Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sort of a long one...

I’ll be honest, it took me about three hours after I got up yesterday to leave the YMCA. Part of it was that I just wasn’t oriented to where I was, and part of it was because I wasn’t really sure what my objective was. How exactly do you go about “starting” life in a new place? I decided to take it step by step, and so I walked to town and got a phone card. Well. Reflecting on the last day and half it feels a bit like I’m walking around town wearing a sandwich board that says “Help me and I’ll do something really, REALLY cool for you.” Except I’m not giving anyone anything to help me out, but everyone I come across continues to go out of their way to help me get stuff done. For those of you who’ve ever tried to get things done on a bureaucratic level in a foreign country (or heck, in the U.S. – sorry County friends!), you know how critical it can be to have a local on your side. So I buy my phone card and suddenly Sanjay and Maureen from the cell shop are my new best friends. Maureen proceeded to walk me around town, pointing out various places of interest. This included customer service for the SIM card they sold me and an introduction that helped me cut in front of approximately 40 people waiting for help (which I actually felt bad about, though it was certainly a timesaver). Sanjay is also convinced he has an apartment he can rent me – I’m not sure how interested I am given the direction he pointed, but I’m keeping all options open at this point.

After the cell shop I ate lunch at a traditional restaurant Maurine had recommended – 150 Kenyan shillings for a full plate of beef stew, sauteed greens and chapatti (about $2). I then visited a book shop to pick up a comprehensive map, and in the course of that meeting was directed to the taxi driver they use for book transfers and given instructions on negotiating the fairest price. This driver took me quite a way to the Citibank I had hoped to open an account with, only to find out they only work with corporate clients. No matter, he then took me free of charge to another bank so I could inquire about opening account, and waited for me to bring me back to the center of town.

Later in the day I connected with my Rotary host counselor, Pam, who stopped by after a crazy day at work to check in and brainstorm banking and housing options with me. Between her and my other host counselor George (who stopped by early this morning to check in as both were out of town when I arrived), I know I am in great hands! My group of guys I met last year - Dan, Ladama and Chris have all checked in and I am meeting up with friends of friends tonight for drinks. I also dropped in on the National Secretary for the YMCA this morning, Erik, who I met at the Rotary International Convention this summer. He had all sorts of helpful advice and suggestions and introduced me to one of his staff, Jackie, who is a grad student at U of Nairobi as well. Jackie proceeded to spend the next two hours getting the correct fee structure with me from the University (this involved many offices referring us to other offices), and showing me the campus, which is actually quite nice. I was very thankful for her and Erik’s assistance, as when I’d written the school to gain clarity on the fee structure form they’d provided, I received an email that said in just a few more words, “The fee structure form we sent is very clear, please reference it with your questions.” I was quite pleased to know that my confusion was warranted and I must pay my fees from an entirely different form. Good news is that my tuition is less than I’d anticipated – perhaps my new answer when people ask me, “Why are you going to Kenya for grad school?” will be, “because it costs approximately 1/15 of what I’d pay in the U.S.” Of course that’s not the reason, but it doesn’t hurt!

The greatest part about the past day and a half is that as I’ve reached out to people – friends of friends and various organizational connections people have provided, I’ve already started to see opportunities for partnerships and projects I could never do or find on my own. In fact, I got an email from an Orange County acquaintance today indicating an interest in finding a school to sponsor in Kenya, and then a few emails later another from a Rotary member in Orange County with a school they will be visiting here soon and need sponsors for. Who knows if it will be the perfect fit – but the symbolism is profound to me as I know it is opportunities just like these that will validate this journey even more.

I will provide more details about projects and opportunities for support from home as things progress – thank you to those of you who have already asked! I will try and keep posts a bit more manageable from here on out, but it’s always good to share the when the kindness and hospitality of others is making such a difference acclimating to a new place.


tjKTHLU_2ZsYr9HTik_RUdBIDacU said...

Megan, glad to see you're settling in well! Best of luck with everything... Keep us posted, short or long... :)


PS: Not sure why my username is so, um, mysterious... ;)

lia said...

I'm so proud of you. The excitement that you experience reaches us all the way over here.

Love you!