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….

2015-05-29 17.10.09

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/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.

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.

It ain’t Africa if you haven’t Safari’d

And the day finally dawned- the day we headed for our African Safari. Our first team consensus was that we would go on an African Safari. Most of us hadn’t been on a wildlife Safari before and were super excited! Ryan, our social chair did a fair bit of research and reached out to a few travel companies and received quotes. We eventually landed a very good deal – a three-day safari to Masai Mara from May 19 through 21 at a very cheap rate!

We all got up early and were ready to be picked up by the travel company’s vehicles at 7 AM. The vehicles showed up at our gates at 7 AM sharp, startling all of us. They were on time! The six-hour drive to Masai Mara was largely comfortable with paved roads and no traffic for the most part. The Maasai Mara National Reserve (also known as Masai Mara and by the locals as The Mara) is a large game reserve in Narok County, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Mara Region, Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the area.

The Masai people local to Masai-Maara


Our camp in Masai Maara
Our ‘home’ for the next two days


We arrived at the national reserve at 2:15 PM and our travel guides told us that we would leave for a ride at 4 PM. Though it had been raining along the way, we were lucky that it did not rain thereafter, and we could spot quite a few animals. Within half an hour of entering the Masai Maara National Reserve, we spotted gazelles, wildebeests, zebras, a jackal and, the best of them all, lions. We witnessed one of the rarest sights during our short two hour trip into the Reserve: lions mating.

The Thompson Gazelle
Some bro love after a successful hunt


We ended our trip around 6:00 PM, deeply satisfied with our decision to take this trip to Masai Maara. As the night wore on, I was reminded of this beautiful quote I had come across on a travel blog:

Africa is mystic; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, a hunter’s Valhalla, an escapist’s Utopia. It is what you will, and withstands all interpretations. It is that last vestige of a deal world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just “home” ~ Beryl Markham, West with the Night

– Greif PD Team in Kenya


DATA is a Four Letter Word

For seven weeks of Strategy class, all we heard about was how we should appreciate the case exhibits and how difficult good, clean data would be to get in the real world. Well, the real world done slapped us the face. Our project is to find real, total, landed costs of parts in a global supply chain, and compare them to quotes received from suppliers based in China.

Me showing all the data we need to find

SPOILER ALERT: Getting the data you need is hard!

It’s not that they don’t have data, it’s just not what we need. Without access to their IT systems, you have to constantly rely on others to get data, and, in other cases, estimate costs to try to complete the picture. It pretty much reminded us all of this:


Who doesn’t love a nice Zoolander reference? Anyway, on top of all of this, people are busy, and asking them to find time to help students comes in a less than close second to their day-to-day duties. This is not their fault, as their jobs are important, but it is a hindrance.  All in all, we are making progress and are using some methods we learned in Operations class to find some of the data ourselves.  We are confident we can find what we need and provide a strong end product for CVG.


Visit to Coca-Cola Kenya HQ & Mount Kenya University, May 11

On Monday, we had a meeting at Coca-Cola’s Kenya headquarters with Bob Okello, Group Execution Manager for EKOCENTER in Africa. EKOCENTER is a Coca-Cola initiative to provide solar-powered centers in the most rural parts of Africa so that locals can enjoy amenities that people in urban areas take for granted such as electricity, WiFi, and TV.

Greif Kenya GTM & PD, with PFC staff and Bob Okelo at Coke Kenya HQ
Greif Kenya GTM & PD, with PFC staff and Bob Okelo at Coke Kenya HQ

Mr. Okelo shared many great insights about the unique characteristics and challenges of marketing and distributing Coke in Kenya. Coke uses Micro Distribution Centers (MDC) for the “last mile” distribution. In this system, a Kenyan owns a MDC and is responsible for purchasing and distributing Coke products to about 120 retailers (or kiosks) in their geographic area. Coke has “Key Accounts” staff who call on every single retailer/kiosk in their area at least once a week to verify stock, check on the kiosk’s relationship with the MDC, ensure that merchandising and displays are to Coke’s specifications, etc… It is amazing to me that Coke account representatives visit every single, tiny kiosk in the whole country on a weekly basis.

