Adulting Abroad & Other Thoughts

I’m sure that anyone who has gone apartment hunting in Nairobi can remember how  it can be incredibly frustrating, but when you finally find the perfect place you knew you were living better than some of your friends in the US–inclusive maid and laundry service, pools at most apartment complexes, much cheaper rent etc.

Well, this weekend I was planning on moving into my dream apartment. The guest wing I was originally planning on renting was on a street abundant with lush tropical plants, a beautiful 15 minute walk to work, and in a more social part of Gigiri. But, as life would have it, my roommate bailed on me last minute. So now, I’m back to the roommate and apartment hunting grind.

Going back to the drawing board and trying to figure out my living situation is not what I thought I’d be doing a month into my time in Kenya. My frustration peaked yesterday afternoon when I learned I had to find intermediate accommodation at a place called ‘Slum Gardens.’ Not wanting to completely lose it in my office, I went to the nearest bathroom and started crying about my living situation with ‘woe is me’ hysterics. I probably sounded pretty ridiculous because Josephine, one of the ladies who works at the World Agroforestry Centre’s print shop, knocked on the stall door and urged me to come out.

Trying to get myself together, I explained to her my situation. She pulled me in for a hug which made me cry even more because it was the first real hug I’d had since moving to Nairobi. She gave me words of encouragement and a gracious reality  check. Talking to Josephine made me realize how “first world” my current predicament was. In life, **** happens, but you gotta be resilient.

Adulting is hard. Adulting in a foreign country I am not even remotely familiar with is even harder. But, I can’t let these minor (in the grand scheme of things) frustrations detract from my experiences here in Nairobi. Besides this, nothing terribly bad has happened to me while I’ve been here.

I’m starting to feel more comfortable in my work environment and I’m getting to take on more responsibilities. I’m really proud to work at AWARD, especially as we are shifting our focus to think about gender inequities at the institutional level of agricultural research and development. In my first month, I’ve had the opportunity to do so much: shake the President of Kenya’s hand, do a couple write-ups for the communications team, and so much more.

I can already tell how much this year will teach–and occasionally–test me. But, I need to take it all in stride. I have the opportunity to live and work in another city for an entire year. Not many people can say that.

Moving to Nairobi has given me several lessons in advanced adulting. Most of the problems I’d normally ask Google to solve are best (and most times only) answered by asking someone directly. As much as you have to chase people, it is nice to actually interface with people. I’ve definitely become more comfortable with advocating and negotiating what I need, and I’ve also become more comfortable with being a little less independent until I learn the ropes over time.

Besides adulting, nothing too spectacular has happened this week–no wild animals or presidents, unless you count meeting the vice president of the  African Development Bank. The highlight of this last week and half was having dinner with Ken, a Harvard alum who was born and raised in Kenya. He pointed out things I should notice about Kenya from my perspective as a foreigner. He also invited the other PiAfs and me  to dinner at his house next weekend.

Update (6:20pm): Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned here is that if you want kindness, you have to open yourself up to it and not be afraid to simply ask. After I got home from work, I explained my situation to Flora, the lady who owns the guest house I’m in now, and she let me work something out so I can stay for another week or so. I am so grateful to her, Eunice, Pauline, Bryan, and Daniel. Each of them have become part of my daily routine and are literally my Kenyan #DayOnes.

***

Each week, writing out my blog posts puts me in a more reflective space. Not only do I take the time to process what’s going on around me here in Kenya, but I also think about how things are going back in the United States.

My first couple weeks in Kenya, I was feeling major American #FOMO. I kept having recurring dreams that my friends would forget about me, so I’d intentionally stalk Facebook to see who was online and and shoot a quick message to remind them that even though I’m over 7,000 miles away, I still exist.

But, given the continued tragic murders of innocent men and women of color happening in America , the idea of me missing out on things in America and whether or not I exist take on a whole new meaning.

Living abroad means that I can kind of (except on Facebook) escape the constant voyeurism of Black death that is necessary for the ‘proof’ needed to gain ‘justice’ and also unnecessary because how many times do we have to witness death to realize that black lives DO matter. I can ‘miss out’ on the ludicrous statements people make about Kaepernick and others taking a knee as statement to get people talking about making decisions and policies that value the lives of POCs. Because honestly, it’s exhausting to think about and justify my existence as Black Woman. It’s draining to watch or hear about one POC after another to not just be killed, but be killed in vain and without justice.

But, being in Kenya for the most part lets me be a black woman, little b and little w. There is something pretty  refreshing about living in a place where the majority of people look like me. It’s so powerful being at an organization filled with strong, high-educated, determined black women, and working towards empowering even more black women.

It’s incredibly interesting talking to some of my co-workers about the recent murders of Terrance Crutcher and Keith Scott. The idea that people from a place traditionally seen as ‘third world’ and ‘under-developed, developing at best’ calling the events happening in America barbaric should be a wake up call on so many fronts.

 This week, the main FOMO I’m having is what can or should I do on behalf of #BLM from Kenya.

***

Even though the second half of my blog post is very serious in nature and the ‘random thoughts’ section is usually more comedic, I still want to share it because despite the immense amount of heartache in this world, I am still capable of finding joy and humor in life

Random Thoughts

  • Between chapatti and ugali, I’m definitely #TeamChapatti
  • I appreciate twitter and all the Jennifer Anniston memes that arose out of the end of Brangelina
  • advocating for yourself is hard but necessary
  • I have completed step 1 of my overseas voting ballot
  • watched The Dictator with the other PiAfs
  • I need to figure out where to watch #HTGAWM (quality link suggestions are much appreciated)
  • I’m going to Uganda in a month!
  • I hope the AWARD staff retreat is somewhere fun and beachy
  • crying is important, but it can’t be all you do
  • hoping the universe will let me keep my dream apartment
  • My wifi HATES Skype…facebook video is the best way to vid chat me
  • I can’t believe I have friends in so many different time zones
  • I’ve picked up a couple

 

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