Category Archives: Work

Conveniences of the Online World

With internet costs in Kenya quite high and suspicion about trading online on the same level, not many people are transacting online. However, for me, it’s a regular thing. I can’t tell you what a convenience online transactions have been for me, I’ll just illustrate with a few examples:

Smart Baby

I don’t remember who introduced me to Smart Baby facebook page but I am grateful they did. They stock really nice clothes – that you can’t find on the overrated Biashara Street. I usually go through the Facebook page, select what I like and order through email. My order is delivered the following day to the office, where I pay cash on delivery. I could have them delivered at home but since I live way out of town, the delivery charges will be too high. I pay Ksh. 150 for delivery to Upperhill. Quite affordable, no? Update: They actually deliver for only Ksh 200 to places like Mlolongo.

Some of the clothes on offer at Smart Baby

Some of the clothes on offer at Smart Baby

They actually have a website now and it’s much easier to browse through stuff. You can pay through M-Pesa. I think next month I will shop through the website. (Although it currently says: THIS IS A DEMO STORE- PLEASE DO NOT PLACE ANY ORDERS). My son tends to outgrow clothes fast (as do most babies) so I buy new outfits each new month or so. If you are going to buy clothes from there, buy one or two sizes bigger. The clothes might say 3 months but they fit a 0-month old baby (at least for my baby).

And for those who prefer old school shopping, please have a _. And then head to their shop in Kileleshwa (which opened well after the online shop).

Elegantly African

This is a shopping website for fashion accessories. I need a new watch and when I saw the pictures of the watches they have I wanted one.

A photo of the new watch. The glasses though, I had to go to Optica for the checkup. If only I could do it online too..

A photo of the new watch. The glasses though, I had to go to Optica for the checkup. If only I could do it online too..

I got it for Ksh. 1,000, paid through my Visa Debit card and it was delivered free to my office. So Elegant. So African. (Seems the watches are out of stock at the moment, just checked their site).

Diapers

For my diaper shopping, I was going to Biashara Street to buy them, so I can buy them at Ksh 50 bob cheaper than at the supermarkets. A colleague at work gave me the distributor’s number, I called them, made an order, paid through their M-Pesa paybill number and they delivered to my office free of charge. Okay, it’s not online shopping, more of over-the-phone shopping but it’s still quite convenient. You have to buy in Bulk though.

Huggies Gold Diapers, they're rather expensive but they've become my favorite brand

Huggies Gold Diapers, they’re rather expensive but they’ve become my favorite brand

Imperial Bank

I finally signed up for online banking so I can check my statements and do some transactions. I have accounts with both Equity (it has its advantages) and Imperial Banks and they both have online banking services. With Imperial, the forms were sent to me via email, I then filled and dropped them off. I’m sure I can download internet-banking forms online from the Equity site so I shall sign up soon.

Who doesn't do this anymore?

Who doesn’t do this anymore?

Dash2Do.com

Have you ever had an errand that required you to attend to it during working hours? Things like banking, registration of births (etc), picking documents from one place to another..

I started the birth certificate application for my son. I had to steal some time off work to do it. I filled in the forms, then was told to come later to pay for the processing (they do the verification for almost a week!). When I went to pay, they had run out of receipts so I walked back to the office in frustration. When I went the second time to pay, it was 2 p.m. and I found a huge crowd of people by the entrance waiting. If I was to wait with that crowd, I’d lose more than an hour of working so again I walked back to the office in frustration and decided I’d come earlier. Going back the 3rd time to pay, I was there by 8:30 a.m. only to be told the offices open at 9 a.m. I couldn’t stand around for another 30 minutes considering I’d left work. Can you spell F.R.U.S.T.R.A.T.I.O.N

A dasher. No, this is not Emily.

A dasher. No, this is not Emily.

