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Kenyan Oktoberfest and GSK Site Visit

I got some time away from the farm in Eldoret and spent the weekend in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi. Getting a tour of GSK’s facilities in Nairobi seemed like an excellent opportunity to have all of the Pulse volunteers working in eastern Africa to get together. Two of my colleagues from Ethiopia joined 5 of us working in Kenya. The GSK site manufactures some of our consumer products such as the sports drink Lucazade for several eastern African counties. More than 250 people work at this site. We all donned sterile hairnets, jackets & shoe covers for the tour. Local employees who are interested in doing a Pulse assignment within Kenya joined us for lunch. There was interest but they fear losing their jobs or that their manager will not approve the assignment. We talked about the lengthy application and matching process, and our motivation for doing Pulse. There were many questions about our impressions of Kenya and they were impressed that we came from so far away to volunteer in their country. I’m sure there will be a few local volunteers for the next Pulse cycle.

Friday night we had a cookout on the penthouse patio of the group from Nairobi. There are excellent views of downtown Nairobi as well as the pool within the apartment complex. The two women from Ethiopia were speechless as their housing accommodations may actually be worst than mine. After talking to them, I know that I would not feel comfortable living/working in that country.
On Saturday Garret and I took a matatu (minivan taxi) to a mall called the Junction. After my bad experience on a 2 hour matatu ride to Kisumu a few months back, I was not looking forward to using the standard mode of transportation. I’m being generous if I said 10% of these vehicles would pass inspection in the US. The mall was very modern even with an Apple store. We ended up eating at a coffee shop with excellent food. I even felt like I was sitting in a Starbucks in the US. This weekend was a big 3-day Oktoberfest event. I was looking forward to some German beer and food for a change, but don’t think the Kenyans understand the concept. There were a few microbreweries offering samples and draft beer which is rare here. However the quality is terrible. There also were stands with a full bar which seemed out of place at an Oktoberfest event. The local bands didn’t know any oompah music either.

The Nairobi marathon was held on Sunday with over 10,000 participants. My coworker Kim ran in the half marathon. This was a major event with television coverage, helicopters and motorcycles following the leader. The top distance runners in the world come from this region. Garret and I went to the finish line near the stadium to support Kim. We caught sight of the marathon winner sprinting past us in the last mile. These guys are incredibly fast. The winning time was 2 hrs 8 minutes which works out to running each of the 26 miles under 5 minutes each. Nairobi is also as high as Denver (mile high city) which adds to the challenge. Kim did an incredible job running 13 miles and getting her best personal time. It’s very motivating since my daughter Natalie has taken up cross country in high school this year. But even if I stayed here for 4 years training, I will never be a runner. Back in Eldoret this morning I had to deal with more mud from the weekend rains, and walking through a herd of cows taking over the street.

Posted by bjmccrudden 04:32 Archived in Kenya Tagged nairobi

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As always, I enjoy your essays on your Kenya experiences, especially the little humor that throw in. For most Kenyans that you meet, you are probably the first white American that they have met and might ever meet. You are representing yourself, your family, your company and the United States. Thank you for doing this so well. We are proud of you.

Warmest regards,

by Mark

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