Kenyan Diaries – Day 18

Deep meaningful conversations were the background music to my morning today. Looking out onto the rolling hills of tin houses and burning rubbish, Hayden and I questioned what makes people happy. The children looked up to the balcony we were on and waved with big shining smiles as adults rushed by starting their day of work. We discussed the hardships of their lives but thought about the fact that we also find “hardships” in our lives, that seem just as big at the time we are experiencing it. Yet, in the developed world we lead a much lonelier life, with introversion the new hipster, we have lost our sense of community and family. Taking the first step into class, we agreed that the essence of happiness is human connection.

Class went well, with a lot of activities and little lecturing, the energy was quite high. Again, the quieter students started to speak up more and again, the guys in the back seemed to be putting in real effort which was lovely to see. Henry arrived 5 minutes late and was definitely drunk, it seemed obvious today as he was mumbling to himself, jumped up in the middle of class to volunteer for the talent show, and tried to answer all of the questions with life stories. After the second break, Lilian sang a church song which was really good vibes as people started singing along and clapping and dancing. I sat with Erick and Lucky, and VJ told me about 30 minutes in to move as they were speaking to me and it was distracting the class and the teachers lecturing, which I felt quite guilty about after as I told myself I wouldn’t do that.

After class, we had some one-on-one time, where Ayub asked me what “1/2” and “1/4” means, which was the cutest. Dianna then came to speak to me and told me her life story, which was one of the saddest stories I have heard. She explained her inspiration for creating a rehabilitation center which was essentially; her dad was alcoholic, who would come home in the middle of the night and aggressively kicked out her and her mom so they would have to sleep on the streets. This started when she was 6 years old.

Proceeding that solemn afternoon, my mood was lifted over coffee with Paul (the Strathmore University student) where we spoke about my business idea and came up with a great starting business model. I left really excited and came home to relax and submit my courses while everyone went to visit a start up.

We have now just finished lesson planning, so now it’s time for lala.

Buenos Noches.


Kenyan Diaries – Day 17

Class today was pretty normal. We’ve started to see the quieter students start to shine, gain confidence, and get really enthusiastic about their ideas. People were volunteering to come up left right and center, and it was great to see them understand the more difficult concepts. About half way through the class, I noticed Moore, who usually sits with Erick and Lucky in the second row, move to the back, and take Henrys (our eldest student) chair. I decided to pull Erick aside at the break and ask what was going on if they were bullying Henry, and if so if they could stop. What he said next, however, was a huge surprise. He told me Moore had moved to the back because he couldn’t stand the smell of alcohol excreting from Henry and encouraged him to move to the back because he was distracting other students. It was surprising how wrong we had all read the situation, and I felt very proud of Moore for taking initiative and actually caring enough to try and do something about it.

After class, we took a bunch of photos as usual, and Josinta came up to me and asked me how much it costs for her to get to Canada. I told her it would cost around KES120,000 (USD$1200), and she immediately said Mzungo, you’re colour of your skin tells me you’re rich, buy me and my friend a ticket to Canada to make it fair. I laughed it off, but she got more aggressive, saying these things about my appearance and money that just made me feel uncomfortable. Rueben stepped in and said some things in Swahili that made her leave, and then told me about when he went to Italy, and he was the only black guy so felt like all of the eyes were on him. He told me that he understands how I must feel, but he will help translate for me whenever needed and told me not to worry, they are just envious and mostly joking around. I found that really sweet and it definitely made me feel more at ease having him around.

We gave feedback to each other once all of the students had left, which included suggestions for me to engage the students more, but mostly that I was doing okay and explained difficult concepts well. Then, we head home and lesson planned and ate yesterday’s leftovers before heading to church.

The church was… wow. Firstly, it was a large room with a stage and rock band type vibe. Electric guitars, big amplifiers, and a full set of drums, the preachers and choir sang song after song about the Lord and Jesus. The people were all in their own world, there was absolutely zero judgment, and you could see the energy radiating through everybody. To my left, a mom, crouched over her smallest child rocking back and forth murmuring under her breath prayers to the Lord, the father of her child next to her taking small steps back and forth while speaking his prayers. In front, an older woman in tears with both hands towards the sky, begging through her sobs to God. Another woman, sitting quietly with her head on the chair in front of her, just behind a man singing loudly with his hands thrown up palms towards the sky. I stood in the center, trying to absorb all the views without drawing attention to myself. The preacher told us to sit, collect our thoughts, and pray for something from God in any way that we sit fit. I bowed my head and intertwined my palms getting ready to try to pray. As I did so, I noticed my chapati bracelet bought for me by VJ, and smiled. I didn’t have anything to pray for, I was damn blessed and very content. Instead, I prayed for the students in my class. I don’t believe, but I know they do, so my thoughts were with them. I prayed for Diana’s financial burden and stress at home to be lifted, for Lucky’s illness to pass, for Moore’s well-being, for Erick’s business to prosper, for Audrey’s home situation to improve, for food on everyone’s tables and for general good luck in their lives.