Enter dash2do.com. You sign up, you load your account with some money from your debit/credit card, and then you can request for errand doers – stating the errand the amount you are willing to offer. Someone is assigned to the errand, and give you a call. You also get a text telling you who has been assigned. That’s how Emily from dash2do.com contacted me and finally sorted out this lining up to pay business. I was so relieved. Now to wait for about two weeks to go pick the certificate. I also had many other errands which she ran satisfactorily for me.

Once a task is complete, you go back to the dash2do.com website and pay the agreed amount. They also offer other services like phone tracking, luggage keeping etc.

Old Mutual

I am trying to invest. I know, I also laugh at the joke that is that statement. This means if there’s anything left in my account at the end of the month, I try to siphon it off to these guys, they have this fund which you can top up with any amount from 1,000. You can top up via M-Pesa or through bank deposits (scan and send the slip after depositing). You can liquidate any time. Although you can’t check statements online on the website, they are sent to me via email. The fund manager is available via email for any discussions etc.

Free Old Mutual Calendar

Free Old Mutual Calendar

I got a free calendar when I signed :) I keep it on my workspace.

P.S.

All these guys I’ve mentioned should pay me for marketing them :) Tell me you’re not convinced

Here and There: A Random Tuesday

So this past Saturday (the 23rd) was my 23rd birthday. Girls should not say their age, or weight. I’m willing to divulge my age though. Lemme share a few photos from that day, I had invited a few friends for a swimming day out.

Some friends and I swimming, in the deep end just so you know!

The cake, courtsey of many friends, Monch, Tristar4, TheKayrich and WallyB among them. Notice the name, it's like no one even uses my real name anymore!

Now this post is titled Tuesday and that’s what I’ll talk about. I kept checking my email every few minutes. I had attended an interview more than a week ago and I’d made a number of applications here and there and was hoping for some good news.

I know some people may be wondering about the number of interviews (two work interviews so far) I seem to have attended, but sometimes though you’re brilliant and talented, you can’t work anywhere. There is a right place, right time for you. Anyway, Tuesday morning I had yet another interview, this one work-related too.I’m expecting positive results as always.

I was back in town around noon and had to follow up on a registration hitch with KASNEB for my brother, who was reporting for his first day of campus. I wonder if I’ve inspired him to start blogging? He has five years of campus ahead of him.

As I passed by Agha Khan Walk in Nairobi, I couldn’t help but notice the number of (idle) people sitting on the raised ledge keenly watching anyone passing by. I managed to take a photo somehow, without anyone realizing it:

Notice the people seated, waiting for any object of interest to pass by. Usually, anyone walking past is an object of interest!

If you’ve had a busy up and down day in Nairobi during this hot weather season, you’ll know Githurai is not the place for a stopover on the way home. I tend to make fun of Githurai much, must be something to do with us being neighbours! Anyway, as I said earlier we buy some vegetables from this riot of a place and I told the driver of the matatu that I would be making a stopover.

“Uko sure ni Githu?” He asked, disbelieving.

I was seated in front with the driver and one other passenger so I was dealing with him directly, unlike when you sit at the back of the matatu and you have to poke (literally) the conductor so he can tap the matatu three times (more or less) then the driver knows to stop at the next stage.

I told the driver that yes, I was sure. I asked him why he didn’t believe I wanted to stop at Githurai.

“We hukai mtu wa Githurai…” – You don’t look like a Githurai person.

I was flattered. It meant I throw these middle-to-upper class vibes, which is a good thing when you have hopes of becoming East Africa’s president in 2032. People will not vote for a poor person! Okay, maybe they will but who doesn’t want people to think they’re rich even when you have no cent to your name?

I told him I was merely stopping over to buy some stuff and he nodded in understanding, saying Githurai people look more like him! Never mind Githurai and Kahawa Estates join somewhere, providing a smooth transition between the hoods.

There was a traffic cop at the stage and the driver had to stop some distance ahead. I can bet the matatu was violating all kinds of rules, from loud music to no speed governer.

I got home to no electricity and a phone with low battery. If you’re as addicted to my phone as I am, you become religious and pray earnestly for the electricity to come back. As I waited for my prayers to be answered, I got a new email in my inbox. It was from Strathmore University.

