Saturday, October 2, 2010

So, what are you doing in Kenya?

Some of you may wonder exactly this. Here goes.

I take two classes through AU, at the office we have in my corner of Nairobi (Westlands). I take Elementary Kiswahili (also known as Swahili and the national language of Kenya. English is official) and Politics of Culture in Kenya. The former I've taken to pretty quickly, but I love languages (of course, this is the first non-Romance language I'm learning). The latter is intense and all encompassing. Politics of Culture in Kenya is meant for us to take a closer look at the issues of developmentItalic (as in, issues with informal settlements, past colonialism, government sector, interactions with people, and especially urban issues). At the same time, most of us have never been to Kenya before and our general knowledge is a bit lacking, so we're getting up to speed on Kenyan history and culture. This one is rigorous and I really enjoy it.

I also take classes at USIU. I take African Authors and Sustainable Resource Management. USIU is one of the best universities in Kenya (possibly East Africa but I'm rusty on that). The culture is very different here, as Kenyan education has a different set of standards. Our professors here are a bit taken aback by how much we question, though Kenyan students do too. However, Kenyan education tends to be more formal than American education and professors still wield the same authority that our high school teachers once did. I do love my African Authors class though. My professor is enjoyable and I really liked the book we're discussing this week (So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba, read it if you get the chance).

Finally, I am completing an externship. More than an internship (which implies you're simply working for the organization), an externship requires that you look at it from an external, scholarly position. As in, you're analyzing this organization as a development organization. What works? What doesn't? What needs are they addressing? How successful have they been? For mine, I'm working at Al-Taawon, a Muslim organization located in Korogocho, a slum in Nairobi. Al-Taawon focuses on youth issues and hosts a school, a cyber cafe, and a brand new medical clinic. I'm working on their computer programs (ICT: Information, Communication, and Technology). I also volunteer with the kids there. I've made friends with Class 3 and Class 4 :)

So, that's my academic and professional life. I like the perspectives I get from each. The last one I find is strongly influencing career choices. More on that later.

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