The Winds of Change, They be a Blowin’

I know, I know, long time, no update. But it’s because I have been busy!!!! I know, what!?! This can’t be!?! We sent him over there to do nothing, how did he find things to do!? Get over it, here’s the recap:

Nairobi

If you all remember from last post, my avid readers found me about to set off on the always magical, often life-threatening trip to Nairobi. Needless to say, after a 9 hour bus ride, followed by 3 hours of traffic, I arrived at my little slice of heaven in Nairobi, Upper Hill Campsite. Settled in for a good Hamburger and a chat with my Peace Corps friend Leah, who has sadly left service and was in Nairobi for the end of service process. But she was happy doing so, so that’s what matters, being happy! Then hit the hay hard. That bus ride is exhausting.

The next day was day one of crazy meetings. Did I mention I was with Crystal and her family? She is the Voices of Africa lady and the primary reason for going to Nairobi. Our first meeting was with a trading company in NRB whose CEO is very interested in Crystals Tuk Tuk mobile information center. So interested in fact that he called us back for another meeting. He is very interested in creating what seems to be a Socially responsible business model for some of his future endeavors and Crystal was able to wow him with some of her ideas. I provided tech support and technical opinions for the meeting. Not going to lie, I feel there is a really big potential for socially responsible corporations to do some real good in the world and make up for where development agencies have come up short, but it is relatively untested waters, so we need to swim carefully.

That afternoon it was then off to the US Embassy to meet the ambassador. Jess, the manager at Upper Hill was making fun of me for ironing my clothes that morning before the meetings, saying that the ambassador is not that big a deal, but I felt differently. We arrived at the embassy (after realizing there’s nothing to do around the embassy to kill time) early, and after 3 security checks (less intensive than an airport however…) we were able to wait in the lobby. The inside of the Embassy just feels like America. I know how cheesy that may sound, but it just does. Otherwise it doesn’t look any different from some of the office buildings in Nairobi, but at the same time, not all buildings in Nairobi feel like America. Like I said a long time ago, something is always just a little different. But here, everything felt at it should.

If your wondering how we got an appointment with the ambassador, it was easy, Crystal asked. She sent an email and they replied and said it was ok and scheduled one.

We met Mr. Ranenberger and his Assistant Jonathan that day and got a chance to discuss the general US Policy in Kenya in relation to development and they informed us that though they couldn’t offer some direct assistance they would certainly inquire more into some of Crystal’s proposals that seem to have got lost in the muck. Then the ambassador said he had to cut his part of the meeting short because of a crisis in Somalia (“Isn’t there always a crisis in Somalia?” / “Yes but this one is worse.”), and then myself, Crystal and Jonathan continued to discuss various parts of development in Africa. Overall it was good to just get info straight from the horses mouth, and Crystal got her chance to tell the ambassador in person how much she likes him, which he seemed to appreciate. What we also talked about confirmed mine and Crystal’s perception of the situation on the ground in Likoni. It’s a good feeling when the US and you share similar viewpoints. Solidifies your footing for moving forward. After our meeting, we went home and crashed.

Friday morning was a meeting with Google, or Google Round 2 as I call it. This time we got a chance to talk to Mark the Geo Team Lead. I threw at him some ideas for mapping and whatnot and in general we talked about the role of GIS in development. Crystal also talked to him about her Tuk Tuk and though he couldn’t offer any direct assistance he said he would be happy to help us get the proposals into the right hands. So that was good. Hopefully we were cordial enough that there will be a round 3 for google. I see a great opportunity for branding for them, as well as creating a socially responsible role in the east african community as a whole.

Friday afternoon I got a chance to attend the board meeting of Voices of Africa, which was good. The board has a really good grasp on the situations in Africa, and Crystal updated them with all the footwork she’s been doing, and introduced me as well. Yet another busy day!

Saturday morning Crystal and I had a very early meeting with our Tuk Tuk partner to discuss in more detail the future of the project, as well as some other ideas he hopes crystal can help him with. That afternoon I spent on the couch watching the Arsenal vs. Man U match. Man U won. I think I was supposed to cheer. I chose to dose instead.

So that ends part one of this update. I was going to write more about NYS and the good things happening here as well, but I am actually too busy to write it at the moment. hopefully later. Probably tomorrow. Until then, hopefully this gives you all some insight that I am happy and running around like a chicken with its head caught off. I find myself having gone through the stereotypical Peace Corps process of throwing myself at heaps of projects and seeing which ones pan out. Above is only a smidgeon of things I am working on and Ill keep you posted about everything else. The past few weeks have been BUSY!

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