zondag 8 juni 2014

Going home

Last day.

The day started with an early safari. It rained and we did not see much, except for some zebras and gazelles hiding from the rain. Our guide Joseph tried to find us some elephants as we had not seen any of them in the Mara. But apparently the elephants were hiding in the bushes. Maybe it was good to end our last day this way so that we could leave in peace.

During the day, the weather cleared. The small aircraft took us back to Wilson airport. Beautiful view of the Nairobi skyline.

And then the problems started... Our plane left the Mara an hour earlier than planned. Arriving at the Wilson airport at 5 instead of 6 pm, no taxi waiting for us although I had informed about the earlier arrival time. 

The deal was that JimCab would collect my suitcase from Riverside Pearl Apartments and come to Wilson airport to pick us up and take us to Kenyatta airport. Finally after many calls and text messages, a taxi came at almost 7 pm without my other luggage... I said a very ugly word. 

We got into this taxi and I started calling and texting again. Another taxi would go to the apartment, get my stuff, and drive to Kenyatta instead. I was getting stressed. Traffic was horrible and worse than we ever had before (well, except for the Friday evening it took us 2 hours to get to Carnivore). Taxidriver understood the stress and tried to get us as quickly as possible to Kenyatta airport. In the meantime, messages were sent at 8 pm to me asking where my luggage could be at Riverside. They could not find it! ARGH... I had left notes and everything at the reception!

Finally I got confirmation that the bags were in a taxi with driver Paul and on their way. Our flights were at 22:30 (Mark) and 23:25 (me). Check-in at least 2 hours in advance. Rain pouring down heavily at the airport. This is the view from my position - watching to see if a taxi would arrive with the bags:

Because of the separate flights, Mark had to go to another terminal for check-in. Luckily the Kenyan people are nice and they allowed him to come back outside to wait with me. And after a while, I also asked British Airways what to do. They told me to check-in and then I could drop my bags (if they got here on time) the latest 1 hour before take-off. All scenarios were considered: what if the bags are late? Shall I leave and request that they are sent on a next flight? Can I do that? Or should I wait and thus miss the my flight?

At almost the last second, my taxi arrived. Yeah!

I quickly had to rearrange my stuff because of the 23 kilo limit per bag and then dumped them at the drop-off point. Ran through security and just enough had time to see Mark board the KLM flight from gate 9.

Bye Kenya! It's been a real pleasure living here for a month. But now time to go home to my husband and kids.
#ibmcsc kenya 

Tourist time

My last week in Africa: vacation time!

Weekend in Nairobi
Saturday and Sunday were spent in Nairobi. We have been in Kenya before, but had seen Nairobi only at night when we arrived and in the early morning when we drove to the first national park. So this time, the planning for Saturday included the Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen Museum, restaurant Tamambo near the museum for lunch, and a quick stop at the IBM Lab just to take a picture.

Dinner was at the Abyssinia restaurant in Westland with Andrea and Jeroen, resp. journalist and photographer from the Netherlands traveling across Africa for the last 3 years. Very nice to see them here in Nairobi and to talk about the country, the continent, their experiences, and all. Food was excellent as well and very affordable!

The next day we went to the Masai Market at Yaya shopping centre. We were the only potential customers and this drove us nuts. All the sellers were asking us to check their products and to buy stuff. Normally the sellers can approach other customers as well, but now all arrows were pointed at us. Lunch was at the Yaya centre: pizza at the Italian.

After lunch we went home. Time to start packing. I would leave my big suitcase at the Riverside Pearl apartment and thus having to sort my "safari" cloths & necessities. No more business suites needed in the next few days. 

On advice of Andrea and Jeroen, we decided to go first to the Junction Mall which has one of the largest supermarkets Nakumatt. Besides browsing the supermarket, we also visited the Kazuri bead shop and bought necklaces for our mothers. 

We wanted to have diner at the Brew Bistro, which is close to the Junction Mall. But Google maps told us it would be more than 3 kilometers... which was strange. But anyway, we called a taxi and waited for half an hour. When the taxi arrived and dropped us within 3 minutes at the Brew Bistro (because it was about 600 meters!), I was very glad to see that our taxi driver found it funny as well.

Safari in the Masai Mara
Below you can see our plane with the red nose. We were the only passengers both ways, so it was like having a private plan. I can get used to that!