I had applied for a scholarship being offered by Safaricom, for a new Master of Science program in Telecommunications Innovation and Development that will be conducted at Strathmore Univeristy. I’ll blog more about it later. It was an acceptance email! I start my MSc next week.

The first good news in some time.

The downside is I had to postpone (hopefully) an internship opportunity with ILRI in Ethiopia. I was so looking forward to working in an international research organisation, going to the country directly north of us and having some shisha during my free time (why lie!). Ethiopia will have to wait till another time.

Looks like I’m going to be a student again!

Here and There: A Random Thursday

On Thursday morning, I went to a job interview. I woke up very early, probably the earliest I’ve woken up in a month so I could beat the traffic and arrive at Westlands in time. I think the interview went well, I don’t want to write about it in case I jinx it!

I’ve decided my two financial goals this year are to raise money for a motorbike and college applications. I’m looking for a university to do my graduate studies next year, and so far all applications must be accompanied by an application fee of not less than 100 dollars/euros/pounds. So if you intend to apply to 10 universities… do the math! Don’t even get me started on the tuition fees! As for the motorbike, I want something that costs 60-80K. Something gisty, and awesome.

A job will definitely come in handy!

Back in town, I ran into a former primary school classmate! It’s been about 10 years since I last saw her but she hasn’t changed a bit. She didn’t recognize me so that should tell you I did the changing for both of us! I remember she was one of the cool girls back then, I think I became one of her entourage! There was also another girl who was part of the sidekick group. One day, the popular girl went home sick and I was mean to the other sidekick. I still feel a bit guilty to this day, I hope she forgot about it!

We exchanged numbers and went on with our lives. We’ll probably never call each other unless there is need to. Life happens.

My Lunch

I had lunch with a friend at The Savanna Lounge on Loita Street. I thought about becoming an restaurant reviewer, but I’ll start next time. Just know sandwiches, served with fries, are recommended. Don’t try the mocktails, don’t let the menu scare you (it’s a dirty laminated thing), and the service is average. Food is good. The Mango juice is awesome. The coffee too.

The Savannah Lounge Menu. It probably doesn't look too bad in this photo but it's rough around the edges

As I walked towards my stage, I saw this sign at the JKUAT (my alma mater) town campus:

Loanding zone? Seriously! Loanding zone! Still can't get over that. Loanding zone!

Bro’s Lunch

I went back home around 4pm, met my brother who was coming back from KCA where he does his accounting studies. He tells me that for lunch, he went to Area 4. That’s at Mathare North behind KCA. He doesn’t think he’ll go back there but the food is at its cheapest! One big 30cm in diameter chapatti, costing 15bob. The second one is discounted at 10bob. You have this with some kind stew. Avoid the Mix. The Mix is a mixture of all kinds of soups and vegetables.

Mum is Back Home

We live not too far from the main road, and not too far from Githurai either. We live at Kahawa Wendani (or Barracks since there’s an army base here.) This building (see below) always fascinates me. This is not where we live though, I don’t know who would want to live there!

Weird building in Kahawa Wendani. I would love to know its architect.

Anyway, whenever mum wants to go grocery shopping, she goes to Githurai. If you can avoid the stench of rotting vegetables, mass of humanity and vehicles, dust/mad depending on the season, then you are going to buy the freshest and cheapest groceries in Nairobi. Traders from other estates come to Githurai for their supplies.

Whenever she comes back with a big paper bag of groceries and/or sweet potatoes, bananas, maize etc she calls whoever is at home to go to the stage and help her carry the luggage. This time, my bro and I reluctantly walked to the stage and there she was, with a whole bunch of green bananas.

She had a bunch exactly like this

After hurriedly crossing the dangerous and very wide Thika road, we decided to give someone the porting job. My bro gestured this street kid who sniffing glue and watching us. We gave him 20bob for just a short distance, less than 100m. On reaching the stairs of our apartment block, he dropped the bunch and walked off! I knew we shouldn’t have trusted him.

