09 5 / 2013
Have you heard? Nicole likes guys with beards.
08 5 / 2013
“Hey smell this.”
“Uh, what? Why?”
“Do you think my shirt smells a little mildewy? Smell it.” [sticks shirtsleeve under friends nose]
[smells shirt, makes confused face] “No, it smells fine. What are you talking about?”
“I dunno. I think it smells moldy. I don’t think the girl who cleans our house is doing the laundry right - a lot of my clothes end up smelling like mildew after she washes them.”
“Oh. So when the girl comes to your house to clean up after you, she hand washes your dirty clothes…and sometimes they smell funny?”
“Exactly! What the hell…”
“And did you have trouble sleeping last night because of the pea under your mattress?”
Right. Good point.
Speaker 1 was played by me, the jerk.
Speaker 2 was played by the co-founder of www.wowowo.ke.co, pronounced “woah, woah, woah” not “wow o wow”
28 4 / 2013
(When one can’t go to Uganda for a long weekend one might opt to spend Easter in Kitale. And in Kitale they have very odd tourist attractions.)
24 4 / 2013
“Fahim! If you can get some days off at Easter we should use the long weekend to whitewater raft in Uganda, right!? We can just pop over the border. I can’t even stand it, this is going to be so much fun!”
“I can’t. They don’t give visas on arrival to Pakistanis. I’d have to come to Nairobi first and get a visa, and you know I can’t get the days off.”
US passport holder: 1
Pakistani passport holder: 0
”Fahim! I’ve been thinking about the places where you can work post fellowship. Don’t you think IDB is the best bet? You can do impact investing *and* Islamic financing all together at once. Seems like the perfect place for you right?”
“It does sound perfect. Except they have country quotas and there are all ready a lot of Pakistanis working there. Now if I’d been born in the US or the UK…”
US passport holder: 2
Pakistani passport holder: 0
”Fahim! OK fine. If you can’t work at IDB then you could spend a few years with a US based private equity firm. You might have to defer Islamic financing for a few years but at least you’d re-sharpen your traditional investment skills right?”
“Seriously Nicole? Have you been paying attention!?* I can’t get a job with a US private equity firm because I don’t have the right kind of visa.”
US passport holder: 3
Pakistani passport holder: 0
So let’s review. Because someone is born in a country like Pakistan and they have Pakistani “papers” it suddenly becomes far more difficult for them to get the jobs they want or even to travel freely between countries. And yet, any random dude born in a “developed” (aka “white”) country like the US or somewhere in Europe can basically waltz right into whatever country they want and apply for a job and have their eligibility for said job be evaluated based on (are you sitting down for this? things are about to get crazy) their qualifications! Not their birthplace!
It makes me want to scream. It. makes. me. want. to. fucking. scream.
When are we going to stop defining each other based on our skin color or the country in which we were born? Aren’t we more than that? Shouldn’t we be judged based on what’s in our hearts and how we treat each other? No…it’s clearly much easier to just scan the crowd for the ones with brown skin and keep them in the back.
* Fahim is about a thousand times nicer than I am so obviously he would never say, “Seriously Nicole? Have you been paying attention!?” That was me taking a bit of artistic license with our chats. Carry on.
21 4 / 2013
About two weeks ago I got legal. No more temporary visas, no more special passes. All my immigration paperwork was processed and I was awarded a one-year work permit. Holler.
One of the side benefits of getting a work permit is that I can also apply for a resident card which will allow me to get discounts in all the National parks - this is quite exciting since my first proper visitors are booking flights this week. However, in order to acquire this golden pass I had to apply in person at the immigration office downtown.
Immigration. Where law-abiding citizens age for hours and days and weeks in line until they are so tired and beaten down that they can’t even remember why they went to the office in the first place.
Although I was ready for a litany of bureaucratic and ever-changing requirements I was pleasantly surprised when I only got rejected by the man behind the iron-barred immigration counter once. My application was rejected because my two (2) passport sized photos had been shot against a pale grey background, instead of (as he so artistically stated) a “snow white background.” I tried to explain to him that in the US snow in the city is often the color of my passport photo - dirty and grey and almost never white. He was not amused. He told me to get out of line.
Annoyed but not surprised by this turn of events I went outside and asked one of the security guards where I could get new passport photos printed. I expected him to give me the location of some photo shop several blocks away. But instead he said, “Oh just wait right here.”
I did, and suddenly an enterprising young man came up and introduced himself to me and led me to the bus stop across the street. There, in the corner of the matatu stage where it reeked of urine and other unmentionables this gentleman took my photo. I began to protest and tried to share my requirement of a white background, but before the words left my mouth this man’s business partner stepped behind me and held up a white sheet for the photo.
This was not their first rodeo.
The team disappeared to some undisclosed location to print the photos and 10 minutes and 500 shillings later I had 2 new passport photos in my hand.
I don’t want to think about the various agreements that may or may not be set up to share this photo revenue between the guys with the cameras, the security guards, or even the immigration officers. Instead I like to think that these young men simply saw a market gap, and filled it.
Hurray for the hustle.
29 3 / 2013
"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."
22 3 / 2013
It can be an ugly thing, you know? Missing people. Being acutely aware of the fact that the ones you love most are far away. You can think fondly of them. You can email them. You can even talk to them on the phone. But. They are just…so…far. You can’t touch them. You can’t hug them. You can’t watch as their laughter sneaks up and wrinkles the corner of their eyes. You can’t truly feel their frustration as they clench their fists while they explain what happened in that brain damaging meeting. You can’t feel it when you are both laughing at each other so hard that the air between you seems to shake. And you can’t just quietly, silently, be with them in the same space.
However. I am equally and acutely aware of the fact that really, let’s be honest, I have nothing to be blue about. When I compare myself to the farmers that we serve, I am wealthy beyond belief. I’ve been given every opportunity in the world, particularly as a female. And I find myself now with everything I should ever want and many things that the people I’m serving in Kenya so often do not have: Safety, security, wealth, equality, empowerment, opportunity.
So, rich white girl, you’re a little homesick? You miss the ones you love?
Cry me a river.
So can I suck it up? Of course I can. I’m a pro. I can and will tighten up and carry on and do what needs to be done and I can fold those feelings up into a tight little package and stuff them down so they don’t distract me from the task at hand.
The feelings are still there.
And after sitting with them a bit what I’ve realized is that the voice in my head is right. I am rich. I am lucky. But it’s not just because of where I was born in life and the opportunities I was given. I am lucky because I have these feelings of longing in the first place.
Because these feelings of emptiness are caused by the vacuum that is created when a love that was there is suddenly …not. And there couldn’t be a gap in my soul if there had been nothing filling it up to begin with. I have an amazing family and I’ve been incredibly lucky to find and keep truly dear friends over the years, and I’ve given them each a piece of my heart. So yes it hurts when a piece of you is beyond your grasp, when you want to reach out and pull it close but it’s just beyond your fingertips. That’s the risk of giving part of yourself to someone else. You might wake up to find part of your heart on the other side of the world.
But the alternative would be to live a life never knowing what it was to be loved. That might be safer, but it certainly can’t be better. Because a life unshared isn’t a life at all. So I’ll take a little pain any day because the pain is simply proof of the love. And I’ve been given far more than my fair share.