Sunday, 25 May 2014

A working day in Nairobi

I thought I would share one of those days I have here in Nairobi.

Waking up in my "tent".

Chaotic traffic. Especially one of the large junctions close to our hotel. Did they run out of money as there are no traffic lights? The other day, none could move so finally a man stepped out of the car and started to direct the others.
Alex, Luke and Raghu in our office on the 11th floor in the NSSF building in Upper Hill.

I've learned that there seems to be no numbers on the houses, just a name.
Lunch in Originelle or the restaurant that advertises that they don't use spices. What you see is a typical Kenyan meal.
A lady comes into our office at 10 and 15 with our tea and coffee. It is always based on warm milk.

Quite an impressive view from our window.
The first weeks we had a lot of interviews. Here we are talking to some WEF officers. They are the volunteers working on the ground with the women groups. Amazing people!
And then finally I arrive at "home" again. I'm living on the top floor which is 5 stairs up. Good everyday exercise :-)

Talking about exercise, at the far end of the hotel is a pool and a gym. Yes, I have been to the gym! 2-3 times a week!

We have an additional apartment for the team where we have our breakfast and dinners if we are around. Millie and Ruth are cooking for us.

#ibmcsc kenya

Friday, 23 May 2014

This week's highlights

I cannot believe it - I've already been gone 4 weeks from Sweden. Time flies!

I would like to share another great week with you:

We kicked off with our mid-term review Monday morning where the purpose was to test our findings and initial recommendations with WEF and to get feedback about where we are heading. The WEF team was represented by the CEO and the managers of the different departments. We had very good discussions and were inspired to continue our work.
After the mid-term review

Tuesday we worked from home partly due to the student demonstrations downtown. It was a good decision as traffic apparently was worse than ever. For lunch we decided to walk to a close by Office park with a restaurant. This was the first time we went outside the gates by foot - felt wild and crazy!

Tuesday night was a treat with delicious food at a Brazilian restaurant down-town. First you went to the huge salad buffe and then all the different kind of meat, fish, prawns and crocodile were served at the table as long as you had the green side up on your card. When you were done you put the red side up.

On Wednesday afternoon, we visited the IBM Research Lab in Nairobi. It's one of IBM's 12 Research Labs and the first one in Africa. It's a very modern office with around 25 researchers within different areas like Agriculture, Water, Education, Financial inclusion, Health, Traffic etc. You can read more about their interesting and visionary projects here. After listening to them describing what they currently are working on, questions like ...and what is my contribution? popped up... Well, lets instead move on...

The same evening we were all invited to the travel agent we are using for our safaris for another delicious meal with great company.

And last night we went to Strathmore university to listen to what apps the students in the 2 week Bluemix workshop (the assignment of other colleagues in the CSC team) had come up with, partly based on our assignments. It was great to be able to see what they had built and discuss their solutions and ideas.

Between all of this, we have had more interviews, researched more and worked on our final presentation. It's understandable that I will turn the lights off in a couple of minutes...
#ibmcsc kenya

Monday, 19 May 2014

Climbing Mount Longonot and looking for lions in Lake Nakuru

Time for a group trip to the Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru area NV of Nairobi. We split up into 2 teams where Heli, Jackie, Luke and myself went to climb up the old volcano Mount Longonot. The rest went bycicling or hiking in Hells Gate.

Mount Longonot was steeper than I thought and hot in the burning morning sun. Once up on the rim, cool winds from the inside of the crater cooled us off. What a beautiful view in all directions from the top. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go all around the rim but we made a dash towards the highest peak....but our driver and guide Justice, our timekeeper, made us turn around to kind of slither down the mountain. It was really great to be able to walk out in the wild after 2 weeks with a driver and asked to stay inside the gates in the evening.

We met the rest of the team and went for an afternoon game drive in Lake Nakuru before dinner. The best game drive was the early morning one with fresh air an many animals out. Another gamedrive after breakfast, lunch and then back to Nairobi to work on our mid-term-review presentation the next morning...

