Now or Never

DEDICATION

For Isaac, who died on Tuesday.

PREFACE

By “soon,” I meant one month and 22 days. Three seasons have passed since my last written post because, after writing at the office, I can’t always get myself to continue at home. I also struggle with blog topics, as a lot of what happens at my company should not be recorded. Finally, I’m a perfectionist. I’ve started this article around five times, but kept ending up with a useless pattern of reword, restructure, delete.

But I need to write right now. Too much has happened. Don’t expect a witty, pretty or perfect post. Ignore the excessive use of adjectives, redundancies, fragments and run-on sentences. Bare with and forgive me, please. Because, if I don’t publish this now, as is, I never will.

SEASONS

They told me Africa would be hot. They lied.

Nairobi is so cold, it will snow. Trust me. I’m Minnesotan. I sense it in my half-Caribbean bones. However, this year hasn’t felt nearly as dreary as 2012, when an iron sheet roof protected one borrowed bed, two suitcases and me. And to call it rainy “season?” Another lie. Seasons are fixed periods of time. I looked it up. How can it be a “season” if it rains all but two weeks of the year?

I felt especially miserable when voyaging from my so-called shack (see Kenyaversary), to the office, which was actually only three kilometers away, but, without a car, and proper jacket, felt more like a marathon. I often rode on the back of motorcycles, called “bodas” here, because they were fast and I was (am) always running late.

A puddle.

A Nairobi puddle admittedly from 2013, not 2012.

When I moved to Amboseli, the so-called hood, I soon met twin drivers, Stevie and Simon, who looked so identical that learning the difference between their motorbikes was easier than telling them apart. And we all know how clueless I am about vehicles.

Stevie ended up driving me most often, but both charged just 50 shillings (57 cents) per way, which was only slightly higher than the cost to take a matatu, a more chaotic, less personalized ride. Despite having enjoyed their company, I must’ve complained a lot because, one day, Stevie brought a puffy hooded jacket that was just my size. I’m not sure whether it was meant to be a gift, considering he accepted my reimbursement, but I received it like a Christmas present. I needed it, and he cared enough to go into the market, a place I avoid like the plague, and buy it for me.

Stevie and Simon often said, “If you ever need anything, just call us.” They referred to me as their sister. However, it was difficult for me to return the compliment. The sibling title is reserved for literal sisters and brothers, Sorors and Frat.

Nonetheless, with few Kenyan friends at this point, our relationship seemed to be strong enough. My perception changed, however, when my shack was broken into while I was home (see Trauma). The incident happened for one hour, between around 11pm and midnight. In my bedroom, amidst mentally preparing myself for murder and rape, I called both Stevie and Simon for help. But neither of the twins rushed over to rescue me. They both owned bikes, but they never came. “We have a friend who is a police officer, and he knows your area,” they reassured me. “He’s just on the way.” But he too never came. It wasn’t until around midday, the next day, that they called me, seeing if I was okay. I didn’t answer my phone. I was angry with them for months. I began to understand why I couldn’t call them brothers. Brothers are there for you, no matter what. Being someone’s brother or sister is a large responsibility. I learned that when, after I was robbed at gunpoint in the States, in 2010, my brother said he would take a bullet for me. I’ll never forget that conversation. I didn’t expect him to say all that. But that’s love. Selfless love. Clearly, these boys didn’t love me like that. And no one else in Kenya seemed to, either.

In tears, I told my bosses about what happened last night. They sympathized, but also politely told me to get over it. Nothing significant was stolen. I hadn’t been physically harmed. Regardless, I asked for a raise so that I could live in a secure compound (and start paying my very real, interest-accumulating American bills), but their final offer was underwhelming to say the least.

Where was I to go? I couldn’t spend one more day in the shack. So, I hopped from one friend’s bed to the next. Or should I say acquaintance’s? One in particular wasn’t okay with me staying more than a few days. She even asked me to leave because her cousin would be coming over. Apparently, sleeping on one of the two couches wouldn’t have been an option.

But then, there was Hamed. We weren’t even that close, but he was patient enough to let me stay until I found a proper place to live. He’s also the one who threw me a pool party, which allowed me to forget my woes, even if for an evening.

Then, as I wrote in Routes and Roots, I did end up finding an affordable, comfortable house in the Kileleshwa neighborhood.

And that was when the sun started to shine.

CAMEROON

But only for a moment. After I returned from a work trip to South Africa, in early November, I had a few weeks to scramble together another one, to Cameroon. I communicated with the cameraman, wrote shooting plans for something like 12 stories, picked up cash from the boss and was handed a plane ticket. “Good to go.” Or so I thought.

I flew all the way to Cameroon, only to be sent away. I needed a visa, and I had no idea. For the previous trips I’d been on, through the company, I’d either not needed a visa, or was simply able to purchase one for around $50 at the airport, upon arrival. It wasn’t that I egotistically thought, “Oh, I’m American. I can get through this one. Easy.” No. The mistake happened because the word “visa” didn’t cross my mind or come out of anyone’s mouth at the office, either. I hadn’t even Googled it.

Around five immigration officers screamed at me as I refused to board the plane back to Ethiopia, the connecting country. “Don’t you have a waiting room, so that my friend (cameraman) can come, and together we sort this out (wink-wink-wink)?” No. No negotiation. No bribes. Just get on the plane, Ms. Edwards.

The flight from Cameroon to Ethiopia was hell. I was embarrassed above all. As soon as I landed, in Addis Ababa, I e-mailed all three bosses about it. “Seriously? This is Journalism 101, Kiya,” was one’s gut response. But it’s not Journalism 101. They don’t teach you this in J-School! They teach you how to write stories for small stations in Small Town, USA! They don’t teach you how to travel.

