Last Week in Kenya

Last weekend, we went to Zanzibar, and where we snorkeled, played beach volleyball, learned some Kiswahili, among other things. It was relaxing and a nice break from our work. We also visited the historic Stone Town and drove around the city soaking in all the beauty.

Zanzibar

Sunset in Zanzibar

For this week in Kenya, we are focusing on the project report and other final deliverables due for GAP and the client. We went to the client location to gather some final data that would be helpful for our project. Most of the other days, we are either working from the guest house or the ‘Java House’ (café shop near our accommodation).

We met Doctor Dennis, who works with the Client, and received his assistance filtering through some of the data resources to arrive at relevant and useful information. He was busy last week conducting vaccination drives with the government. Similarly, we also interviewed David and Sammy, who have worked closely on the product to understand their perspective on how things should move forward. I feel it is always important to take suggestions and inputs from the actual stakeholders as they are the ones who will work on the project long term. If they don’t feel committed to the ideas and recommendations, and if they don’t feel a part of the solution process, there is a higher probability of these recommendations not being implemented.

We designed the PackH2O manufacturing process based on the cycle times that we calculated. We produced a concept layout for the complete manufacturing process of the product that utilizes all resources the most efficiently. Simultaneously, we have carried forward inputs from last year’s GAP team and built a cost model structure for the manufacturing process. We have also developed a model to analyze the cost savings to the government through the distribution and use of our product.

Through our conversations, we learned that many similar programs use music concerts and skits to create awareness about diseases and their prevention. This was interesting as I have seen similar drives in India, too. We also learned more about the client’s social media presence and how they were effectively using the different channels for different goals. Unlike some of the other GAP projects, we do not have to give a final, deck-style presentation to our client. Our reports will be our final deliverable.

I am flying to Dubai after this project for a couple of days before heading back to the US. My internship starts a week after. I am sure I will be using some of the things I learned in Kenya in my career. There is so much more to see in Kenya and Africa; I am sure I will be returning back soon. So until next time… Kwaheri!

From Masai Mara to Uber

It’s fortunate (and perhaps a bit selfish) that I elected to write the cultural blog post this week. I’ll report on our African safari experience – certainly the highlight of my trip so far, and I think my group members would agree.

I admit that when I learned I was traveling to Africa for GAP, some of my first thoughts ran to animals and safari.  After all, it’s not every day that you’re in the heart of Africa, just hours away from some of the most beautiful creatures, in some of the most pristine environments, on the planet.  We agreed early that we would go on a safari, so we booked a three-day excursion to the Masai Mara in southeastern Kenya on the border of Tanzania.  Masai Mara is one of the most popular game reserves in the country, for reasons that quickly became evident — it did not disappoint.  

Simply getting to the park was an adventure in itself.  The paved road ended part-way there, so the last two-three hours of the ride were over rocky, bumpy dirt roads.  It truly felt as though we were well off the beaten path entering the wilderness.  After arriving at our camp, we immediately set out on a two hour evening tour of the park, and right away were greeted by gazelle, water buffalo, zebra, giraffes, and elephants.  It was simply amazing that, minutes after entering the game reserve, we were able to see so many animals.  However, the best part of the night was watching a pride of lions hunt and take down a water buffalo.  The action was straight out of the National Geographic channel!  Lions jumping on a buffalo, buffaloes ramming lions off the other’s back, the methodical way the lions separated the marked buffalo from the group…simply incredible.  We reflected on how lucky we were to witness this hunt, as we could probably go back ten times and not have the same opportunity.

On Saturday, we spent all day out in the rolling, tree-dotted savannahs of the Masai Mara, even crossing the Tanzanian border into the Serengeti for a time.  We saw everything – including most of the Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopard, water buffalo, and rhino).  Much of this is thanks to our driver Isaac, who was perhaps the best, most experienced guide in the park.  It was amazing how quickly he found the animals, and we were often the first vehicle to spot a rare animal.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so rather than writing further descriptions, I’ll let some of our photos do the talking:

Elephants in the Masai Mara savannah

Elephants in the Masai Mara savannah

 

Our driver Isaac spotted this cheetah before anyone else, so we got a great view

Our driver Isaac spotted this cheetah before anyone else, so we got a great view

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We saw many more lions, but this one got the closest...almost uncomfortably so, as it eyed the open top of our vehicle!

We saw many more lions, but this one got the closest…almost uncomfortably so, as it eyed the open top of our vehicle!

I hope these photos give some sense of the experience – but mere pictures do not do it justice.  A true African safari is the experience of a lifetime, and I would suggest adding it to your bucket list.  I hope to return one day and spend even more time exploring the wild landscapes of the African bush.