To my list of animals, I was among others able to add white and black rhino, "Pumba", flamingo, many new birds...

Another great weekend with a great team!
Mount Longonot

We made it! Heli, Luke, myself and Jackie

The crater and the highest peak in the background

Lunch for the Hell's gate team

White Rhino at sunset

Baboon at sunrise


This is as close as we got to the lions...

2*"Pumba" running from something

#ibmcsc Kenya

Friday, 16 May 2014

Everything is ok!

I guess most of you have read the news in the papers about the bombings in Nairobi this afternoon. We were asked to not leave our hotel tonight so we had pizza night at home instead of going out as planned. Tomorrow we will leave for Lake Nakuru and Mount Longonot which is NV of Nairobi. Hopefully everything has calmed down in Nairobi by the time we come back on Sunday night.

This afternoon our whole team visited Jacaranda School for Mentally Handicapped. We played games with the kids that were in all ages. Our volleyball team didn't have a chance against theirs! After lunch there was a show where some of the kids sang for us and also a fashion show. They were really great! What struck me was the way the kids helped each other to calm down or were to go or sit. Some were also really curious about our white skin and wanted to touch and feel. I'm impressed of the work the teachers do with all these kids and how the joyful the atmosphere was at the school.
#ibmcsc kenya

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A great day at work!

Today was really something when Alex, Raghu, Luke and I went on our field trip to meet women that borrow money from WEF. We kicked off the day with a late taxi which got in the middle of a large funeral so we had to take other roads which turned out go through one of the not good slum areas... We made it and picked up Tom, the WEF officer in Embakasi central constituency in the outskirts of Nairobi, before we went to the first group. We have seen fish farming, quails, rabbits, chicken, vegetables farming, cows, manufacturing of peanut butter, jewellery, handbags, key chains....and I probably forgot something. The interesting part is that all of this was in an urban version since it was in town areas in the yard of these women's houses. We met in total 4 groups in different parts of Central Embakasi.

I think today is the first time I met the real Kenya and Africa!

It's fascinating to hear the stories from the women and how proud they are of their work and new status. When I asked about the impact of the loans on their lives, getting independent was the one that made the biggest impression. The woman said that previously, they had been housewives waiting for their husbands to come home with food or money. Now, with their own business where they make a profit, they get a freedom and independency that many of us take for granted.

When we arrived at the last group, the women started singing and dancing and of course we were included in the latter. A lot of hugging and a typical handshake was added to that.

I don't know how I will be able to sleep after such a great day!
The outskirts of Nairobi

Tom, Luke, Raghu, Alex and Sarah in Sarahs green house

Alex and Tom in the Vilisho Vision groups fish farm

Dancing with the Mnamko Mpya group

#ibmcsc kenya

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


I just looked through the photos from last weekends safari to Amboseli and I still get goosebumps. It was quite an experience to see all the animals out in the wild, Kilimanjaro coming out now and then and not to forget the great company! After a first week of hard work and getting to know each other and our customers and trying to figure out what we are supposed to do and can achieve the following 3 weeks it was great to do something totally different.

We saw our first giraffe (WOW!) not far out of Nairobi, drove through some "shopping centers" and a beautiful and hilly landscape on the highway towards Mombasa. When turning right towards Amboseli, it didn't take long until we saw the tip of Kilimanjaro high up in the sky. WOW! I have noted 14 different animals and 10 different birds that we saw during the 2 days of game drives. Of the big 5, I saw elephants and buffalos. On the early morning game drive, 3 large elephants crossed the road around our jeep....WOW!