What an amazing evening. Now we are relaxing because tomorrow is a busy day… again!

Kenyan Diaries – Day 16

Monday mornings are usually slow, but not here in Mathare. Driving down Gong Road at 7:30 this morning, everyone was out and about going to work or selling items to travelers. We had one of the Kibera teachers, Leah, come join us today which was fun, so we had 9 teachers in the classroom. I repeated the cost of goods sold concept, and then we gave them time to work before doing their group presentations. I felt like such a proud mom when they came up to speak about what they have learned, especially to those who were a bit nervous or whose confidence I have seen grow over the past two weeks.  After all of the presentations, Freddy (our driver and alumni of the program) came to speak to our class about how he moved from the slums and grew his businesses. I think it really resonated with all of the students as they realized there was hope for them, and he really emphasized how much the course helped him obtain knowledge, loans, and networking opportunities.

Dianna, our star student, came and spoke to me about starting up a chapati food truck in Vancouver, which I think would actually be a really great idea, so I have been speaking with her about starting that. Paul, the Strathmore University student, also expressed interest in partnering with me for my insect-based animal feed idea, as the labour and land are super cheap in Nairobi and the government is investing in these types of things. He said he could help me find farmers and processors, and I would just do the logistics side of it which would suit me perfectly. So perhaps I will end up doing business in Nairobi after all.

We ended today with a communal meal at the girl’s apartments followed my a game of fish bowl in the boy’s apartment.

I am super tired now, so heading to bed. Lala Salama!


Kenyan Diaries – Day 15

What a day.

Day 15 marked the day we went to Nairobi National Park, and my god was it worth the USD$42 entrance fee and five am wake-up time. I read once that Kenya is one of the only cities in the world whereby you can drive 30 minutes outside and be in the wildlife, and today definitely lived up to those expectations. As we drove around in a safari type vehicle, we spotted Zebras, buffalos, antelopes, deer, hippos, rhinos, giraffes and of course male and female lions, the highlight of the day. It was amazing to see them all in their natural habitat, and there was one image that’ll stick in my mind forever… it was that of three hungry female lions looking around for food about 70 meters from our van with the city skyline in the distance glistening in the sun. It was awesome. We were there from 6 am until around 11:30, and the whole time I was standing up eager to see more animals in their natural habitat. One giraffe we came across was on the road and he would not budge, which meant we had to wait for him to meander back into the wildlife while chewing on his leaves, which was so funny. Interestingly, half of the van fell asleep, so it was really just Nicole and I watching all the animals for the most part, but that kind of worked out for us because it meant we had free range of the bus to get the best camera angles.

After the mini-safari, we all traipsed off to Mama Oliech, a famous Kenyan restaurant we had attended on the second day of arriving. This time, however, we were not with our Kenyan drivers so they gave us a separate, more expensive, menu and refused to let us see anything else and then charged us KES800 (~USD$8) for our meals, instead of the 600 that was written on the menu. A random staff member also started taking photos of us on his phone, so Paul decided to go and confront the manager who then came and “sincerely apologized” and gave us a discount and his phone number.

Moving on from there we went to Yaya market where I bought groceries and an iced coffee and then hung out with Kait browsing the shops until we got tired and headed home. Once home, we made ourselves a drink, had a square or three of chocolate and spoke about our goals in life, career choices, and next adventures. I am glad I’m rooming with her, out of everyone here I think she is the most similar to me, and we have gotten super comfortable super quickly.

After a relaxing afternoon, we head down by the pool covered in mosquito repellant and had a BBQ. Midway through, VJ announced that he had bought us all ‘chapati’ bracelets, which was really cute. Chapati is a local staple that everyone loves, and it’s been kind of a running joke that everything we do involves chapati to the point that we say it instead of ‘cheese’ in group photos.

Now, I’m finishing off the night with a group viewing of Lion King, and then heading to bed so I’m ready for teaching tomorrow.

Kenya Diaries – Day 13 & 14

I don’t think I’ve had a moment yet to sit and just relax for more than a 30 minute time period. Friday and Saturday have whizzed past so quickly, and I am officially over the “hump” as I officially arrived two weeks ago today (Saturday) and leave in exactly two weeks.

On Thursday night, Ben mentioned that it is normal for people to not feel as happy as they did when they initially arrived and that once the excitement wears off on trips like this it is normal to get a bit upset. I listened to him speak and understood what he said, but I still have yet to find it true. Perhaps the excitement will wear off, but I’ve been having such a good time, meeting so many amazing people, and bonding really well with all of my peers. Food has been awesome, the learning curve has been sharp, and experiences have been once in a lifetime.

I woke up on Friday a bit earlier than usual, so I had time to drink all of my coffee and make myself a nice oat bowl for breakfast before heading out. VJ and Aggie were back, so we had the whole crew, and spirits were high. We taught revenues and expenses, which actually went a lot better than we thought it would, minus the teaching of costs of goods sold which was difficult for them to understand. We also implemented an optional after-class one-on-one session which the entire class was interested in, so that was nice. Colleen and Tom, the organizers of the trip, came in as I was teaching, and both gave me compliments on my teaching skills which was a nice cherry on top, especially after VJ had also told me that he could see my confidence increasing over the past two days.