Shifting gears a bit, I want to take a few moments to contrast the remoteness of the Masai Mara with modern life in Nairobi.  Most of our days have been spent at the PFC house working on our project, but in the evening we have been venturing out to some great local restaurants, sampling the local fare.  We have relied on Uber to get around, and are very thankful we can count on Uber here for both safety and convenience.  The price is right as well, since most of our rides have been about 300 shillings, or 3USD. 

Tonight we leave for Zanzibar for a weekend excursion. We have booked a comfortable place and have scheduled a day out on the water.  We’re looking forward to relaxing in a beautiful tropical environment.  Stay tuned- next week I’m sure we’ll have many more stories and pictures to share! 

A visit to Marsabit

Jambo!

This is my first blog post from Kenya. Our team landed in Nairobi in waves last Saturday and were greeted by overcast and cloudy weather. The driver who picked me up told me that the monsoon was late this year. Our accommodation is in a highly secure part of Nairobi, very close to most of the foreign embassies.

We had a meeting with our client on Sunday, where we were introduced to the Kenyan Team that has been working on this project. We went through a macro level planning of our next four days in Marsabit County, which is a twelve hour drive from Nairobi.

Early Monday morning we met with about twenty student leaders and staff from Mount Kenya University who were accompanying us to Marsabit. Mount Kenya University has been helping our client with field research and support. It was great to meet and interact with some peers!

marsabit team

Most of Monday went in travelling to Marsabit. It was interesting to learn from others that over the last few years, thanks to devolution, there has been much investment made locally for building roads and infrastructure. At Marsabit, we spent the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday gathering relevant data for our project and understanding the market for water packs in these regions.

We spent the first day visiting local schools that are getting free water packs. We got to talk to many locals and understand their issues. It was an interesting day and a great way to learn more about rural Kenya.

The second day, we got a chance to go to Parkishon village, which was an hour further into the interior of the main county district. We experienced first-hand how women in these villages carry water from a usually muddy source back to their villages using jerry cans.

marsabit water pack

All five members of our team tried carrying the jerry cans and then the water packs, which  helped us better understand the product. We surveyed the villagers at Parkishon to understand the pricing and usage of jerry cans among other things. I was able to gel well and have constructive discussions with local Kenyans on various issues. I could attribute it to having lived in a developing country myself and knowing the issues faced in such places.

We also visited the Marsabit county hospital and spoke to the chief doctor there to learn about the health problems that were specific for this region. We were given access to some great data resources that should help us immensely in our project going forward. I think that our initial visit to Marsabit helped us really sink into this project and country. We now know the product and the market better.

One of the most interesting parts of my Marsabit trip was that even in these remote villages, many kids could read English and were going to school every day. We also saw that the village was being connected to the rest of Kenya by a new highway. I am positive that this country has great potential in the future and am eagerly waiting for the next two weeks to see what more surprises Kenya has to offer!

Marketing to a different culture

Personally, one of the most exciting challenges of this project was developing a marketing strategy for a culture that was entirely different and new to me. As business students and marketing majors (myself included), we have a tendency to think we have it all figured out: run a Five Forces, do a SWOT, NPV, find the competitive advantage, differentiate, add in some other random b-school buzzwords, and poof! You’re done! Looking back, it is hilarious how off-base we were in our analysis and our approach to our analysis while doing our preliminary work back in the US.

Working

In country, we quickly realized how much of what we knew (or thought we knew) about business- marketing in particular- was not useful. How do you market a product to someone who has very little disposable income (and a high month- to month variance on what disposable income they do have), no television, no computer, and limited mobile capabilities? On top of all that, how do you reach consumers who have a completely different perspective on consumerism with different priorities, characteristics, and personalities, and entirely different outlooks on life, culture, and sense of self than what we we know as Westerners?

It has been a humbling learning experience to apply our knowledge and test it against an unfamiliar market.

Kwaheri, Kenya! (Goodbye, Kenya)

Every single morning since I arrived in Kenya, I’ve woken up and thought the exact same thing: Wow, I am in Africa. Even after three weeks, it still amazes me that I am here and that I got to take part in this amazing opportunity.

At Mount Kenya University

At Mount Kenya University

The project itself was a terrific challenge to undertake. After hours of work, both staying up late and waking up early to work, I am very proud of our efforts and am confident that our client will be pleased with our deliverable.

But being in Kenya, being further out of my comfort zone than I have ever been, was what I will remember most about this adventure. As I reflect, it is hard to believe all I got to do and experience while in Kenya.

