Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kenya: The People, The Places, The Culture (1)

As the professional assignment winds down and this homesick wanderer prepares to end his stay in Kenya, it seems appropriate to give some thought to what has impressed me about this beautiful land.

That "homesick" is a little hard to explain, though, for despite the fact that I've been in Nairobi since last November 12, there have been two nice visits home, and to Brussels and Geneva and San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro as well, all dutifully described (well, I hope not "dutifully" - certainly "enthusiastic" is more accurate!) in posts to this blog. And even occasionally at the corporate blog where my colleagues and I try to share our knowledge and interests with professional colleagues and clients. So it's not like I've been on the other side of the world for a year. Or stationed in some remote, out-of-the-way place where I would be totally out of contact with home.

But there's no question about it: it is a long way from Nairobi to New York (one return journey was 34 hours door-to-door!). So despite the pleasures of Kenya, the intrepid Manhattan-ite has had his moments of longing, wishing he could hear Jeff on WQXR or head off to the opera house to hear one of the favorites or even, simply (and in typical New York style), just head over to his club and spend a couple of hours reading magazines that aren't available at home.

And when in Kenya?

It's those "pleasures of Kenya" that have made it all worthwhile. To my way of thinking, those pleasures fall into three categories: the people, the places, and the culture. And while I can't predict whether I'll be able to give due attention to all three, I can begin with the people. Even thinking about what I want to say about the people of Kenya fills me with such pre-nostalgia that I'm expecting to find myself a little homesick in the other direction very soon.

For me, any thought of the people of Kenya is going to begin with happy memories of The Great Four, this funny gang of people who discovered each other shortly after my arrival in Nairobi a year ago. We've come to care very much for each other, and now seems a good time to pay a special tribute to them (and to provide just a hint of how much I'll miss them after I leave). As readers of these posts know, Charles (second from right in the photo above) is my driver and boon companion and now, almost family, since he and his wife have named their new daughter Claire, honoring my last name more graciously that I ever expected to experience. As for Geoffrey and Nerisa, we got to know each other professionally early on, as they are both KM/knowledge services specialists. For Nerisa, dealing with strategic knowledge is her professional focus in the workplace, and she takes much pleasure in directing her clients to the right "knowledge-sharing" opportunity. Geoffrey is fascinated by how KM/knowledge services is being embraced in Kenya, and he is bound and determined to provide the country's KM market with the highest standards of KM service delivery (to the extent of initiating an informal branch of SMR International - SMR Africa - to bring the SMR brand of KM/knowledge services to this wonderful place).

But it is unfair to limit my characterization of Geoffrey and Nerisa as "professional," for our friendships now far exceed the professional and with Charles, we modestly describe ourselves as The Great Four. And why not? When people come to Africa to go on safari to pursue The Big Five, why shouldn't they also run across The Great Four? We could probably lead them on some very interesting adventures.

Silliness? Of course. But adding greatly to the enormous stockpile of memories that will stay with us forever.

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