5-PULSE-TEERs’: 2 working with Amref; 2 working with Leonard Cheshire disability and 1 with save the children in Bungoma near Kisumu about 6-7hrs drive from Nairobi.

 Kenya 625  Kenya 624 ‘One for all and all for one’.

 

 

 

 

All of us have now been working with our respective NGOs – it’s early days but I’m sure our individual experiences will be varied and transformational that will last a life time………. So, signing off for now until the next time.