Sunday, April 20, 2008

Week 1

Week 1 – 3/29/08 to 4/5/08
One week into my journey, I am both excited an apprehensive about what will be accomplished while I am here. The first three days were spent traveling—first to NYC, where I was hosted by two wonderful friends, then on to Newark, Amsterdam and Nairobi. The travel was unspectacular. Nothing lost, nothing stolen, nothing broken: successful travel. I had never been to Europe before, but unfortunately I only had a couple of hours at the airport.

We arrived in Nairobi a little after sunset and were met by a cultural affairs officer from the US Embassy, which made things incredibly easy. We just hopped into the waiting SUV (which had a primo parking spot) and were brought to our hotels. I have never been to a country where driving is done on the wrong (left) side of the road before—slaloming through traffic in the dark was an intense introduction. It wasn’t so bad when we were driving straight, but every time we turned onto the left side of the road I wanted to shout.

Tuesday was our first full day in Kenya. I was somewhat jetlagged in the afternoon, but we had an excellent morning meeting with Emily and Abdalla. Emily is the founder of the Muthaa Community Development Foundation (“MCDF”) and Abdalla is a sanitation expert brought on for our project. More to come on them later (they are amazing!).

We spent most of Tuesday wandering around Nairobi running various errands, including trying to secure a research permit from the Ministry of Education. It took us three tries, but we finally got the permit the following day (everyone was amazed at how fast that way, but it seemed very slow to me!). After getting the permit on Wednesday, we went to the MCDF office to talk about the implementation of our sanitation grant. We worked right through lunch and didn’t even notice until the sun started setting. MCDF is going to be a pleasure to work with.

Thursday brought us to Mombasa after a security briefing at the US Embassy. After arriving, we were met by Dr. Sur, a Mombasa Rotarian. Dr. Sur wanted to discuss the possibility of introducing microfinance into our project, which was fine, except that he parenthetically mentioned that the Bahari-Mombasa Club still hasn’t submitted the forms necessary for us to receive our funds from Rotary International. We will meet with them later this week to try to speed this process up as much as possible, but it looks as though the sanitation intervention may not begin until after I depart.

The next day we met with the Coast Water Services Board, the government authority responsible for water in the Coast province. I was under the impression that we were just going to go chat with one of the engineers we work closely with, but it turns out that he is on leave as well. So instead, we met with the rest of the team we would work with. It was a bit of a difficult meeting, but by the end we were all on the same page, so it was useful.

The weekend was dedicated to cleaning and settling in to our apartment. The apartment is very comfortable and actually stays (relatively) cool. It sits between two large mosques, so at prayer hour we get to listen to the prayers broadcast for all to hear. Right now, I love having the soundtrack, but I’m thinking that it may grow old before I’m gone…

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