60 Seconds With Savvy Kenya

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

At first I wanted to be a pilot. When I was a kid, I used to watch the planes high in the sky, sometimes they left a trail of smoke behind, and think how I want to be high up in the clouds like them. Sad I’ve never actually flown, huh?

Then I went to school and I wanted to be a teacher.

Later, in primary school, I wanted to be a doctor/lawyer/engineer. It changed depending on who was asking me the question, but my heart wasn’t really in it. Though I remember Regine Re on Ommo Pick a Box, that program that used to air on KBC? My mum told me she’s an electrical engineer and for a while I wanted to be one.

Much later, in class six, I read Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands and I wanted to become a neurosurgeon. Tell me you didn’t dream of separating some Siamese twins after reading that book.

In short, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I was young. I was fickle.

Now I still have ambitions of being a world renowned novelist and a sports journalist so I can attend a world cup sponsored by my media house, of course.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

What’s the worst that could happen if you tried?

What’s the best piece of advice you ever gave?

If it was meant to be, it will. No point worrying about things you can’t control. Do what you can, you’ll know you did your best.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

Let’s say I’m currently jobless but we can talk about my most recent job. I was working with kids and I realized I’m not as bad with kids as I thought. I don’t mean babies and toddlers, but 9-15 year olds.

Oh, let’s not forget Friday afternoons. They were the best days in the office.

Who would you most like to have dinner with?

Paul Kagame. I got a number of questions to ask him, there was never time to talk a lot when I first met him.

Who is your role model?

This is a hard one. Most people just say their parents but it’s just an easy way out for answering this question. My parents inspire me, they really do. They both come from extremely humble backgrounds and they do the best for us. Wangari Mathai is another one, she’s my hero! Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and came out with no bitterness, I don’t understand it! I’m not even 27 yet! There are many unsung heroes, people whose stories you’ll never see aired on CNN, let alone any local news channel, whom I look at every day and wish I could somehow acquire part of their character.

I had a role model when I was young, an older family friend. I went to the same primary school she went to, followed in her footsteps to the national secondary school she went, got the same grade in the secondary exam! She went to Moi University and got a first class honours degree in engineering. I went to JKUAT and got a first class honours degree in computer science. I guess you could say she’s one of my role models.

Another person who I’ve never met in person but inspires me online is Grace Mwaura. Google her!

There is no one person who is my role model; there are many from whom I’d like to copy some part of the character and somehow assimilate it in me. There is no space to name them all.

If you could be one person for a day, who would that be?

Barrack Obama. I would love to know how being the president of one of the world’s most powerful countries feels like. I hope no one tries to assassinate me while at it! Perhaps I would then get a chance to influence and change people’s lives in a big way. A lot can be done in a day!

Work, Love and Life: Rwanda so far

I did not come to Rwanda to look for love (love looks for me, I do not look for it), neither did I come to start a pimping business or to look for wives for my Kenyan friends. I came to work. So please, stop asking me if Rwandese women are as beautiful as the myth goes? Okay, let me be polite and answer that. A few women are beautiful, most of them are average, and a few are er….a little below average. It’s the normal curve, nothing skewed towards the right (meaning most people are beautiful). Also, for the ladies, kindly don’t ask me how the men are, for reasons mentioned above :-D

Back to serious business. I’m living at a guest house (you know, like those lodges in Naivasha) so my new quarters are a big room with a bed, table and chair, two easy chairs and comfortable bathroom. Comfortable meaning plenty of space, and separate shower and toilet. It’s done with an African theme, if there’s something like that. The few hangings on the wall, the containers made from banana/fiber weaving etc. Breakfast is a part of accommodation, and I can also eat lunch/supper here at my own cost.

A view of my room, this is a part of the guest house am staying at.

A view of my room, this is a part of the guest house am staying at.