I traced the steps of village women who walk a mile and a half to collect water three times a day, and helped carry their water back to their homes using the PackH2O.

I traveled to Marsabit (twelve hrs north of Nairobi) to treat and clean the feet of children infected with parasites called Jiggers.

I went on a Safari in the Masai Mara game reserve.

Hey, whatchya guys looking at?

Hey, whatchya guys looking at?

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We tried to get a giraffe to be the I, but it wouldn’t cooperate.

I shopped in the Masai Market in downtown Nairobi.

I went to Stone Town in Zanzibar (Ok, not in Kenya, but still awesome) and snorkeling in the Indian Ocean.

Not a bad view, huh?

Not a bad view, huh?

 

OHIO in the Indian Ocean

OHIO in the Indian Ocean

IMG_2257

I want this house

Colobus Monkey!

Colobus Monkey!

I ate more meat than is ecologically responsible at Carnivore.

And best of all, I met some of the most wonderful people in the world. Of all the things I am going to miss in Kenya, these Partners for Care guys take the cake. We have lived with them, learned from them, worked with them, and played with them. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and their friendship.

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These guys! Haven’t left yet as of this writing, but I already miss them.

I don’t know what’s left to say other than I am incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity and will never forget this experience. I hope to keep in touch with everyone I met in Kenya, and stay involved with PackH2O. It was an amazing product to work on and I hope the team’s work will be put to good use.

 

Trip to Downtown Nairobi

Last Monday May 18th Akshay and I went on a trip to Downtown Nairobi. The purpose of the trip was to explore the textile retail market and assess the availability of several components required to assemble the PackH2O in Kenya. We were also interested in obtaining information about industrial sewing machine retail prices.

Google Maps™ told us that it would take approximately 21 minutes to get there. Ha! The Mountain View giant had it all wrong. It took us about one and a half hours just to get to River Road, the major textile retailing zone in Downtown Nairobi. The traffic is extremely heavy, and it is advisable to plan trips adding approximately one hour or more to the standard itinerary.

Map

What Google thinks does not matter!

 

George from Partners for Care drove us with his characteristic “defensive” driving style, zigzagging through thousands of cars, SUVs and most of all, “Matatus”, the Kenyan colloquial name for their public buses. Matatus are really peculiar, colorful, highly decorated and personalized vehicles. Most of them include paintings of American pop culture stars or famous local slogans and sayings.

Traffic is 98,37% matatus

Traffic is 98,37% matatus, or at least that’s what I think!

Typical traffic in Nairobi

Typical traffic in Nairobi

During the trip, I challenged myself to find at least one single running vehicle without any scratches, dents or other damage. I lost the challenge. According to the short sample I took during the duration of the trip, I can say with a 99% confidence level that the mean proportion of running vehicles in perfect shape on the streets of Nairobi at any time is 0%.

"Come on!! There's still an inch available!!"

“Come on George!! There’s still an inch available!!”

When we arrived to River Street, parking was a different story. George found a tiny spot between two cars. I thought that he was joking when he started to park there. When we realized he was serious about it, Akshay and I went out of the car to try to help by giving him distance alerts to each car’s bumper. I took us another ten minutes to get the car to a decent distance to the sidewalk.

We engaged in conversations with several textile retailers in the area. People was really friendly and helpful. At the end of the day, we were able to obtain good information for our project and Nairobi’s frantic traffic made our return to the house feel like it was quite an accomplishment!

 

Our Sunday Prize at the famous “Carnivore” in Nairobi

On consulting projects abroad, it is very typical to work during weekends in order to keep up with the required timeline. Last Sunday (May 24), my team and I worked very hard to get the first draft of our report completed. After everyone uploaded their assigned sections to the cloud, Jake was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together before 5pm. There were some sections still left to include, but we decided to work on those during the following week. Overall, we were very happy with the progress of our deliverable!

To reward ourselves for the great effort of the day, we went to “Carnivore”, the most famous restaurant in Nairobi! Carnivore is a rodizio-style grill, where you pay a flat rate for the meal, and they serve you with all-you-can-eat delicacies!

We invited George and Franco, some of our friends from Partners for Care. We had a great time tasting diverse and exotic animals (as permitted by the Kenyan law). One of my favorites was the grilled crocodile. I thought it tasted like a hybrid between fish and chicken. The service at the restaurant was marvelous, and the overall experience is highly recommended for travelers to Nairobi.

Amazed by the great food at Carnivore!