Some of the highlights of our stay in the Mara. First of all to see the rhinos while standing next to them. Of course the picture does not show the 10 security guys standing between us and the two rhinos. These are the only ones living in this part of the Mara and they are well guarded.

No exactly the view from our tent number 20 but if we went to tents 16 and 17 (unoccupied), this is the view of the hippos. They woke us up each morning around 4 when they return from the grazing in the Mara and start making a lot of noises.

No picture of the leopard (it was getting dark, so my iPhone was not able to take a decent picture). But we saw it! And also this pair of cheetah brothers. One day in the late afternoon, they were walking towards wildebeests but unfortunately they were not making a move and just kept walking. Would have been great to see them run.

zaterdag 31 mei 2014

Pole pole

Relaxing weekend in Nairobi... 

Husband has arrived and he joined us for dinner at Carnivore last night. And this morning, most of the team left for the Masai Mara, other destinations in Africa, or home. So time for goodbyes, hugs, and kisses.   :o(

We'll stay in the city until Monday morning. Today we visited the Giraffe Center, the Karen Blixen museum, and lunch at Tamambo including Tusker beer (plus a quick retour to see the IBM Lab which is in the neighbourhood). Of course accompanied by our own taxi driver Ephantus. Costs were a bit higher than expected, but it was a 5,5 hour tour. The Masai market is on the agenda for tomorrow. Maybe also the Nairobi National Museum.

But for now... just sit on the balcony, read a book. Pole pole (= take it easy...)

#ibmcsc kenya 

donderdag 29 mei 2014

Final presentation

Planning for today:
  • Taxi at 8 am to bring us to KICC VIP lounge
  • Final presentation for WEF and IBM teams at 9:30
  • Lunch at 12:00 arranged by WEF
  • Taxi to IBM at 13:30
  • Meeting at IBM at 14:30
  • Return home, relax, start packing
  • Celebration dinner at 19:00 at Carnivore
Besides of course the completion of the CSC assignment and doing the final presentation for our client, the other BIG highlight will be that my husband Mark arrives this morning in Nairobi. A taxi will take him to our apartment building and then later today, we'll see each other again after 4 weeks. 

#ibmcsc kenya 

Count Down

Yesterday we had our last working day at WEF in their offices. We have spent here many days doing interviews, reading the material, rehearsing our mid term review, etc. And now it's done, over. On Facebook there was an entry for the new Nigeria team who are about to leave for their assignments. I wish I was in their shoes again. 

WEF gave us some very great gifts. I will share pictures later. Ulla-Britt already mentioned that she would like to take WEF, our team, and this work to Stockholm so that we can remain together. I agree...

To share our experiences, a few office pictures.First lunch at restaurant Originelle:

Whenever possible, we like to sit outside.  

 And our office. A map of the country with all the financial partners per region on the wall. On the screen you can see one of the slides about Capacity Building: the WEF Officers spend a lot of time on debt collection, which is good as the money will have to be repaid. But at the same time, these officers have a target to train 2.500 women each year. One of our recommendations is about balancing their time on such activities.

Last selfie at the NSSF building:

And a picture of one of the security guys. Such friendly people. At the gate, one of them always makes the same joke when he sees us. That it's not "Women Enterprise Fund" but "We men Enterprise Fund" and that the women are trying to take everything away from the men. We all laugh of course. And he calls me "Holland". Ah well, at least this guy lets us enter the gate so we do not have get out of the taxi on the street and then walk a long way through another building including additional checks. Once we had to check-in our laptops in that first building, writing down the machine type, serial number, etc. We never checked-out...

#ibmcsc kenya 

zondag 25 mei 2014

Back to work

And now back to work. Last week ahead of us. 

#ibmcsc kenya 


FYI... The Kenyans are on our side. 

And yes, of course I refer to the World Cup 2014. They like our players like Van Persie, Van Nistelrooij, and Robben. They also know about the old guys like Gullit and Bergkamp. Always a good topic for conversation.  

#ibmcsc kenya 

Masai Market

Impression of the Masai Market

The market can be found on different locations in the city. Today the market was at the Yaya shopping center. The mall itself has stores on the inside but the Masai market is on the top on the roof at the 3rd floor. HS, Raghu, Ulla-Britt, and I went there this morning to buy some souvenirs for the people at home.

No, these are not the pictures of what I have bought. Just an impression of the goods...

