Wrapping up Kenya

Last day of work. Although I know it’ll be a long and email filled transition, there’ll be no more working from home, no commute to the office, no frustrating emails to people we owe money and they owe a response. Do I sound bitter? Well I’m not. I’ve had a great time, I have  had some amazing hands on experiences and really learned  an immense amount. For those of you that don’t know, I’ve been in Nairobi on a Fellowship placement with the Ambassador Corps program of the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of the Pacific. A lot of words, I know, but definitely not enough to describe what  a great opportunity it’s been, and I can’t thank them enough!

In my time here I’ve played a number of different roles. I still remember my first visit to a Franchise Farm (Distribution and Training Centers, of which it was my job to coordinate.) I basically had no idea what was going on, still felt like I was traveling and not working (all that was missing was the Lonely Planet) and there I was sitting in a Farm in the country about to do an assessment of programs I was still learning about. I’ve come a long way since then, going from meetings with people floating millions of dollars, to discussing at the warehouse (or as they call it here, the ‘go-down) where our irrigation order scurried off to. From having 30 cent lunch of beans, cabbage, kale and a chapatti at the place by our ‘office’ to Nyama choma (barabcued beef) with Bank managers and potential franchise partners, to Hotel catered buffets with the leaders in Ag from all over Africa. Its been an interesting mix of ties, boots and rain coats.

I’ve visited farms around the country and learned about the beauty of the soil and the care that goes into growing the crops. The landscape here in Kenya is so diverse, but my favorite is the green hills, covered in trees damp from the rains along the Rift Valley (an area that saw the majority of the 2007 election violence.) Small little one acre plots dot (more like square) the land for kilometers off the road side. Its exactly who we work with, and it was exciting to understand better something that is so important to so many people. Farming is much more than an activity or a business. Although I don’t believe I’ll ever become one, I see the fascination and complexity in it. Before I just overlooked things, I was ignorant when it came to the world of farming and now its as if someone showed me the ocean, and then plunged my head underneath, exposing me to a whole world I never knew about.

I’ve also met some amazing people. From the women that work in the office, who have offered me their houses to stay in when I get married and come back for my honey moon (I was both unaware that I was getting married and that Kenya had been chosen as the place for my honeymoon.)  To the colorful group of expats I’ve met, European, African, American, with some crazy stories and intriguing perspectives. Even the Matatu (public transporation suicide vans) drivers who I occasionally feel the need to curse at (usually not out loud and if it is, not in English) who I might actually miss, bumping music too loud to enjoy, jumping in and out of the vans whistling and yelling ‘bepa!’ (basically, ‘get on!’) to everything that moves, or doesn’t.

I’ve been on great trips, met great people and have learned  and seen both fascinating and horribly depressing things. But for everything you see or hear that rips a little at your heart and conscience, there is something equally as impressive around the corner. The smiles, the creativity, the laughs that fill the streets are contagious. Thank you Kenya for sharing them with me.

And although this seems like it should be my last update before I head out, I actually have two weeks left and am doing some hopefully blog worthy things. So expect more to come!

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