Mr. Okelo provided some good insights into a possible model for our PackH20 project, especially because tracking the packs and ensuring proper training and monitoring of end users is so crucial to verifying that the packs are serving their purpose as a health product. He also touched on the importance of incentivizing MDC owners to serve far-away and tough-to-access locations to ensure that a Coke is always “within an arm’s reach of desire.” Similarly, PackH20’s vision is for everyone in the world who needs a pack to have one, so it will be useful to explore an incentive structure to ensure that even the most remote and marginalized people in Kenya are able to get a Pack.

Both Greif teams and PFC with Mount Kenya University students and lecturers on MKU main campus
Both Greif teams and PFC with Mount Kenya University students and lecturers on MKU main campus


After we left Mr. Okelo, we went to the main campus of Mount Kenya University to meet with some lecturers and students in the nursing and MBA programs. We paired off and took tours of the school.



Mount Kenya University main campus
Mount Kenya University main campus


Mount Kenya is one of the largest universities in the country, and is set up somewhat similar to OSU, with satellite campuses to serve students in other communities. While their MBA program only has 8 or 9 students, their nursing and doctor of medicine programs are much larger.



Church in Nairobi, Kenya, May 10

The trip so far has been a whirlwind. We’ve been moving nonstop since we landed, starting with our first meetings at 8 or 9am, followed by dinner meetings at the house with local NGO and business contacts, and wrapped up by daily debriefings and planning sessions that last until at least 10pm. Things may wind down a bit as the trip progresses, though, based on our calendar.

Traffic in Nairobi makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to move from meeting to meeting
Traffic in Nairobi makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to move from meeting to meeting

We’ve front-ended most of our local meetings so that Connie, the PFC founder, could attend these before leaving for the US at the end of this week. One of the biggest time sinks is how long it takes to get anywhere. Traffic is crazy in Nairobi! Imagine when people are jostling to get to the front of the crowd at a concert, but here everyone is in a car. Miraculously, no one seems to actually hit anyone else.

On our first Sunday morning in Kenya, five of us walked with Justus (one of the PFC staff living in the house with us) to his church in the village a half-mile away from the house to do some cultural exploration. Church was what I expected- very lively with lots of singing, dancing and excited praise. This was a combined service, holding both members who usually attend the Swahili service and those that come for the English service because the pastor was announcing his 5-year plan for the church. This service was held in English with a Swahili translator, and the choir sang both English and Swahili songs. The corrugated tin building held around 350 people, and about 80 children.

"Hibari!" - Andrew, Team Leader for Greif Kenya Go-to-Market introducing our team to the Church congregation
“Hibari!” Andrew, Team Leader for Greif Kenya Go-to-Market team, introduced our team to the church congregation

The kids were very excited about seeing foreigners. Our seats were perpendicular to the kids’ rows, and just two feet away, so the kids were all clambering to high-five us and shake our hands when everyone was instructed to greet and welcome their neighbors. I winked at one little boy during a quieter part of the service, and from that point on, every time he caught my eye he’d close his right eye and smile at me, holding his right eye shut. It was so cute.

Alison from Greif Kenya Team Go-To-Market, was invited on stage to dance by a visiting singer at the Nairobi church
Alison from Greif Kenya Go-to-Market team, was invited on stage to dance by a visiting singer at the Nairobi church


The pastor had invited a singer from his old church to come sing for the congregation at this service. At one point, she pulled three people from the crowd to come dance on stage to “break the barriers” between her and the crowd, and then she walked over and pulled me up on stage! I felt like Kenyan “Idol”, because at least a dozen Kenyans jumped up from their seats to take a smart phone picture of the white American girl dancing on their church’s stage. It was a really neat experience.

A Business Day in Kenya

After an eventful weekend, we started the week with a number of business and informational meetings. It was so interesting to see the differences between the American and the Kenyan corporate worlds! Our first visit brought us to downtown Nairobi. The trip itself was an experience. The drive took us through the lower part of the city, which was loud, busy, and extremely chaotic. There were people positioned between the cars selling various items in the streets (apples, exercise equipment, sunglasses), and crossing the street as a pedestrian seems to be a sport; you must get across as fast as possible to avoid the cars!