The black ebony wood work is very expensive. So either you pay a lot or you buy fake. I have not asked for the prices on these items, because as soon as you ask for the price it's an indication you really want to buy and it's hard getting out of a deal. And I'm Dutch, so I like to check the merchandise first (kijke, kijke, niet kope) and then buy maybe a few items. 

Lots of small souvenirs. And the salesmen/women try to sell them by 10 or 20. If you want only one, they say: "Sister, really? Why only one when you can get good price for 10? I'm your friend. You will get a good price." 

Such pretty colours and fabrics. But a) I already got two of these scarfs and b) I have sooo much fabric at home. I'm "not allowed" to buy anymore unless I use my existing stash or get rid of it.

Ulla-Britt buying some earrings. Sharon (far left in the picture) was helping us by indicating the price that would be fair. Raghu negotiated best. He got his stuff at very low prices!

And now for something completely different. Yesterday, I told you about our visit at YARD and having lunch at the women's group. One of the foods we had for lunch is this root you see on the picture below. It was prepared in two ways: boiled and the other way I do not know. The boiled version is dry, but if you dip it in the gravy, it was pretty OK. Tasted a bit like potato. The other version was spiced and had a red-brown colour. I liked that one better. 

This picture was taken at the mall where we got some groceries today. And since we had this vegetable yesterday, I made a picture so you get a better impression. Unfortunately I do not know the name anymore. (Luke - input please!)  

#ibmcsc kenya

zaterdag 24 mei 2014

Work and Play

First work...

After the mid term review meeting on Monday, we dived into further details and research for WEF. Still a lot of work to do and time is running out. Ulla-Britt and I went for an interview with the Nairobi Region Manager Ann Muturi to ask for her view on the women empowerment, the loan processing, and about WEF in general. Good feedback and it was great talking to her and the rest of her team. 

Wednesday we visited the IBM Lab. Great people, great projects, very interesting.

(And no, I will not go into details why some of the parts of the IBM sign are missing on this picture. I'm only to blame for 1 of them...) 
On Friday we had lunch at restaurant Originally - where quality meets originality - on the ground floor of our building. This time, quail on the menu! We have seen lots of quails (alive) and this is how they look when prepared. I also had some rabbit (left bottom corner), which was very good. 

Then play...
Today, Saturday May 24th, it's the birthday of my son Thomas. He turns 13 today and we skyped early in the morning when he got a cup of tea in bed plus his presents. Later today, the family will come to celebrate his birthday. I'm a bit sad for missing his birthday and I guess he will not stop reminding me that I missed it, but also because of the sad circumstances within our family. His birthday will not be celebrated as much as we would normally do. Just close family and later on, we'll have a bigger party with friends and neighbours.

Instead of eating cake I spent the day with the CSC team plus Andrew, one of the IBM-ers here for the BlueMix project at Strathmore. Luke had arranged a visit to his old employer when he was in the US Peace Corps. We started at the YARD office in Gatanga to meet Sebastian and the team. For those interested, please check their website: http://yardcommunity.org/. After the introductions and a briefing on the activities of YARD, we visited the offices and back into the bus to meet with some of their beneficiaries.

No pictures of the first group we visited. They had a room showing their products, where some of our team members were given gifts or where they bought some of the products. I looked at their cows and the rest of the plot.

We took the touristic route in order to see the Ndakaini water dam, supporting the main water supply for Nairobi. Along the route we could also see the tea farms. Even on Saturdays, many men and women were picking tea leaves with heavy baskets on their backs. 

The second beneficiary group was a large one. They welcomed us with singing and dancing and of course we participated. Turned out that this group also received a WEF loan, so this trip can be counted as "work".      ;o)

Their name is Mumbu-ini Farmes field and life school:

Like many other groups, they are into agriculture, chickens, and non-grazing live stock. A demo garden is used to try out various ways of growing crops. The best ways for raising crops are copied at the homes of the individual members. 

A curious cow:

At the end of the day we returned at Riverside Drive. 

Only 1 more week.

#ibmcsc kenya

maandag 19 mei 2014

Mid term review

Monday morning at 9 am we had our mid term review meeting with the CEO of WEF plus each of the department managers. This means that already 2 weeks have passed. We shared our findings so far with tentative recommendations. The next few days will be focused on getting further details regarding the findings and recommendations, so that we can work on the final presentation next week. One last interview planned on Thursday morning.

