Sunday, July 19, 2009

Return to Nairobi

Steve and I flew back to Nairobi on Wednesday morning. The traffic in the city was so bad that it took about 90 minutes to get to Clarice's house. Once we arrived, Steve showed her the website design, and she really liked it, so he is now finishing up the coding so that we can get it up as soon as possible. Because we worked on Sunday all day, we took the afternoon off and went to see Harry Potter with Alice, which was so much fun. In the movie theater it felt like we were in the U.S. again. I think after 10 days in Kisumu area, I really needed that. Don't get me wrong, I loved being there, but after a few weeks, it can get a little bit exhausting. People constantly staring and everything we needed to do was just difficult because so many things are unreliable. It was nice to be back in the city. Maybe I'm just restless wherever I go because now I'm feeling ready to go back to the rural villages!

I won't be back there for another week, though. There's a bunch of stuff to do in the next three days before the rest of the team arrives, including trying to get our prototypes built, which has proven to be quite a challenge. Tomorrow morning we go to KIRDI's Nairobi office. Hopefully that will work out and we can build on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday afternoon was stressful logistics-wise. A lot of apartment type places don't accept reservations, and the houses that we were going to rent were given away. So Clarice spent several hours on the phone securing a new place, which we went and saw. It was pretty nice, but also expensive. And they wanted us to go to the bank and pay cash upfront for the whole time we would be staying there. By the time they told us this, it was Friday morning and the banks were going to close at 3, so we weren't going to be able to make that happen. After a lunch meeting on Friday afternoon, we went and checked out another place, which is right in the city center. Luckily, they were able to accomodate us for all of the dates that we needed. Crisis averted.

Thursday morning we met with the country director for UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization). He's in charge of the programs for Kenya and Eritrea. The UN complex has very tight security. They kept our passports as collateral while we were inside. Apparently the U.S. Embassy has even tighter security - 3 gates before you even enter the building. We met with him for almost 2 hours, discussing ACESS's mission and the potential for collaboration. He was a very nice guy, very no-nonsense, and on the same page as Clarice, which was great. Things are looking good for collaboration and potential monetary support. He is launching a new program called Lighting Up Kenya, which uses power as an entry point into communities. He has set up a few centers that provide power, facilities, and support to help people start businesses. He said that he is not interested in giving people money for the businesses, but wants to teach people how to help themselves. He is trying to develop infrastructure that will "hand-hold" new business owners instead of just throwing money at them. His goal is to get $1.20 back on every $1 that he spends, so he invests wisely. He wants to be able to say that he has made a tangible difference. And, as a bonus, he's really interested in agribusiness and agroprocessing. Seems like fate, right? He was very enthusiastic about ACESS's mission and will incorporate our needs into his proposal for where to place the next round of centers. He has also hired us to examine the two centers that are currently operating and is giving us a stipend to do so! He also expressed interest in possibly hiring Clarice as a consultant. Pretty much all good things from the meeting, so we'll see what happens next. Needless to say, Clarice, Steve, and I all walked out of that meeting feeling really charged. It seems like this might finally be the breakthrough we were waiting for.

The past two days have been uneventful. We were supposed to work yesterday, but Alice was sick so Steve and I hung around the hostel, reading and blogging and stuff. Same thing today. Tomorrow, back to work. I have to say, I'm looking forward to it. Also, the rest of the team arrives Thursday night and we go on safari on Friday morning! I'm SO excited.

1 comment:

  1. Hi-

    We design new technologies for the developing world.

    Love your work. I'd like to contact you with specific questions about Kenya.

    Check out:

    How can I contact you?

    John Barrie