Saturday, 11 September 2010


Well, folks, my time in Nairobi has come to an end. I'm writing this one from Dulles Airport on my way back to Cambridge! (It seems a little anti-climactic, I know, to write a final blog post after leaving Kenya. But my power was out all day Friday, so I had no choice.)

The past eight weeks have flown by quickly. I think this is partly because of the excitement of being in a new place, and partly because I've been traveling so much within the region. The past four weeks have especially been a blur: a hike up Mount Kenya, trips to Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, and meetings all over the place.

In the end, living in Nairobi has come as a pleasant surprise: I like it there now. Initially, I didn't. The traffic, pollution, fear of crime, and utter lack of charm all added up to a crappy first impression. But since then, the city grew on me. The food has been a major plus (Japanese! Ethiopian! French!), as have the benefits of Swahili-only-when-you-feel-like-it. Meeting other people has probably been the best part, though. This city is full of great, warm people doing fascinating and important work in areas I find interesting - politics, international development, reporting, impact investing and social enterprise. The people I spend time with outside of work are uniformly passionate about what they do, which I find refreshing and inspiring at the same time. And I've made some good friends.

My work has also been pretty positive overall. My team at the IFC gave me a lot of responsibility and some very interesting projects to work on. I'm glad to have played an early role in shaping the East African Community's common market strategy, a political and economic goal that I really believe in. It's been especially interesting traveling to the EAC capitals to meet with officials there. The development challenges and preoccupations of the five member states couldn't be more different, from creepily efficient Rwanda to backwards-and-we-know-it Burundi. On top of the work itself, I've really had fun with my coworkers - they're smart, welcoming and talented people. They've taught me a lot about avoiding, flattering, convincing and otherwise dealing with difficult public officials and antagonistic clients - I hope I've picked up some of that from them. The team even threw me a very nice sendoff lunch at my favorite place on Thursday, which I thought was a nice gesture.

Although I'm sad to have left, I have two great things to look forward to right away. Tomorrow, I'm going to the wedding of two good friends in Cambridge, then I'm visiting the beautiful Stephanie in San Francisco. The expectation of things to come was almost enough to dull the pain of tonight's 30-something hour journey back to Massachusetts (although it does not remedy the sad fact that I watched Prince of Persia to stave off in-flight boredom.)

So this will be the last Tanzlines post for a while. In terms of exciting African adventures ahead, the next one will probably be next January in southern Africa. Hang tight until then!

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