#ibmcsc kenya

Friday, 9 May 2014


Tomorrow we are leaving for safari in Amboseli. It's a national park close to Kilimanjaro. I hope to tick off elephants, lions, buffalo and hippos on my list. What are you doing this weekend?   ;-)

It has been a very intense week with LOTS of information. We have interviewed all departements at WEF, one external training partner and today 6 volounteers that work in the field. Everyone is so kind - sharing their knowledge, thoughts and passion. You have to admire the volounteers that find the women, create the groups, train them, provide loans, guidance and see to that the women pay back their loans. They have many interesting stories to tell. I cannot wait until next Thursday when we go out on a field trip to meet women entrepreneurs in Central Embakasi constituency.
#ibmcsc Kenya

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

...and business

It was really great to finally meet our customer WEF. There were representatives from all departments present and we had a good discussion after our presentation. There is a lot going on at WEF and there were many projects mentioned that they would like us to work with. We now have to roll up our sleeves and get to work. The whole IBM team was invited to lunch and after that our bus took us to the next customer, Strathmore university.

After a great presentation by my colleagues we were invited to tea on the terrace together with faculty members and students. I’m so impressed by the students I talked to, they are so smart and are so creative! For their masters degree, they need to come up with an idea for an app and a business around it…and build it. The student I mostly talked to is creating an app for fish farmers to provide them with fish prices and how a fish farm should be managed.

Yesterday we all went to KAAA and learned a lot about the agricultural business in Kenya. What strikes me with all our clients is their energy, enthusiasm and desire to help getting their country to the next level.

Today was our first day in the office at WEF. After a tour with introductions we continued our conversation around our assignment with our contact persons and then kicked off the interviews with different departments at WEF. It is so interesting to get insight in how they are working, their challenges, priorities and stories. Right now there is information overflow in my head, but eventually, the different pieces will fall into place.

 #ibmcsc kenya


Here are the weekend pictures as well as a story of our evening out yesterday.

We were at a restaurant serving Kenyan food so I got to taste ugali, sukuma wiki, nyama choma of chicken and goat and kachumbari….without knife, fork or spoon. So this is how you do this: you take some ugali (like a dough) in your right hand, roll it to a ball and then flatten it. Still with your right hand, you take a little of everything else on the flat ugali in your hand…and then eat it. It was really good! Sharon, my teacher, got a good laugh, but I think I got a hang of it in the end.

#ibmcsc kenya

Monday, 5 May 2014

C day!

Meaning that today is the first day that we are meeting our customer. Our sub team goes first presenting ourselves, our understanding of the work we are expected to do with WEF and our timeline, deliverables etc. It was a late night yesterday but a really good team to work together with.

We have had a great weekend getting to know each other and sightseeing. We also went shopping for groceries to fill our refridgerators. My favoriter place was the Dame Sheldricks elephant and rhino orphanage. We got to see elephants only a couple of weeks old as well as others up to the age of 3. After that they are put out in the will again. They were so cute and playful! If you don't know what to give as a gift, you can always adopt an elephant! I will post some pictures once I have my laptop again. My safe stopped working so my valuables are camping in a safe of a colleaugue right now.

I heard it was snowing in Sweden this last weekend.... The rainseason seems to be kind here as well and we are instead enjoying nice summerdays like the ones I'm hoping for in Sweden this summer.

#ibmcsc Kenya

Friday, 2 May 2014

Finally in Nairobi!

After over 3 months, I'm finally in Nairobi meeting the team from IBM and DOT (the organization that takes care of us here). It's been really good with the weekly meetings as it feels like we already know each other. The apartment I'm staying in is bigger than any other I've ever had... I'm not sure how to fill the space.

It was amazing when I flew from Dar to Nairobi and Kilimanjaro came up through the thick cloud layer.

A last briefing from my vacation in Dar: Yesterday Malena and I went sailing with their Hobie cat (a catamaran for you who don't know) and that was fantastic! Once we go the hang of how to tack (=slå in Swedish) with a catamaran we raced back and forth in the bay outside the Yacht club. Imagine this: warm winds, high speed over the waves, sun, warm water washing over you and a good friend to share this with. A perfect end of great days in Dar!

Tomorrow we have sightseeing in Nairobi on the agenda.