There is little time left. Next week Monday we'll be visiting the Strathmore University all day and Thursday & Friday are reserved for the final presentations for each of the 4 groups. That means we have 2 days next week for the preparations. This week all research, all actions, and all remaining questions will have to get done.

WEF's feedback from this morning was positive. Some very good discussions. Muriuki had joined the meeting and gave further feedback on some of the next steps. Let me say again that I'm very pleased with our client. We are getting all the required information and support plus they take very good care of us. It's a privileged to work with them and to get a view of the positive contribution they achieve in Kenya for women's empowerment.

#ibmcsc kenya

Weekend at Lake Naivasha / Lake Nakuru

Again a great weekend...

We started on Saturday absurdly early as usual. Three cars took us to either Mt Longonot for a few hours hiking to the top or to Hell's Gate for hiking/cycling. I decided to go to Hell's Gate, also because of the name. First you select a bike and check that the brakes work. Then you cycle for 1 km to the entrance on a terrible road. From there it's about 8 km to the gorge on a pretty decent road. So some of us started enthusiastic and took off very fast while others were stopping for each animal to take a picture. 

Some cars passed us. I asked our guide and he confirmed that the locals think that we - tourists - are very strange people to go on bikes in the heat while you can also take the car to visit the park. Anyway, it took us about 1.5 hour to get to the gorge. Very nice and we could walk thru the gorge. 

My pictures did not turn out very nicely, so no pictures of us in the gorge. A local boy joined us in the gorge walking on flip-flops. He knew the place so well, no need for real hiking shoes.

The way back at first was uphill for a short distance and then the rest downhill. So great to be cycling in the middle of Africa with the giraffes and zebras next to you. Lots of warthogs to be seen as well.

We had lunch at Lake Naivasha with a view of the lake. Excellent, also because of Dominic's self baked bread. Again, no pictures of that, but you will have to trust me.

After lunch, we drove to Lake Nakuru national park. First game drive until about 6 pm. No lions, but we spotted one white rhino. (Actually called "wijd" by a Dutchie because of the broad, wide mouth.) 

Sunset at Lake Nakuru...

Next morning more rhinos - both black and white ones. No lions, no leopards. Some jackals and lots of birds, antelopes, waterbucks, and impalas. Oh, and of course flamingos. The lake was famous for the flamingos but the water level has risen and so most of them left the area. They need brackish and low water. We did not get really close to the flamingos, at least not close enough for my camera. But some of the others will definitely have taken some nice shots of them. 


At one point we spotted 6 rhinos together.

View of Lake Nakuru from the picknick view point. Isn't it beautiful?

And me in our jeep... This was actually taken in the morning, when it was still cold. Within a few hours it got hot, so layering of clothes was necessary.

 #ibmcsc kenya

vrijdag 16 mei 2014

Jacaranda School

And Friday we worked in the morning at the apartment building, preparing for the mid term review early next week.

Luckily there was also time for fun: a visit to the Jacaranda School for Mentally Handicapped. This school holds about 100 children and adults to be given basic education. 

First part of the visit consisted of outdoor activities. We did stuff like walking with a potato on a spoon and "zaklopen" in Dutch and I'm clueless what the English equivalent is, but you can see the picture below of what I was doing. Anyway, I was part of team Green - wearing the green bandana - and I lost... Just glad I did not trip...

Jackie and Maria participated in the game about dressing grandfather. So run to the other end, put on the jacket, do all the buttons, and run back again. We also had a match of volleyball, but we lost greatly. Jacaranda - IBM: 1-0.  

Later we assembled in the hall for songs, a fashion show, and a speech by the school's principle. AS IBM team, we also had to perform. Our choice was to sing the Jambo song as it's almost the only one that the whole group knows. 

This is John. He really likes chocolate. "It's my favorite candy", he said. "Mine too", I replied. He is also a great singer.  

After all the singing, we got a tour of the school. Most of the children were leaving by bus to go  home and we could visited their classrooms. See below the workshop where they work with beads to make jewelry. And yes, I did buy myself a new necklace! I think it was made by Edith (as it's one hanging on the far right of the picture).

And last... a picture of the school itself from the outside. They have a great plot with room for a soccer match, to grow vegetables, and right now they are building some new rooms in order to accommodate boarders. I need to find their website. When found, I'll post it on the blog. If you are interested, they are always looking for volunteers to help them for a month or longer. 