We arrived at our first meeting and were welcomed with a very familiar logo:


We met with Bob Okello, the Group Execution Manager for Ekocenter in Africa. He provided valuable insight into distribution channels in Kenya and the best ways to make use of them. In his role, he has worked to help Coke bring safe water to people in various regions of Africa. We explained the water pack and asked many questions to help guide our project.


From Coke, we drove about an hour to Mt. Kenya University. We were greeted at the gate by professors and students who were excited for our visit. Our team leaders headed to meet with the Vice Chancellor while the rest of us socialized in a conference room. Following a group meeting and explanation of the waterpack, we buddied-up with business students from MKU for a tour of the university. It was so interesting to see similarities between Fisher and a business school located on another continent!


Finally journeying home, we had dinner and then met with MEBS for some guidance into the import processes at the Kenyan port. We wanted to learn more about the tax codes and how they might impact the importing of the PackH2O into the country. This information is very valuable for our project and the recommendations we will give to Greif. They were extremely helpful: able to answer all of our questions and to provide some tips moving forward. After a productive, yet exhausting, day, we all fell into bed beneath our mosquito nets.

1st Day on the Job: Team CVG UK

After 7 weeks of preparation and planning, we are so excited to have finally arrived on site at CVG Northampton in the United Kingdom. A few first day highlights included: A facility tour (including the KAB seat assembly plant where CVG assembles seating equipment for industrial trSaha at workucking companies), and a kickoff meet and greet with the KAB purchasing team.

Throughout our GAP preparation for this project, we were warned about the dangers of “scope creep”. Scope creep is business jargon for: “Hey we told you we want you to do this, but actually we want you to do this, that and the other.” I brushed aside all such warnings thinking “eh, it can’t be that bad right?” Turns out the warnings were pretty spot on.

Upon our arrival, we presented our project plan for the coming weeks, and- as is always the case in the real world – things were way more complicated than we expected. The CVG UK team had several additional imminent business issues they thought might be relevant to our project, as well as some cautious reservations about the project impact in general. They also voiced several opinions on what might be new and interesting avenues to investigate. Similarly, our counterparts in China – Team CVG Shanghai – had their project expectations change dramatically as well.

It was an eventful first day and an incredible opportunity to experience the reality of business outside the classroom. Reality is always more muddled than in the classroom (Day 1 definitely confirmed this), but this trip is already proving to be an invaluable practical learning experience.

Water water everywhere!!!

We just got back from Cologne after wrapping up our final review session with the client. This is it guys… tomorrow is the D-day (So glad we are done before my birthday!!). We have traveled a lot during this trip, some days coming back to Koblenz to only sleep! Like our client mentioned today “it was like you guys were put in a dishwasher or dryer and rotated”! But we had a jolly good time!!!

No matter what Rick Steves has to say we are in love with our Koblenz; a quaint little European town with numerous town squares, historic statues and the river by our apartment. It is fascinating to see the cuisine variety we here. I came across three Indian restaurants near a single square! But what I loved the most about Kolblenz were the fountains.

Most of us from team Germany have forgotten the taste of still water (much to Devin’s dismay). Whenever you ask for water here it is normal to be served “wasser mit gas” (water with gas) so we (by we I mean only Devin) have to specially mention “wasser no gas” or still. There is not free water/tap water concept here!! Even though it is completely safe to drink tap water Germans don’t offer it; the word for tap water is “leitungswasser” which converts as plumbing water, sooo offering plumbing water is a no no!! So, where does all of Devin’s water go in Koblenz… the fountains!!!

The most famous one though is the Spitting Boy of Koblenz. We found that out the scary way. Imagine taking a late evening stroll and stopping to admire this statue and suddenly he starts spitting water (I think one of us even screamed!)

Spitting Boy!!!

The Spitting Boy is actually called Spitting John who represents all the bastard sons of invading French soldiers. This shows the town’s dislike for foreign authority.

More beautiful fountains:

The Koblenz Fountain: depicting its history
The Koblenz Fountain: depicting its history
Girl playing with ducks
Girl playing with ducks
Dancing Couples
Dancing Couples
Trying to figure out the strange take on Noah's arc!
Trying to figure out the strange take on Noah’s arc!

See… water water everywhere!!!