That evening we went to Cedars, a Lebanese restaurant a short five-minute walk from our apartment. We ordered two sets of a seemingly infinite amount of food for eight people including hummus, falafel, chicken liver, and pita, it was some of the best food I’ve had in a long long time. Tom was leaving the next day, so we presented him a picture we had taken at the high commission with all of our signatures on it, and he gave us a speech on how proud he was of us, which was super sweet. It felt very family-style, and there was such a good atmosphere that evening, keeping to the theme of the last two weeks. After dinner, we head back to the apartment for pre-drinks, and then head out to Westlands again but this time in a big group of thirteen. We ended up going to three different clubs, the first more empty and high class, the second the same one we went to the previous night where we literally just danced until three in the morning, and then the third right by our apartments which was very local, and had amazing music but made me feel quite uncomfortable as we were the only white people there, so I suggested we leave and everyone agreed. Overall, a fab night.

Saturday morning started slow, Kait, Aggie (who slept over) and I woke up just before 11 am and leisurely made some healthy pancakes (eggs, banana, and oats) while listening to some tunes. Then I sorted out my courses for my final term of university and browsed the internet before we head to Fred’s house for lunch/dinner. We arrived in Kibera at 3 with our two Tuskers and a large appetite. His house was nice considering he lives in the biggest slum in East Africa, and his daughter was a gem. He had hired caterers who prepared a huge display of food on outside fire-pits and makeshift tables made out of wood. It was such a cool experience, and we met a lot of his family and nieces and nephews who were the cutest kids. We ate dinner inside to save getting bitten by mosquitos, and while we all sat with heavy eyelids and a full stomach, Ben and the kids sang songs of Jesus and love while he strummed his Ukelele. Today was the day I learned the feeling behind the word heartwarming.

Kait, Fred’s wife, provided us with takeaway goodie bags of chapati and mandazis which I will eat tomorrow for breakfast to save time as we have to be in the car by 5:30 am to visit the Nairobi National Park.


Kenyan Dairies – Day 12

2 down, 6 still standing.. and I was designated group leader.

Today we taught operations and logistics, which was a lot more difficult than the previous lectures of marketing and branding due to its quantitative nature. I took the class through the first exercise and it actually went a lot better than expected. It was difficult, and more boring than usual, but I felt the students really learned and once they did get it there was a confidence boost. Ayub, a student in the class, showcased his art in our daily talent show, which was really amazing. He’s a shy guy, but you could see him get more confident with every “ooo” and “ahh” his audience dished out to him. Lilian even brought a hair tool to class to show me what it was which was so thoughtful. I then got bombarded at the end of class with all of the students wanting to take photos with me which was hilarious, and we headed home with Dennis after buying a hot chapati from the women outside.

We came home, showered, lesson planned, and then cooked for our apartment a very cultural dish of pesto pasta, chicken and vegetables which was actually really good. Now, I’ve just finished my half of the Tusker, and I’m taking some alone time as a few people watch basketball in the living room of my apartment. Erick (a rapper/student of mine) messaged me on Facebook with the images from the other day as well as some images of him rapping which was cute, but I’m not sure if I should be responding too much so he doesn’t get the wrong idea.

ANYWAY, time for bed because tomorrow we are teaching revenues and expenses…. should be fun!

Kenya Diaries – Day 11

Class started slowly today, the ice-breaker activity wasn’t too fun and people were wondering in late all the way up to 10 am. We had decided, though, that after Josephs suggestion of less fun and more teaching, we would stick to the timings we had set the previous night, so it was a lot more structured. I felt that we got through a lot more material, and Abigail made me feel better when she told me that the class felt a bit rushed but that she understands, and she has learned a lot nonetheless. It was really interesting during the break, all the women seemed to group up and come and asked me what chemicals I put in my hair or if I have died it, and all seemed so shocked when I said it was natural. Perhaps I shouldn’t have but I promised Abigail she could style my hair on of these days, luckily I didn’t say yes to Grace who wanted to cut off my hair to “weave it” and sell it on to a Kenyan woman.

Later, we learned more Chinese, I helped a bunch of students with their businesses, and I ate my Chapati with Erik who went and got one for me which was sweet. Class ended early today as we had to head over to the High Commission for 2:30, and had an approximately 45 minutes wait to get through security. The Canadian High Commission in Nairobi is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve been to, and I was very surprised we were let in, even with all of the heavy security. We even managed to meet and speak with the high commissioner! (Fact: The difference between a high commissioner and ambassador? If they are part of the commonwealth or not). From there we headed to the Two Rivers Mall, which was massive but very empty, and we ate Asian food and bought groceries because tomorrow it’s my apartments turn to cook.

All is well, except tomorrow both VJ and Aggie will be off teaching, so we have a smaller group and a lot to cover. Should be fun… Lala Salama!