Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 20, 2008 - Mount Kenya

I would like to say that we are going to climb Mt. Kenya, Africa's second highest peak, this weekend, BUT it takes 5 days to go up and come down the mountain and we only have 4 days this weekend. So instead of climbing it, we are just going to go stay at a resort near it. As I mentioned before, our hope was to go to the island of Lamu in the Indian Ocean, but we tried to make plans too late last week and all flights in and out of the island were already booked! So a resort near Mt. Kenya is the best we can do on short notice, and we are looking forward to an Easter weekend of relaxation, beautiful scenery, and great animal watching.

We have had a busy and interesting week at work. Kristoffer's office is working on their "Country Programme", which is their strategy for the next 5 years. It has been a difficult and drawn out process but is pretty much done now. Kristoffer feels like it is a boomerang - every time they send it on to a higher level it comes back to them with more comments and changes to I should say that they hope it is done now! Kristoffer and his colleagues have been dealing with a difficult manager as well; it would be safe to say that he is learning a lot about working with different people in addition to his WFP-specific knowledge. As for me, I have developed a really great working relationship with my boss, Aminata: a Malian woman who is American-educated and has worked at UNICEF in Nigeria and Kenya following careers at the both the World Bank and the University of Illinois. She trusts me and respects my views, even though I am very new to the world of UNICEF, and she takes every opportunity she can to teach me all the things I don't know. The job she wanted to give me, unfortunately, needs to be filled ASAP and my paperwork is taking too long to be processed in NYC. So...that job is going to someone else and when my paperwork is complete Aminata will create a position for me based on her needs and my skills. She believes there is room for growth for me at UNICEF, which is nice for me to hear.

Based on my work and recent conversations with Aminata, I have decided not to pursue teaching in Kenya at this time. I was officially offered a position at the international school here, but the workload was more than I desire right now and the position would definitely be for one school year only. I know from experience that the best part of the first year teaching some place is when you can use everything you developed in your second year at that place! I also feel really attached to the post-election crisis, and working to improve education for thousands of displaced children in the country. I am getting to know more people at UNICEF, which makes me feel more like I belong there, and so I think I will try it for a bit longer and see where it takes me.

The other aspect of this week for us has been dealing with "customer service" issues. Basically, we feel as though we can't trust anyone we deal with in Nairobi because it seems as though everyone is out to take advantage of us in some way. First there was the phone repair-guy(remember he stole my sim card and left me a $7,000 T-Mobile bill?) and then came our carpenter, who built us 2 bed frames 6 weeks ago that our beds did not fit in and since then has not followed up and fixed our bed frames. This week we took our car to be serviced and the manager at the car place was extremely skeezy, leaving us with scratches on our car and indicating to us that he was barely paying his workers anything. It took us three visits before he followed through on all of the work we agreed he would do. At the same time, we bought a printer from a computer store at a local mall. We were sold a "brand new" HP printer that had empty ink cartridges and no installation disc. When we brought it back to the store, we were given new, in-the-package ink cartridges that turned out to not even fit the printer! They also gave us a bootleg installation disc that still did not work. They clearly sold us a "brand new" lemon! On our 3rd, or was it 4th?, trip to the store, we exchanged it for another printer. I have not been brave enough to try to get it to work but I might go somewhat postal if it doesn't! It is also hard to barter here for goods - just the fact that we are white, not to mention that we drive a car with diplomatic license plates, means that all sellers increase their prices for us by at least 300% and it takes FOREVER to haggle them down to prices that are only 100% inflated. The place we discovered that sells the best fruit, for example, will just not give us a good price!

We are having a really hard time accepting the fact that we cannot trust people here until they really, really prove to us that they are trustworthy. We are open-minded and accepting people, which has not previously been a negative quality, but here it is something we really have to watch.

That's all of our news from this side of the equator. Now you won't hear from us until after the holiday weekend so we wish you an extremely Happy Easter weekend if you celebrate it, and a really nice long weekend if you don't!


1 comment:

carina said...

Nice blog you got here... wow planning to hike mount kenya is such an adventure! by the way do you know any cheap Lamu Flights? Thanks