 

Julie (my boss) with Percy (the guest house owner's 14 year old son)

Julie (my boss) with Percy (the guest house owner’s 14 year old son)

Rwanda is a beautiful country, but it’s just starting out. You know the way in Kenya there are many ATMs sprinkled all over? Well, I learnt that ATMs are limited here and withdrawing via ATM is expensive. I’m living in Musanze Town, which is quite far from Kigali and there are many services which we have to drive down to Kigali for, not just banking.

This town is clean and very well organized. There are rows upon rows of new buildings, beautiful houses surrounded by brick fences that I learned are a requirement. If you cannot build a good house with a good fence, then you’re forced to sell your plot.

 

The Main Street (don't know the name yet) in Musanze Town. I walk clean streets like this everyday to work, for about 10min

The Main Street (don’t know the name yet) in Musanze Town. I walk clean streets like this everyday to work, for about 10min

The first evening after work, Julie took me to meet some of her friends: Jan, who’s a gorilla doctor (cool job, innit?) and Valerie (she works with local committees and some tourism group, I think). I had fun with these ladies, and though the only common thing we may have had is that Rwanda is not our home country, I think we could be good friends in the end.

Yesterday, we passed by the Gorilla Lodge just next to my guest house: they have this beautiful swimming pool and I think I may have found my Sat/Sun afternoon pastimes. Have a look:

 

The Gorilla Lodge swimming pool

The Gorilla Lodge swimming pool

There are other guests that come and go, like yesterday there was this American family with a really hot son who looked about my age. (He had long hair). But you know, I’m still new and it was just all round conversation at supper time, who knows? ;-)

As I finish my second day at work, I have a feeling that my stay here will be worth it.

P.S. There is a Pizza place just walking distance from here and I’ve been looking for someone to play pool with.

I also noticed a chess board at the guest house and can’t wait to play.

Finally in Rwanda: Kampala to Kigali

The journey from Kampala to Kigali was uneventful, if by uneventful you mean we stopped several times on the way, picking up loud women and dropping them again somewhere ahead. The bus was delayed by almost two hours (this is the last time am riding Akamba), and it was not as comfortable as the one from Nairobi to Kampala. Since it was not full, the driver and conductor took it upon themselves to operate like a matatu (taxi), picking up random passengers, which means instead of riding express to the border, we stopped several times. A journey that was to take 9 hours took….14!

We stopped at Mbarara for a while, and of course long lines of passengers at the washrooms was expected. There were only two stalls for ladies and one sink at the highway motel/hotel. There’s this woman who’d made it there first, so she was washing her hands at the sink when I arrived. There were like 5 other people waiting to use that tap, from which there was a trickle of water. She proceeded to take her time…even washing her armpits in the process.

Okay, I understand, Mbarara was very hot that afternoon. But emerging from the washroom with even wetter underarms didn’t make much sense. She probably has never heard of wet wipes or deodorant. By this time, some ladies waiting to use the sink had become impatient and they left…I don’t know if they eventually found another tap elsewhere or they decided to go commando.

We were arriving at the border at 6.30 p.m., East Africa Time. (You’ll see the relevance of specifying which time zone it ahead.) I had told my boss, who’d arranged for me to be picked from the bus terminus, that I’d be arriving at 8 p.m. We reached Kigali at 9.30 p.m., and I was afraid I had made them wait for long, when I was told it was 8.30 p.m. Rwanda is one hour behind the rest of EA (except Burundi, which should be in the same time zone as Rwanda) and was glad I had told them 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

Piece of advice: you do not want to use the toilets at the border. Please don’t make me describe them.

Towards the border, the land became hillier and hillier, and though we arrived at night, I confirmed that indeed, the whole of Rwanda is hilly. It’s known as the country of a thousand hills, Olivier told me. He (chief of staff, I think that’s his title), Valerie (executive assistant to the boss) and the driver (am so bad with names) came to pick me up from the stage. They greeted me enthusiastically, took my bags, said how happy they were to see me, told me they’d expected a much bigger person and generally made me feel very welcome.

