I’ve a Split Personality

I’ve been away from our African home for 3 weeks now and I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve got what used to be called a split personality, now it’s known as having a Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Here’s one definition:

‘dissociative identity disorder is a severe form of dissociation, a mental process which produces a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity’ (webmd.com)

Most of us turn towards Hollywood on this issue where we see someone suddenly transform into a totally different person and go ‘Oh, they have a split personality’.

Why on Earth would I confess to this?

It’s quite easy really. I was in the car with Pete and we agreed that we felt like fish out of water in a country that we call our ‘other home’. Sure, we hold an NZ passport but it doesn’t make us Kiwis. We are a mixed breed – born in New Zealand, spent a good number of years in Australia but Kenya feels more home than any other place.

tea 2

This does not taste like Kenyan tea.

We literally have to speak a different language, dress differently and act differently. I still get shocked that there is no place in cafes to wash your hands before you eat. It rains here A LOT and it’s the coldest we’ve been in a long time. Temperature wise it’s not that cold but it’s a chill that goes to the bones.

It’s almost like we have to put away our ‘Africa lifestyle’ and pretend that we belong here.

But there’s this tugging of a war inside of me. I’ve adapted and become someone else who doesn’t fit in here, I’m just pretending. I feel like the real me is waiting back in Nairobi.

It’s not that I’m not making the most of it, it just feels weird. I’m loving time with family and the food here is phenomenal, there’s no doubt about that. When I’m skyping my team back home I can slide back into my comfort zone. Even after a few weeks of being away, I feel like there’s a strong pull to East Africa while here I am not connected to much Kiwiana at all.

So what’s the answer?

I think I will embrace my very different ‘mes’, while I’m full on Kiwi on the outside, on the inside I’m very Kenyan. I’ll keep speaking English out loud and Swahili in my head. I’ll use knife and fork with my chicken here but gladly use fingers in Kenya.  I’ll get to understand how this new country of mine (for 2 months) works and then miss the simplicity of it when I return home.

sevens

And yes, the Kenyans beat the Kiwis in the sevens.

When you see me, feel free to say ‘habari za asubuhi’ (good morning) and you will make my day, but I warn you, my Kenyan side might come out in full swing!

 

 

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Peperuka

Peperuka – ‘to soar’ in Swahili.

I met the founder of this company a couple of years ago at a Christmas market in Nairobi. I had seen their tee shirts around town and was rapt to be able to get Liz a tee shirt that said ‘I love Nairobi’. The shirt has done her well but since Liz has lost weight, it’s time to downsize.

pillow

Wherever I go, I’m always grabbing business cards of interesting people, because you never know when you’ll need them. I’m constantly on the lookout for guest speakers at a program I’m involved in called The Girl Project. While my team does the majority of work, my role is to make sure there is an interesting speaker to inspire the girls. To say they are from disadvantaged situations is an understatement.

These students live in a 3 by 3 metre tin shack in the Kibera Slum. Their parents (mostly single mums) struggle to earn $5 a day. The girls often leave home at 5.30 in the morning for school and don’t get home until 7pm. We created The Girl Project not only to make sure they get sanitary products, but leadership and mentoring by Kenyan businesswomen.

Hence – Peperuka.

Why I love their work, is that they are proudly Kenyan – Africa is their home and want to show the inspirational side of it through design and clothing. I also like how they don’t compromise on quality. Too many times here I’ve seen second class quality on goods and it frustrates me, because it doesn’t have to be this way. I heard someone run a quote that went something along the lines of ‘We won’t see change until we as Kenyans stop accepting that we are worthy of only being second class’.

wangari

I agree. I’m always telling our students ‘if you want to be treated first class, you have to be thinking first class, cause our actions come out of our thoughts’.

Just last weekend we have the founder of Peperuka, Wangari and one of her team, Mary come and speak to our girls. I think it was the most impacting message the students had heard for a long time. It wasn’t just about the design and clothing industry, it was about lessons they had learnt in their own personal lives. Making the right choices can have a HUGE impact on our lives.

gp-mary

I wish people in the West could get a real picture of some of the amazing people we have here in Kenya. Unfortunately, good news doesn’t sell. I am privileged to be able to meet these people and I am proud to share about them.

When you see me this year, you’ll see me wearing some of the tee shirts made by Peperuka. I love their work and I think you should too!

One Dollar At A Time

Here in Kenya we have plenty of opportunity to help people out. There are the beggars, the disabled sitting in wheelchairs and then those selling goods at the side of the road.

There are a couple of people who have stuck out here.

One of them is a man in a wheelchair who had his legs amputated from the knees down. He sits each day at the corner by a small shopping centre. He has children (we see them from time to time) and one of the world’s biggest smiles. He’s polite and doesn’t beg for cash but you can tell he’s in need.

Unfortunately there’s no disability support pension here for people like this man. They are totally reliant on having their families support them. Every now and then when we go past his spot we drop in 100 shillings, worth about $1. More than that though, we stop for a chat and ask him how he and is family is. It gives him respect that he is of value and not simply because he needs money.

A couple of weeks ago I met the most wonderful lady. Each day she stands by the road we take to work. She is there early in the morning till it starts to get dark. She has a baby strapped to her back. She holds out her right hand for the entire time, in it she has a bag of blue sweets for sale. I don’t know how much she sells them for but probably only for a shilling or two. I don’t know this lady’s name but I really admire her.

On either side of her stand men selling DVD’s, posters, flowers and the matatus (vans moving masses of people) and buses throwing out diesel fumes.

I admire her because she’s not waiting for her situation to change, she is changing her situation, one shilling at a time.

I am more than happy once a week to drop 100 shillings into her hand. I usually ask for a couple of sweets so it doesn’t look like I do it out of pity. No, I do it in admiration.

You might say that it’s only the odd dollar, what difference can it make? But to these 2 people it means they can buy some flour and make ugali that night. It means that they have something to put towards their rent. Or it may mean they can afford to buy one jerry can of water.

Even though our personal support level is short by about $1,000 per month, I’m not going to let it stop me being generous. These two people inspire me to keep going even when it all seems a bit much.

My next step is to get to know their names.

Tell me about someone who has inspired you lately.