Amazed by the great food at Carnivore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once in a while during a project it is very important to relax, enjoy a change of environment and recharge for the following work sessions. Going to Carnivore was definitely something that helped us bond as a team, while at the same time clear our minds for a couple of hours.

As we approach the end of our project, we are very confident that our deliverable will be a high quality piece of work that our client will find extremely useful for future projects regarding the global expansion of the PackH2O™.

Home Sweet (PFC) Home

Throughout our time in Kenya, we have had the pleasure of staying in a variety of accommodations. Our travels took us north to Marsabit, west to the Maasai Mara, and east to Zanzibar, Tanzania, but our home base was the Partners for Care headquarters in Nairobi. Initially compared to the White House in terms of security and luxury (ahem, Kurt), the PFC house has become our home away from home as we made our way around Kenya. But getting in is not easy….

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Off the main road from the village is 2nd Mugumo-ini Drive in the Thome Estate. This bumpy road is the first step to reaching the PFC house. For safety reasons, we must be with PFC staff whenever we are outside of this first gate.

Gate 1

Gate 1

Gate 1 has two guards and is very well travelled as it serves the whole neighborhood.

Gate 2

Gate 2

Gate 2 is the first private gate. Passing through this barrier requires a signature (going both in and out), and the security guards take it very seriously. After a long bus ride home, filling out the paper work to get through this gate is very unwelcome.

Path to Gate 3

Our “running track”

This driveway is about .05 miles long. I know this because it is our running path – back and forth, back and forth is the only way to get any exercise. Ryan and I ran this path for 30 minutes to get some exercise one day and were joined by the guard. We were definitely outrun, despite the fact that he was in heavy boots, long wool pants, and a Michael Jordan jersey.

Gate 3

Gate 3

The last and final gate allows access to the house. The same guard from the second gate runs alongside the car and opens this third gate for us (which probably explains why he was much faster during our run).

driveway

Driveway/Parking Lot

At any given point, there are between two and six cars parked in this driveway. They are washed everyday (even if we do not drive them), and are often shuffled around to make room.

House

Home Sweet Home

Welcome home!

This house became our home; we lived upstairs in two rooms (four girls in one, eight guys in the other) and slept in bunkbeds cloaked in mosquito nets. Two of the Partners for Care staff live at the house, while others freely come in and out to do work, or sleep on the couch for early morning wake up calls. We feel so fortunate to be welcomed into their home with open arms and tried our best not to be a nuisance. While I’m happy to return to Columbus and sleep in a house I do not share with 15 other people, I will miss my Kenyan home……and my new GAP family.

Last day in Zanzibar

As our trip to Zanzibar came to an end, we spent the final day visiting historical sites and getting in some last minute beach time.  Stone Town is filled with interesting locales and the island itself is a crossroads of East African, European, Indian, and Arabic culture. This results in an interesting mix of architecture and a complex history.

Churches and Mosques mixed together in Stone Town

Churches and Mosques mixed together in Stone Town

 

The West side of the town is a maze a tiny streets that can be difficult to navigate, but exploring the city is well worth the effort.  Each turn reveals art stands, boutiques, corner cafes, historic sites, and locals willing to chat.  While the weather and scenery are beautiful, some of the cities more somber landmarks point to a checkered past.  We took a guided tour of the old slave market, and it was a sobering experience to understand how bad the conditions had been and learn about the huge volume of people who passed through the slave markets of Zanzibar.

Our guide shows how slaves were collared down in holding pits.  This room was meant for 75 women and children.

Our guide shows how slaves were collared down in holding pits. This room was meant for 75 women and children and there’s little to see of it outside this picture.

Monument outside the old market.

Monument outside the old market.

Anglican Church outside the market.  The British were instrumental in ending the slave trade in Zanzibar.

Anglican Church outside the market. The British were instrumental in ending the slave trade in Zanzibar.

After touring the town, we hired a local cab to take us to the East side of the island and Pongwe beach.  We found out the hard way that the tourist season hadn’t started yet, and most the hotels with beach access were still closed.  Luckily, our cab driver was willing to press on. After a drive through the town of Pongwe, we came across the Zanzibar Rock Resort.  We sat down to have lunch and were able to walk down to the water right from the resort’s sea side restaurant.  (I’m not a paid sponsor of the Zanzibar Rock Resort, but I would highly recommend staying there if you ever end up on the island.)

I would have taken more pictures but I was too busy enjoying the beach

I would have taken more pictures but I was too busy enjoying the beach

We were sad to say goodbye, but eventually we had to jump back in the taxi and head to the airport.  Visiting Zanzibar was a great time and the perfect way to wrap up the team’s last week in Africa.