Archive | August, 2015

Settling Down In Washington DC

18 Aug

I write this blog mainly for my Kenyan Friends family and relatives to have them understand how am doing so far

Order! There is a lot of order here;  no one cares about who, everything goes as per the plan, a lot of prior planning. Yes, am in America, Washington DC this is my second time in US, the last time I was in New York City, but just for a week, now am here for a bit  longer period. I didn’t learn a lot in New York because it was easy. I was in a program that took care of everything, from food to accommodation to travel expenses, a UN program, and would even control where I can and cannot go.

The last one week I felt the same, the feeling of being taken care of, being loved, this time by IREX ‘s Community Solution Program. All the 56 leaders from around the world were flown to DC to be place in different organizations that match their work back home. It has been so exiting. Georgetown University was just an amazing place to be for an orientation. Four days later we are all let loose to find our own accommodations anywhere close to our work places.  When I finished high school I was told about going to meet the outside world, this is now the real outside world for me, trying to adapt and survive in a foreign land on my own. Pay my bills, live myself, and be responsible, of course am paid a living stipend. In Kenya we keep left on the road, here people keep right on the road, I still have difficulty crossing the streets,  adapting slowly though.

America is not like Nairobi, am used to paying cash for everything I buy, here its different, you need to have a credit card or a debit card or whatever card. Ok I have a debit card that I use to buy things around, my big problem is trying to convert dollars into Kenya shillings, each time I convert I see a lot of money, and then I stop buying. How can I buy a fruit for $5? that equals Ksh. 500, while back home the same fruit cost ksh 20. Life is incredibly expensive here, or perhaps I just don’t need to convert anything or else I will starve. The main mode of transport here is metro services, a train or a bus; again you need a card, a metro card. No one speaks with you, you can basically buy anything you want, or move to anywhere you want without speaking to anyone, it’s just you and your card. A lot of order, what do you think?…the systems are working well. I have learnt how to use my card in food stores and my metro card on a train and bus but still need to learn how to top it up.

Two days ago, I got lost. I spent a better part of my Sunday sleeping, maybe I was still jet lagged, then I woke up and took a walk down town Takoma Park, I went up to the open air market, came back to my house prepared lunch and left to visit a friend in White Aok, Marryland, so I decide to walk up to Silver Spring down town, then took a metro bus, The bus passed my destination with me, I had told the driver to let me know once am there so I sat close to him, but he didn’t. I had to come backwards. In America people believe that you should know, or you should follow instructions or Google or use your Google map or some mobile apps for direction. No point of bothering people around.

I love it, I really love the fact that am learning new things, that am adapting to live in a new environment with a new system. That so far so good!

Yes yesterday I was in a meeting where a presentation on the South Sudan conflict resolution mechanism was presented. It was my first meeting on my first job on my first day in the US office. Everything was really in order right from keeping time to keeping to the agenda, I loved it.

I am Lucky, am lucky because I am placed here in DC so I’ll meet many people and make many connections, am lucky because am placed at Search for Common Grounds (SFCG), a very serious International organization that does amazing work, with amazing people, am now a fellow in their program “Battle for Humanity”.

My new tittle

My new tittle

I am lucky because I got a house at Takoma just next to the metro Red line, am lucky because I have all the four Kenyans placed here in DC so we can easily visit and see each other, everyone tells me that… and am lucky because my Community Mentor is Massi, Massi is amazing person, Italian, works in the communications department SFCG. I have a good connection with Italians, though Massi doesn’t know about this yet but he has really been helpful to me, He is like my elder brother here. Am also lucky because my boss Erica and Mikel live here in DC and can give some guidance where necessary, Am excited to meet them.

Just a week before I left Nairobi, I was involved in some filming work, for the Kenya Investment Authority to produce a promo video showing how Kenya is beautiful, something meant to attract more tourists and investors to come to Kenya, it was great opportunity for me interviewing high profile people CEOs, MDs of big companies and organizations including Cabinet secretaries and to film places considered beautiful in my country. I enjoyed the job knowing very well that soon and very soon Ill be flying out, so it was a chance to also summarize my time in Kenya. I was also proud how my country is nice because I went to many places I had never been to. Yes, but we are still far away from US. US is just far ahead…

Windsor Country Club, Kenya

Windsor Country Club

However I still believe that we are rich, Africa is rich in culture, resources and in many other ways, a friend from Dubai recently  told me that all his wealth he attributes to Africa, “all my wealth, all the flats I have in Dubai everything, I owe it to Africa, without Africa I wouldn’t be that rich” he said. Why is it that we don’t see the opportunity around us and capitalize on them? Why must someone fly in 13-20 hours to tap out the opportunity then we start complaining?

Anyway, Dr. Diedre Combs gave me a book, a book that am yet to read a book that I consider the best gift I have ever got, and she encouraged me to always use the lens of my camera to open the minds of the world, the message is so powerful to me. I am and will always do that..

Diedre's book to me

Diedre’s book to me

Diedre's personal words to me

Diedre’s personal words to me

Am so happy to have met her, She is such a mazing woman so inspiring; she is so experienced in the leadership / conflict resolution skills, she is a coach, a mediator and professor. you wouldn’t want her sessions to end soon.

I cannot forget the Washington DC tour, it was so humbling to feel that I am standing, or squatting or sitting, or even lying, right at the exact point where Dr. Martin Lurther King Jnr, gave his famous speech “I have a dream” You would feel like you are him or at least you were with him.  And Capital Hill and white House, and Washington monument are all nice places to visit.

Today is my second day in office with all these amazing people really welcoming and willing to help me, they have all told me their names but you know I can’t master; I can’t remember all the names by now yet. I know its normal, with time I will be shouting their names around, oh! No I can’t do that the office is very quiet.

Talking about names, I walked into a super market to buy some sugar, there was no Mumias Sugar, or Sony Sugar, or just common local sugars, it took me really a long time to notice that this was a sugar,

Domino Sugar

Domino Sugar

it’s a very nice kind of sugar though, so soft like glucose powder and sweet just like ours haha! And even tea expect no Ketepa and stuff here, oh, and No Ugali . of course I knew this before.

Its generally hot weather now.

Alicia my supervisor is a very caring person, she makes sure am comfortable even while she is away from the office.

am just Lucky…….

By Josh. 

A community Solutions Program 2015 Fellow