(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Little Accident

I’ve been in Nairobi a bit over a month now. It’s been a packed four weeks of orientations, training, courtesy visits, etc. I haven’t actually been able to spend too much time in my office. But it’s been good to learn the new context and meet a lot of the key people involved.
My family is still in Burundi. I’ve been here without them, relying on skype calls to stay in touch. It’s not fun but it was a decision we made that makes sense given the situation. The girls will be able to stay in school and transfer during a break. I can focus on the complex new job. The apartment that we found will not be ready for another week and delaying the family’s arrival will mean that they can move directly into our new home without needing to move from temporary accommodations and then to the new place. So yes, it makes sense but it’s been less than fun to be without my girls. And my poor wife has been shouldering the parenting and the final move preparations for the most part by herself.
In any case, the full transition to Nairobi will come soon enough. I take things as they come.
On Wednesday evening I had a bit of a scare. It’s a long story but shortly before going to bed I accidentally broke a window and cut my wrist pretty badly. Blood was flowing out of the wound and it looked like something you’d see in a horror film. I held my hand high in the air in an effort to get the bleeding to stop, or at least slow down. I tried creating a tourniquet out of a small towel but it didn’t work well. In the meantime I was getting blood all over the sink, the walls, the floor and myself. It actually looked pretty horrifying and I started to get nervous that I might be in serious trouble. I had no first aid kit and no bandages or disinfectant in the house. I decided to use a hair band with some tissues to keep a large flap of skin in place and eventually was able to get the bleeding to stop. At that point I sat in bed to rest a minute, looking around at the bloody mess I’d created.

Exhausted from a busy day, a workout and then this incident, I propped up my arm so that it remained elevated and sat down on the bed. Around that time Priya called and I recounted my little mishap. She reminded me that there was a 24-hr. pharmacy not far away and I could walk over and get some proper bandages and so forth. I had heard two gun shots not far away a few minutes before and decided that, given the bleeding had subsided, I would wait and go in the morning. As I was falling asleep, I hoped that I wouldn’t wake to bloody sheets.
Fortunately my ghetto wrap worked and the next morning I was off to get proper care for my wound. It was a Kenyan holiday so I was fortunate that I didn’t need to go to into the office. I still intended on working but given that the wound was on my left wrist, I was unable to write or type. In the end it didn’t matter because, on top of the injury, I began to feel sick. For the rest of the day (yesterday) I was spending my time in bed with the chills and making periodic trips to the loo. Throbbing pain in my wrist. At one point in the afternoon I found another shard of glass in my hand. Basically nothing was good about the day.
an ad as I opened a magazine last night
This morning I redressed my wound. It’s still quite gross to look at (I took a photo soon after the incident but have decided that it’s a bit too disgusting to post) but the pain was less and my hand was working normally with no swelling or discoloration. My stomach flu, or whatever it was, had subsided as well so I was starting to feel functional again. I knew the cleaning lady was coming so I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any broken glass around that she might accidentally step on. As I looked at the hole that I’d made in the window I noticed that some of my arm hair was wedged into the remaining cracks in the glass. Kinda gross. But I realize that I am very fortunate. It could have been much, much worse.
I’m in the office now. I can type and sign my name (important in my job). I was able to watch part of Boise State beating BYU (barely). Things are looking up.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Move

So yes, the move. As for the new job, I’m overseeing our program in Somalia, based in Nairobi. The expression that often comes to mind is “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. It may be the case but I’m actually quite happy so far and now that I’ve been through a lot of briefings and security training, it seems to be a good fit. The staff have been very welcoming and all indication is that they are quite talented, both those based in Nairobi and those in Somalia. I will be taking trips periodically into various parts of the country and I look forward to seeing the good work we are doing. The first trip will likely be in the next couple of weeks.
the best finance controller, Schofield, day before leaving
Though there are drastic differences between the two contexts, there are some interesting comparisons that can be made between Burundi and Somalia. Both have populations that are around 10m people. Both were launch into nasty, protracted civil wars in the early nineties until about ten years ago. Both generated hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries (Burundi of course was able to get the refugees back into the country by 2012 only to have a security nose dive last year to quickly generate another quarter million displaced. Somalia’s are mostly still in exile but the announced closure of the largest Somali refugee camp may start generating large numbers of returnees over the next couple of years).  Both countries are still dealing with the legacy of these conflicts – though Somalia seems to be making more of an effort to move on. Time will tell.

looking older than her five years
There are obviously some stark differences as well. Somalia has generated some international interest for geopolitical reasons. Burundi has made little headway in this regard. No oil. Few minerals. No bastion of international terrorism. Not much to make Western countries devote serious resources to fix the problem.
my new office, nothing like my old one (top left)
Somalia’s power has traditionally been based on a complex clan system. That system of elders and traditional leaders is the basis upon which a parliamentary government is being overlaid. I don’t understand the context well yet but it seems that many would like to see the clan structure completely supplanted by a federal parliamentary system but it seems that such a profound change may take a generation (or two). Expectations will need to be realistic, particularly with other challenges plaguing the country such as drought, Al-Shebaab and, more recently, ISIS.
view of downtown from my office
While most bilateral aid has been suspended for Burundi’s government, aid is increasing for Somalia. It seems unfair that Burundi, the hungriest country on the planet, is receiving so little humanitarian attention. I will no doubt continue to follow the situation, even though I move on.