#ibmcsc kenya

Field Trip

Thursday May 15th

We tried to leave early. Our taxi was an hour late (various reasons). The plan was to meet with Tom, one of the WEF Officers, who could show us around in Embakasi and meet a few of the women groups who have gotten WEF loans. 

When we were finally on our way, we ran into this funeral and could not go the direction we wanted. Our driver Francis knew some alternative routes and actually we got at our destination almost on time!

After we picked up Tom, our first stop was at Sarah. She showed us her urban farm with a greenhouse, fish pond, plots for vegetables, quails, and lots more. Impressive young lady with a keen eye for business. The greenhouse not only keeps the bugs away. It also keeps the soil moist as this is one of her biggest problems. She collects the rain water, but with raised beds with the proper soil and preparation reduces the need for watering.

Her plot is in the middle of the suburbs. Her neighbors buy her products and she also delivers to restaurants.

In-between stop at Tom's office. On the wall next to the door, he posts the list of all the loans, the amounts to be paid, groups in arrears, etc.

Next stop was a small peanutbutter factory. The group does not grow the peanuts themselves, but they produce the peanutbutter in a place where many other small businesses are located. We bought some jars. Kids, I hope you will like it!

And this was the last group. They were waiting for our arrival and were dressed in WEF outfits. We had so much fun, singing and dancing. This group again has many activities: quails, fish, chickens, a workshop for wood work, and lots of other animals for milk and meat. Their main issue was the marketing of their products.

It was an great day with BIG thanks to Tom and to WEF for giving us the possibility of visiting these women groups. 

#ibmcsc kenya

dinsdag 13 mei 2014

Just working all week

This week is about work. 

Doing data analysis, completing interviews, going on a field trip to meet groups of women who got loans from WEF, etc. So spending our time waiting for taxis or waiting in traffic. Well, yesterday the taxi was earlier than agreed and I got a phone call asking us to come downstairs. But we needed to finish breakfast first.

Usually we left at 7:15 but today we wanted to leave a bit later because our meeting would be around 9 am. But the taxi came half an hour late and by then, the traffic was horrible. Outcome is of course that we did not arrive on time. Luckily it was not a problem and we had a very nice meeting with Pauline and Thomas of Hand-in-Hand (http://handinhand-ea.org/). Again a great organization that does a lot of real good work in East Africa with empowerment of women by giving them extensive training on business development. 

No pictures today... Maybe later this week. 

#ibmcsc kenya

zondag 11 mei 2014


Hi all, just a few pictures of our weekend in Amboseli. 

Kenya is a very beautiful country, but they make you wake up very early in the morning. This means our alarm went off at 5:30 on a Sunday morning, which is tough. I'm not complaining though because we had a great view of Kilimanjaro.

Elephant crossing...

And a selfie with an elephant in the picture is now called an "elphie":

#ibmcsc kenya

vrijdag 9 mei 2014


Turns out it was casual Friday at WEF. We did not know and arrived in our suits, because we would be meeting the WEF Officers: volunteers located in the constituencies across the country helping women to form groups, they get them trained, and then help to apply for the loans. Really great to hear them talk about their work, their views, and to get their input. 

Picture of the building where WEF is located. This is our view when we wait for our taxi to take us back home.

Today we had lunch at this local place. They serve mostly meat that is cooked on a barbeque. The smell was great.

And I guess this does not count as a "cheetah"? This little one and its sibling were watching us from a distance. When I tried to take a picture, they ran off. But as soon as we got our food, they came to our table for a small piece of food. They could share a piece of my chicken skin (which I do not like so much anyway).

Maybe tomorrow we'll see the real big cheetahs. We're going on an overnight trip to Amboseli. And at least we're promised to see more elephants during that weekend than we'll see during the rest of our lives. My overnight bag is almost packed. First malaria-tablet taken tonight. I'm glad I got the daily tables, much less side-effects than the weekly ones. 

We'll leave at 6, so the alarm is set to 5 am. I have the key to D4 - which is our common room - in order to open this room for everybody to have a bit of breakfast. The ladies who serves us normally breakfast will not be there, because it of course will be too early. By the way, they serve an excellent Spanish omelet. Asante sana!

#ibmcsc kenya