OK OK OK…I get it. Life got a little hectic around here and we haven’t posted a blog in almost two weeks now. Our sincere apologies to all those fans who support us and enjoy the tales of “How’s my Hair? An African Adventure”. Hopefully this blog helps make up for our lack of posting and, well…procrastination at its finest. Even I don’t get washed everyday so you can imagine how much time old Mr. 600 gives to the blog posts. What a slacker!
As you can imagine a lot has happened in the last few weeks, between Kenyan Premier League football matches, visits to the Elephant orphanage, kissing Giraffes, enjoying a traditional Kiswahili dinner hosted in the home of our Kenyan ambassador to France, garbage cleanups deep in the slums of Mathare, and of course the most important aspect of the entire trip, helping students become entrepreneurs and developing their aspired businesses in Kibera.
First off a few Saturday’s ago was our good friend JC’s going away party. He graduated from university recently and decided to move away from “Ki-beach” to try his luck in a completely new surrounding. He honestly made such an impact with me in only a few short weeks, and I can only imagine what his spirit brings to those around Kibera that have known him for years. Godspeed my friend. You are truly missed and fiercely supported for your courage.
The initial week was a humbling experience. 32 of us struggled for space on a few wooden benches and old school patio chairs – sharing one blackboard, one light bulb, and one pencil sharpener. Just to paint the picture a little more, we share a room (and voices) in an education facility deep in the slums that hosts classes for children from ages 3 to 13. The walls, if any, are very thin and the children are more than excited to hear the recess bell…so often compete with who can be heard the most amongst the classes. It was near impossible to communicate effectively, so we had to improvise and split the class in two; one in the bigger room with the blackboard and the other in a smaller room across the hall that had the privy of daylight through a clear plastic roof sheet but no room for a blackboard. Huge props go out to Dawn, Fan Asha and Pato, who are teaching the entire course on flip chart paper that they rip off and tape to the wall.
After starting our first few days getting to know the students and discussing their potential businesses ideas, reality set in and the lights went out. Literally. Kibera was left for the next two days without power and our class was forced to move to an extremely small room (that did have a blackboard though) and work from candlelight. We could get half of the blackboard sort of lit if we rotated the window a certain way and picked up some reflection of daylight. Otherwise it was light by dancing candles, strategically balanced on pencils attached to support beams or dangerously flickering on a bookshelf, flirting the with reality that paper + wood + fire sometimes equal…well, let’s just say “not good”. For us, it was completely surreal in every aspect of life, and for the students, another day in paradise. We trenched our way through market analysis, battled through competitive advantage, and laughed the entire time during presentation skills. As soon as we were getting comfortable *POOF* – and then there was light.
The next weekend was a blast and we were treated to all kinds of native African adventures. First was a trip to see some Elephant orphans that they find in the wilderness and bring back to nest before returning to the wild. These are essentially elephants, under 3 years old that have no family, found abandoned and / or injured in the parks and in dire need of help; cute as a button for sure, with an attitude to boot. The best part of this was seeing a typical 50yr old Mzungo start ‘petting’ an elephant on the head while he was drinking. When I say petting, I mean forcefully slapping the elephant on the head like a whack-a-mole game. Obviously Babar didn’t take to kindly to the abuse so he blasted the guy with a full trunk load of water right in the face! I got a little wet with the backlash and Kreese almost pissed his pants. Silly Mzungo.
We parted ways and went to check out a Giraffe center where you can pet, feed and even kiss these enormous creatures. Not into making out with large creatures, we spent most of the time walking through a garden museum where they described the native use and purpose of all flora -my boy John Furryhead the botanist would have been in heaven.
Our final trip of the weekend finished off with a tribute to several native tribal dances and a tour of some moc-ups of local tribe villages. The primitive architecture was astonishing, and to think that families live so basically in such harmony is beyond anything a typical North American could understand…us included. Our team had fun imagining that we were Husbands, 1st / 2nd / or 3rd wives, building small fires inside our tiny huts, tending our cattle and caring for the little ones that would carry on our tribal traditions. Honestly, it’s hard to believe that people live so freely in this world…
Monday was upon us, and the kids from the Foundation of Hope were anxious to share with us their weekend stories and hear about our adventures in Kenya. On Friday, we actually challenged them to a competition on the weekend on who could make “something, out of nothing”. The theme was inspired by a common question that troubles most of the students in our group; “how are we supposed to start a business without money?” Honest question for sure and the response was equally as raw. “This is the essence of entrepreneurship my friends – how to start something, from nothing. With one single idea, a lot of passion, hope, faith and a little bit of luck, everyone here has the ability to be an entrepreneur.“ This message was inspired by the motto of Foundation of Hope, which hung proudly by the door of our classroom.
