Monday, May 5, 2014

Six days and counting

In September 2003 I sat eating dinner with my parents around their kitchen table when I broke down in tears.   The next day I’d ship off to DC for three days of pre-service training before heading to Kenya for over two years as a US Peace Corps volunteer.  Two years seemed impossibly long, and I was terrified.

Eleven years later I’m now days away from boarding a plane, again for Kenya, for my IBM Corporate Service Corps #ibmcsc Kenya assignment.   This time I’ll be gone for only a month, I’ll be staying in relatively swanky conditions in Nairobi, where I’ll be part of a team consulting for a Kenyan government agency working in microfinance.  I think I’ll make it without any tears, this time.

What was I worried about then? All sorts of things: getting sick, being away from everything I know for two years, being all alone in a strange land.  What am I worried about now?  Will my day job project keep running smoothly in my absence?  Who will water my plants?  Will be two business suits be enough?

This time my challenge will be less the scary and unfamiliar, and more checking my pre-conceptions and biases at the door, keeping an open and creative mind while using my experience as a sanity check.   After all, I expect to find a country much changed.

If there’s anything I observed in my two years in Kenya, it’s incredible pace of change.  Here’s a list of things that happened while I was there:
  • A new constitution was ratified
  • Matatus, the white minivans that are the ubiquitous form of public transportation Kenya, went from carrying anywhere from 23 to 36 people and driving recklessly at high speeds, to carrying 18 people with seatbelts, speed governors limiting speed to 80k/hr, and uniformed staff…literally overnight.
  • The price of internet access dropped from 3-5Ksh/minute to 1Ksh or less per minute.
  • Mobile phones dropped in price nearly in half
What will I find now? Stay tuned….
That’s me, back row middle…day 2 in Kenya, 2003.

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