Jambooooo! (‘Hello’ in Kiswahili).

Moving into a new country always has its up’s and downs. On one hand, you get to experience a new culture, meet a new set of people, explore a new city or town, but on the other end, you also make a lot of mistakes while starting over in a new country. I did make some highly expensive mistakes when I moved into Philadelphia for college, which I could have avoided if I had somebody around to guide me, or just by being in the company of a person doing the same thing as me.

I was anxious when I landed in the Jomo Kenyatta airport at 8 PM in the night, on the 18th of May, 2018. I had memorized a few basic phrases in Kiswahili, just to get around, but to my surprise, everybody spoke fluent English, and there were no challenges in communication. All I remember was reaching home, meeting the landlord and crashing on my bed after an 18-hour journey. This was a Friday. Next morning, I was greeted by the landlady for breakfast, Dhoklas (Indian savory dish) and hot chai (tea) and I was ecstatic to see authentic Indian food after a year. A sumptuous breakfast and a conversation in Hindi, watching Bollywood movies on the couch, with an occasional pampering of food mainly, ghee laddoos (an Indian sweet) completely made my weekend.

I arrived at the office at 8 AM, and I was greeted by my Manager for the internship and two other colleagues, who had interviewed me through Skype. I was shown my desk and was guided through the main office for brief introductions. Once this was done, I was called for a meeting within an hour where my scope of work for three months was finalized. I understood that I would be working on 4 different projects as follows –

  1. Conduct a literature survey and help in preparation of a concept note for the effect of parental involvement in the early childhood program.
  2. Participate in data mining and analysis to identify trends in existing data from 2016-2018 that will inform the quality of teacher training.
  3. Conduct classroom support and observations by accompanying visits to different counties of Kenya.
  4. Assist in the material development and curriculum development for the project comprising of teacher guides and student books.

I got a flavor of all the above verticals in my week 1. The organization has been extremely prompt in sharing with me relevant documents and patient in answering all my questions regarding my role in the project.

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Pre-primary classroom observation using a tablet

I am happy to say that I have been quite busy in the first week preparing my literature survey, identifying key variables and relevant indicators for data mining (Thanks, to Dr.Thapa), I have also visited one classroom in parklands, Nairobi to understand the context of students and teachers, where I was able to give feedback to the teacher (Thanks to my Teach for India fellowship experience), and, I was able to use my photoshop skills to assist in the design of materials such as teacher guides (Thanks to Dr.GK, for the curriculum class). At the end of each week, I am asked to submit a weekly progress report, and I was glad to see the amount of work I had done in just Week 1!

Ending Week 1 on a high note, my biggest realization has been that the mistakes that I thought I will make when I enter a new country, have somehow been inadvertently avoided because of the wonderful people I have met. My supportive colleagues in the organization, my lovely roommate, the warmth of the family that I stay with, and the proud People of Kenya have supported me greatly in the past week to make my ‘moving-in’ seem hassle-free and devoid of expensive mistakes.

Asante Sana, Kenya! ( ‘Thanks a lot” in Kiswahili)