Monday’s stories consisted of several inspiring entrepreneurial movements:
1) Garbage collection, with a collection plate for people to donate
2) Homemade rosaries from random wooden articles found on the streets
3) Transporting 50 pound cement bricks over 2 km’s for 100ksh (1$) a piece
4) Door-to-door salon hair and manicure treatment
5) Winning a football tournament in which you put your cell phone up for collateral…woah!
It’s funny how much we are learning from these eager, intelligent, hard working entrepreneurs and definitely gives the utmost credibility to entrepreneurship.
We finished off Monday night with a bang…a Kenya Premier League football match: Gor Mahia vs. AFC Leopards. Our entire crew instantly become Gor Mahia fans and Val helps us out by sourcing us jerseys for the event. What we didn’t know was that Kreese was about to inherit yet another nickname – “Jamach”. This is a traditional Luo tribe word for….actually, no. I can’t say. It’s inappropriate for this blog, but lets just say it got LOTS of attention from the locals at the game. Even on Sunday upon our return from Massai Mara, “Jamach” met a shop owner who at first was trying to sell him traditional swag, ended up asking for a picture so that he could show his friends and remember that he met “Jamach”. After the picture Joseph actually gave him a necklace as a gift and wished him Karibu Kenya! Wait…I haven’t shared how absolutely stiff, dread-like dusty I got in the Massai Mara yet.
Holy frigen Zebra Batman! We are on our way to safari at the moment and everything is absolutely wild (literally…including the Massai people). Wait…let me back up and give the run down from the beginning.
After a long day of teaching cash flows and break even analysis, “Jamach” and I returned to the hotel to pack for our long awaiting safari trip – filled with promises of Lions, Zebras, Giraffes, Rhino’s, Crocodiles and whatever other wild animal we can find in the Serengeti desert of Massai Mara. An hour and a half behind schedule (it’s all good ‘cause it’s Africa time anyways) for a 6 hour drive, we finally got to board a badass matatu, equipped with adjustable leather (fake of course) seats and a pop up roof that lets us stand while driving. Unreal! After a quick fuel stop and a wonderful conversation with a local prostitute, we threw some raw meat in the cooler with ice and finally headed out for our adventure. I tell you, that Kreese really is a charmer…no wonder he got the nickname “Jamach”. I don’t know how he gets along with his terrible Canadian-Swahili accent, and I think I stole the show anyways with my beautiful dark curls and luscious volume.
The drive through Nairobi took a while but once we reached the Rift Valley everything was easy peaceful. We stopped off for some quick photos with the skinned sheep fur carpets and hats on the side of the road, grabbed a delicious Afia Mango juice and toured deep down into the valley. It was sooo beautiful with luscious greens, corn as far as the eye can see, and several herds of goats crossing the street – manned by Massai villager goat herders of course.
Then…nightfall. Oh, and we are still 3 hours away.
30 seconds before our beautiful paved highway ended our driver, Melito, whispered softly “are you ready for an African massage”? Curious as a Kat, Kreese replied “well, that depends by who” J Right about that time the highway ended, and he got the joke; we then started bouncing up and down more than a pimped out Eldorado on Miami Beach. On top of that Melito – our top notch safari driver showed his stealthy ad version tactics by hand-braking a tail twist to miss an oncoming Zebra…yes, that’s right…Zebra’s like to cross the road at night too. We don’t judge around here though, the poor Zebra was probably lost and couldn’t find his way home. The next 2 ½ hours were quite an adventure, showcased by Giraffes in the middle of the road, followed by random flashlights from the red-cloaked Massai watchmen guarding the moonlight night with vigilance.
The rest of the weekend was absolutely amazing and almost impossible to recount through a blog. Even the attached pictures do not do this place justice…only the found memories of Africa’s vast beauty and serene nature. I’m going to let these pictures do the talking here, since they really are worth more than a thousand words a piece. Our favorite was hanging out by a fire with some of the Massai Mara people, trying to communicate in broken English / Swahili. These are native villagers who live in the huts depicted above and share the land with Safari companies. We thank them graciously for their warm hospitality. At the end of the weekend good old Jamach had made friends with a few of “the boyz” from the Massai – Dixon and Agerli. A peace trade was made with Dixon; one UBC Sauder School of Business pen for a leather bead written Kenya bracelet. Agerli then presented Kreese with a “sa stone” carved as a lion’s tooth, which represents “fearless strength of family and culture”.
Beautiful times with beautiful people here in Kenya.