Back “Home” to Nairobi

6 Sep

Wow – my blog has over 1,000 views so far! Thanks everyone for your interest in my endeavors. I have chosen to update my blog today since it is, after all, National Fight Procrastination Day!

Arriving from Mombasa back to Nairobi and transitioning from full-fledged vacation mode to work mode was a bit tough, but I managed! Plus, I got an extra day off due to Eid – the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan.

Daisy, Maono’s CEO and my host mom, was featured in one of Kenya’s most-read newspapers, The Standard. The article tells the story of how Maono started and gives a clear explanation of what Maono does. Click on that link soon because I don’t know how long the website will store the article.

On Tuesday of this week, I helped out with the delivery of a Please Pass the Bread donation. Please Pass the Bread provides food to marginalized individuals and some of my Maono co-workers also volunteer for this organization. To limit the development of a culture of dependency, sometimes the food is delivered without notice or prior agreement. So, it was a surprise! The recipients were widows of a church in Mathare, a slum in Nairobi. Here’s a pic of them with their pastor.

Quick work update – at my two days back in the office, I’ve been 1) writing a manual for business training to use with Maono borrowers and 2) improving Maono’s Facebook page (want to be in the FB loop? Click here).

Compared to the United States, prices here in Kenya are relatively low. In fact, Kenyan goods and services are on average about a third (30-40%) as expensive as their American counterpart. I did hours of tireless research to confirm this estimate. Kidding – actually, I just merely glanced at this map. When it comes to negotiating a price, vendors always choose to gouge you (if, of course, you are a mzungu – white person). Many times, the first price a vendor offers sounds more than reasonable, but I have trained myself to always react with a look of horror on my face. “What? 800 Schillings for a belt? I’ve been living in Kenya for years! I’m not a stupid mzungu!” Usually, this approach works wonders. I’ll admit that given the exchange rate to other currencies, vendors might as well try to charge a higher price on foreigners.

On the sides of most streets in Nairobi you can find someone selling roasted maize – the perfect tasty & filling snack. For a whole ear of corn, the cost is always 20 schillings (about 20 cents) or less. But I had one guy try to charge me 25. As I was arguing with the vendor, he sold a third of an ear to an African for 5 Schillings! I then asked if I could have three thirds of an ear instead of a whole ear, since 5+5+5=15, not 25. He replied, “It doesn’t work that way.” In the end, I got my $$$ back and bought an ear for 20 Schillings from someone down the street. I know most won’t understand all this fuss for 5 cents, but it’s the principle, people. The principle!

I attending a going away party over the weekend for Angie, my host dad’s brother’s fiancée – she is traveling to Rwanda to work for two years. 15-20 people showed up at the party and I only knew two of them, but that’s an environment I love to be in and I had a wonderful time conversing with everyone. Kenyans are great at making someone feel welcome. On Tuesday, my family and some close relatives held a surprise get-together for Angie. After dinner, Angie told each person in the room something she liked about them and then everyone returned the favor by telling Angie something positive about her. It was such a great way for everyone to recall memories of friendship and strengthen relationships.

Only a couple of pictures for this post – I found out that my 8-year-old sister Kabura (pronounced Ka-fura) is deathly afraid of dogs! Her reaction when a tiny pup walked in the door (that’s Violet, Daisy’s house help, on the left) – she wouldn’t come down from the dining room table until the dog was long gone!

I brought home coconuts from Mombasa to give to my friends and co-workers. Here is a pic of three of my co-workers attempting to break open a coconut. We looked like cavemen trying to accomplish this simple task.

Well, that’s it for now. Until next time!


8 Responses to “Back “Home” to Nairobi”

  1. macmcnair September 7, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    Always fun reading your posts. Thanks for the update! I also appreciated your including the link to the article about Daisy. Please greet everyone for me! You are one tough negotiator! I dare you to try that when you come back to the States! 😉



    • Ben September 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

      Mac – It’s great to keep hearing your thoughts on my posts! The article about Daisy was so informative and well-written I had to include it. The Maono crew says a hearty “hello” back to you! Sadly, I don’t think I’ll take you up on that dare – imagine telling a hot dog vendor on the streets of Normal ‘Hmm….$2 is a bit too pricey…how about a buck 50?


  2. Dottie Pickering September 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Ben, I’ve just discovered your blog. What you write is so interesting and I love the humor you insert. I’m glad you’re having a positive experience. School has started here with the usual heat wave to make everyone miserable. Now it is cool (60s) and rainy. There are some places over here where you can negotiate the price. You’re getting a lot of experience with it and the language.

    Take care and stay safe.
    Dottie Pickering

    • Ben September 12, 2011 at 1:35 am #

      Hi Dottie! Glad you found my blog – I let humor carry me through much in life and my blog language reflects that! Right now, the weather in Ohio seems similar to Nairobi – it’s mostly in the 60s or low 70s here right now (“winter”-time), although it is very dry, not much rain. Hope your trip to France was amazing – from conversations with my Dad it sounds like good times were had.

      All the best,

  3. Laurie Webb September 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Ben- I love the blog. I plan to share with some of the people I live with, several who have visited and lived in Kenya for a bit and traveled around Africa. Sounds like you are having amazing experiences. Thanks for sharing. Rick was concerned about the pipeline explosion but sounds like it was far enough away that all was well. Take care. Thinking about you. Laurie Webb

    • Ben September 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

      Hey Laurie! Please do share my blog with anyone you think would be interested in it. The pipeline explosion, thankfully, did not affect me directly but it did affect clients we work with – such an awful tragedy. Great to hear from you!

  4. Claire September 17, 2011 at 1:47 am #

    Ben you are ridiculous with the maize story! You would. You. would.

    • Ben September 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

      Claire – Laugh all you want, but I’m changing the Kenyan tendency to price gauge foreigners. No – more like I’m changing select individuals. No – more like I’m just annoying people! Think that’s more like it haha.

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