Monday, December 16, 2013

Expat in Nairobi

I hadn't been looking for a job in Kenya. But when the opportunity to relocate to Kenya to work for my favorite social venture startup came up, I found myself saying "yes" without hesitation.

I became a US expat this past February, when Nairobi became my home. My roommates were from Canada, Colombia, India, Italy, Pakistan, and the US. One housemate founded a social venture, others worked for social ventures or nonprofits. Some were consultants. A few were grad students.

This was my Nairobi. Home of startups, the Nairobi Buddhist Temple, and a tightly knit young expat community. The place where I learned precisely how American I am, to speak a little Swahili under the duress of my colleagues, that simply widening your eyes means "yes", that informal settlements (some people call them "slums") are not sad places, the value of self-confidence, high speed internet, clean air, and piped water in my home, the joy of swimming through coral reefs, how to make my own vegan soup broth, and what "bad traffic" and "the rainy season" really feels like.

Social Enterprise Happy Hour at iHub, Nairobi Buddhist Temple, Kawangware informal settlement, Kenyan coast.

While those nine months in Nairobi were invaluable, I decided to leave Nairobi after the September 21 Westgate mall terrorist attack. With limited public space options, Nairobi residents relax at the upscale shopping malls on the weekends. I lived three miles from the Westgate mall.

A public thank you to everyone who has supported me through all of my adventures. My year as an Expat in Nairobi wouldn't have been possible without you.

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