I had no problems crossing the border, but I was later informed that if you are coming to work in Rwanda, you need a work visa. Wait a minute, I thought it was not necessary for Kenyans to get visas to work in Rwanda and vice versa? Turns out you do need the work permit and I will have to apply for one at the Immigration department in Kigali.

From Kigali, we stopped at some township (did I say am bad with names?) where I had supper. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet place, you pay and then serve yourself. I took some matoke (at least am familiar with those), vegetables and a roasted sweet potato. Fanta Orange to top it up. You think that’s too much? Nah, I wish I had a camera then. Guys (thin guys, fat guys, short guys, tall guys, short thin guys..) piled their plates up high and then topped it up with a 72CL beer (am guessing somewhere around 750ml). Rwandans bottle their beer in these huge bottles, I think you just need to have one for the night. They’re lovely people though…I could be indistinguishable from them, Oliver told me, if only I spoke Kinyarwanda. You know what they say about Rwandese women…they’re beautiful, so if Oliver thinks I look like one of them…

 

A 720ml beer

A 720ml beer

 

I’ll be working in Musanze town, 2 hours out of Kigali. The road leading here is a meander up the hills. I’m so excited to start working…got lodging at a guest house, where I should be staying for the next three months, if everything goes according to plan. The owner of the b/b guest house is a lovely lady called Elaine with these three dogs that like me, and I like them back.

That is how Tuesday morning finds me: having had breakfast, arranged my room (might put up pictures later), charged my phone, made calls and texted back home to say how am settling down, set up my speakers (only to find I forgot to bring the cable connecting comp and speaker) and having read half of “On Black Sisters’ Street”, a novel given by a friend.

Tuesday afternoon, I’ll take a walk to the offices and get introduced around. I live walking distance to the office, how cools is that?

Rwanda As I hear Of It

This is the first post in this blog. I used to blog over at the Diary of a Kenyan Campus Girl but then I finished campus on 17th Dec, 2010. Technically, it was on 16th but I left on the 17th, never more a campus girl.

Lucky me, I don’t have to tarmac in January looking for a job, I already have one. In Rwanda. How I got it? Story for another day. Meanwhile, here is what everyone has been telling me about it:

Map of Rwanda

Map of Rwanda

Whenever I mention I’m going to be working in Rwanda in Jan, I always receive some sort of information or advice from people who’ve never been there. They don’t even know it’s now part of East Africa, and I don’t need a work permit to work there, or a visa to visit. Anyway, here is what I hear, from those who’ve been there as well:

it’s very beautiful, green etc. I have to see this for myself. I hear Kigali is really clean too.

The people are friendly. I think Kenyans are the most ‘hostile’ of the 5 EA countries.

The cost of living is very high. A classmate who did his ‘internship’ in Rwanda told me something that costs 10bob here costs 20bob there because of transportation costs. Rwanda is landlocked, FYI, and they import their stuff through Kenya and Tanzania and I don’t know where else. So he told me to buy everything I needed before I travel. Everything? Well, seems like I may have to travel with some shopping from here.

They speak French mostly. Though Rwanda is changing its official language from French to English, most of Rwandans don’t know English yet. And their Kiswahili is a bit strange, hard to understand. Since I don’t know French (well, I know bonjour and Je t’aime but not enough to ask for directions), it seems am doomed. My classmate told me he used to speak Kikuyu. Apparently, since Kinyarwanda is bantu and Kikuyu is bantu, you have a better chance of being understood that way. It’s hard to bargain for stuff or pay in a public bus or order for food but I will survive. (Cue for Gloria somebody’s I’ll survive song)

Theirs is a French culture. So they only eat once a day (so I heard). Breakfast could be coffee or a glass or milk, but lunch, which is the main meal, is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Then supper is something light. I could live with that.

Kenyans hang out at Carwash. Just hop onto a motorcycle, and ask to be dropped off at Carwash and you’ll find company with whom you have much in common.

Nakumatta Kigali is alcohol-friendly. You can buy liquor and drink it right there, a cool area has been set aside for you to sit and drink away.