My Kenyan experience began just over three months ago! Time has taken on a surreal quality, it feels like I have only just arrived and also that I have been here forever! Very weird…
I have a number of observations about life in Isiolo and Kenya that I can now begin to share, up until now I have been reticent in making broad generalisations, but as time passes, my experiences are reinforcing these!
For my learning and development colleagues, living in Kenya has given me new meaning to ‘communicating with impact’! Here a question will be answered directly if the respondent feels that you will like the answer, if you won’t like the answer, then a different question will be answered! It takes some careful questioning to confirm the answer you get is actually to the question you asked!
Here is an example of a conversation I have had…
Me: Will it get much hotter here?
Me: So this is the hot season?
Friend: Yes, then the rain comes.
Me: When does the rain come?
Friend: October 15th
Me: That is very accurate; does the rain come every year on October 15th?
Friend: Yes, every year – for the rains.
Me: Did the rains come last year on October 15th?
Friend: No, they never came……
A few days later…
Me: After the rains, will we have a hot season again?
Friend: Yes, it will get much hotter in January and February that is the hot season…..
Sometimes I will revisit a topic a number of times to ensure I have got the details correctly! It can be interesting to compare answers when the questions have been
very subtly different.
Everyone in Kenya seems to have a mobile phone; but the use of the phone here is very different and it has taken a while to get used to the Kenyan phone culture. The primary
difference here is that once your phone rings, irrespective of what you are doing, you answer the phone…
I was at a large presentation and the presenter answered his phone to say call back later while he was delivering his speech! It took a while for me to figure out that there is no voicemail service by any of the mobile providers… There is no screening of calls at all, I get some very strange looks when my phone rings and I don’t answer it!
It can be a nightmare trying to have a conversation with anyone, especially if they are popular or busy!
I have been a passenger in a number of vehicles here in Kenya, I have even had the opportunity on several occasions to sit in the front seat of a matatu (a privileged seat!). I have noticed a driving practice here ‘up-country’ and am not sure if it unique
to this area or is widespread.
Cash is very scarce here in Isiolo and the primary concern for everyone is to make or save money. In this endeavour, whenever there is a downhill where the vehicle can gather momentum, the car or matatu is put into neutral and we freewheel down the hill. ‘Control’ is maintained through the use of the break… In this way, no fuel is used, and once the momentum begins to dissipate the car / matatu is put into drive or 4th gear…
In order to ignore this incredibly dangerous driving practice I tend read as much as possible and tune out what is happening in the vehicle. Before I arrived in Kenya I was
warned that the most dangerous health risk would be a road traffic accident, is it any wonder!