Now we get back to fine tuning our final presentation. FYI everyone is invited to the Wednesday night karaoke project ending/birthday party!


I overpacked…

Sooooo it’s been 16 days since we’ve arrived in Ethiopia and I’ve taken close to 1300 pictures (almost 15 gigs worth) and not one is of the rock where Simba was first introduced to the kingdom… still not happy about that one. Yes, we’re the team that hit the goat (at least we think it’s a goat) during a 14.5 hour drive. Yes, we’re the team, I can happily say, that has experienced an ailment (mostly stomach) of some sort. Yes, we’re the team that “trekked” the “Roof of Africa” aka The Simien Mountains. Yes, we’re the team that “pays” roughly $15 total for 5-star quality dinners (HA!). Yes, we’re the team that’s seen one too many naked men roaming the streets. And yes, I am the man who has harnessed his inner Steve Irwin (too soon?) and Austin Stevens to capture it all on film… well almost all of it. I decided to use roughly 2.6% of the pictures I’ve taken to show the beauty of Ethiopia… remember, T.I.A! (“This is Africa” for all of you farnajis)

Be forwarned… the blog system forces me to compress my beautiful 5MB+ pics to less than 1MB, so I apologize for the quality or lack thereof:

First Picture in Ethiopia... view from the hotel
First Picture in Ethiopia… view from the hotel of Addis Ababa


the countryside
the countryside
don't go chasin waterfalls...
“don’t go chasin waterfalls…”
looks friendly up until he bites your face off!
looks friendly up until he bites your face off!


Danielle said this is a hibiscus, I told her it's a red flower.
Danielle said this is a hibiscus, I told her it’s a red flower.
10 people + 14 person van + ALLLLL the luggage + potentially a goat/sheep = too close for comfort
10 people + 14 person van + ALLLLL the luggage + potentially a goat/sheep as the 15th passenger = too close for comfort
O-H-I-O: Rift Valley style
O-H-I-O: Rift Valley style
a yellow flower
a yellow flower
Walia Ibex; an endangered species. These are 3 of the roughly 500 remaining.
Walia Ibex; an endangered species. These are 3 of the roughly 500 remaining.
a pink flower
a pink flower
O-H-I-O: Fasil Castle style
O-H-I-O: Fasil Castle style
Simien Mountains... up in the clouds
Simien Mountains… up in the clouds
"Dangerous for your life"... that edge leads to death
“Dangerous for your life”… this edge leads to death


Remembering my elementary education that the Nile flows south to North. Here's where it starts, along with some hippos or crocodiles or something.
I remembered my elementary education. The Nile flows south to north and this is where it  starts. There are some hippos or crocodiles or something in the water.
Simien Mountains take 2
Simien Mountains take 2
almost 14000 feet above sea level
almost 14000 feet above sea level
you're welcome...
you’re welcome…
We, as humans, can learn from this picture. Baboons, goat, sheep, bovine, horses, etc all graze together in the fields. There are no feuds, no hate, no anger, just togetherness.
We, as humans, can learn from this picture. Baboons, goat, sheep, bovine, horses, etc all graze together in the fields. There are no feuds, no hate, no anger, just togetherness… not sure what happened when we left, but still a learning moment!
African Sunrise... from the hotel room
African Sunrise


every time we stopped in what seemed to be a deserted area, a group of kids would come out of nowhere and run to our van. We gave them some pens and they naturally formed an O-H-I-O without instruction.
every time we stopped in what seemed to be a deserted area, a group of kids would come out of nowhere and run to our van. We gave them some pens and they naturally formed an O-H-I-O without instruction.
soaking it in.
soaking ALL of it in.

This concludes my post, however as the title indicates, I overpacked. One bag is (was) full of food (thanks mom!), anti-digestive issue meds, other various meds, a router which Danny and I just killed, toilet paper that is still packed, sugar-free lemon drops whose main ingredient  induces laxative effects (the worst), lysol wipes, toiletries, oatmeal, protein powder, peanut butter, tortillas, raw nuts, granola bars, soy nuts, bug spray, tissue packs, vitamins, ponchos, power strips and power converters. The other bag contains clothing. I’m sure I missed something, but needless to say, I overpacked.