I replied with something like, “This is too much. I think it’s time for me to resign.” Then came the e-mails of, “Hang in there, kiddo. Everybody makes mistakes.”

I stayed at the airport for three days, waiting for my Cameroonian cameraman to send a letter of invitation, a required document. The Ethiopian Airlines staff were extremely rude for reasons only God must understand. We may or may not have screamed at each other more than once. I got into an uncomfortable routine of sleeping on chairs, calling the cameraman and communicating with the airport a$$holes. When I finally got the letter, which was full of official signatures, we forwarded it to the lead immigration officer in Cameroon for approval. Denied. It turned out that one particular stamp was missing, and that it would take quite a while to get.

Welcome indeed.

Welcome indeed.

There was no way I was going to go back to Kenya empty-handed. So, I nervously walked downstairs to clear customs. After the Cameroon experience, I had to hold my breath. “You look like Ethiopian!” the immigration officer laughed (little did I know, this would become a running joke). “Ha-ha-ha,” I laughed back, though nothing was funny after three days without the outdoors. I paid $25, got a stamp and walked out of that dreadful building sometime around 9pm. I saw palm trees made of fairy lights. It was the most beautiful site I’ve ever seen.

ETHIOPIA

A taxi driver dropped me at a random hotel and, the next morning, I met up with Tewodros Tekeste, who’d filmed for my co-host, Macharia Maina, earlier that year. Teddy didn’t interrogate me with questions about why I was suddenly in his country. Instead, he put aside all he had scheduled, dedicating ten days to me and good storytelling.

Teddy the Cameraman

Teddy the cameraman.

My suitcases were still in Cameroon, so I spent the first day shopping and eating with Akal, a friend of someone I met at the airport, who’d caught me in a moment of despair. Akal also introduced me to his friend, whose name escapes me now. She helped me underwear shop, which could’ve been quite awkward, but wasn’t. They were both extremely nice people; representatives of their country (unlike you know who).

Akal

Akal drinking Tej.

Most everybody spoke to me in Amharic, thinking I was Ethiopian. Their reaction was always so funny when I told them I’m not. Pure shock. “But you look like Ethiopian! I’m so sorry!” What I loved was that, even after discovering my heritage, they treated me like any one of them. Like a person. Like their… sister. I have never felt that “normal” in Kenya, or any other foreign country at that.

Toasting to Ethiopia

Toasting to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was perfect in every way. I came back to Kenya with a record 10 stories and countless memories.

CHRISTMAS

Going back to the office wasn’t easy. I had a meeting with the bosses. They told me they’d like to see me stay. At the end of our conversation, they presented me with a plane ticket to Minnesota, but it was unclear as to whether it was a gift or loan. I wasn’t going to ask. I hadn’t seen my natural habitat since August 2011, and it was now December 2012. “Not that long,” a prison inmate might argue, but I’m a free woman who chose to move to Kenya.

The bosses had me promise to return after the trip. I agreed, but also explained that I wasn’t sure how long I’d last with the company after that, should certain matters not change.

Going home for Christmas was the best experience of my entire life. Forget Ethiopia. I love Minnesota and the people in it. My dad, who lives in Antigua, was in town. I got to meet my brother’s girlfriend, who was pregnant with my niece. My sister, Makeisha, flew in from New York. My BFF and I went shopping and drank Starbucks. Most everybody was there, and it was a blast. I even got to see some new people become Zetas and Sigmas.

Christmas tree.

Christmas tree.The first & only photo of me with my parents.My parents and me.

I stayed for three weeks, had a sweet going away party at a restaurant, and flew back to Kenya the next day.

NEW YEAR

I came back feeling grateful to have such an exciting job that provides travel opportunities. While I was in Minnesota, we had a small J-School reunion. I think it’s safe to say that, while everyone has grown immensely in their careers since 2011– some went on to work for Dr. Phil in LA, others are at midwestern news stations– I had the craziest, most adventurous stories to share. My former classmates seemed to be proud of my accomplishments, and that mattered to me.

But the joy of working in Kenya lasted about a week. I became frustrated with inefficiencies and craved corporate America. I decided then and there that I will leave Kenya in ten months, in October 2013, which marks two years of working with the company, and more than two years of living in the country. It’s also when my work permit expires. Basically, I would not be asking for a renewal. However, I promised myself to reevaluate in June, in case of change of heart.

Let the field producing begin.

NIGERIA

I wasn’t really feeling the whole idea of going back to Cameroon, but I also wasn’t going to let myself look like a chicken.

There’s no Cameroonian Embassy in Kenya. The nearest one is ironically in Ethiopia. But because I had just been there, my boss suggested that I apply from Nigeria instead. And to try to score a Gabonese visa while I’m at it.

I managed to get a Nigerian visa at the Embassy right here, in Kenya. Without further ado, I flew to Lagos, Nigeria’s chief city, and met up with Taiwo Adeleke, a very talkative, enthusiastic cameraman. We went to the Cameroonian Embassy, only to discover that the authorizing ambassador of sorts was out of the country until the following week. Oops. Thus, we went on to search for the Embassy of Gabon, only to discover that it relocated to Abuja, the country’s capital, which was a plane ride away.

Taiwo the cameraman.

Taiwo the cameraman.

In Abuja, I met up with another cameraman, Amadin Joseph, who was also very helpful. We found the Embassy, submitted $325, and all of the documents (long story short), but needed to wait three business days. Of course, there just had to be a weekend in between.

DSC00682

Amadin & me.

Once I finally got the visa, I flew back to Lagos. On the way, I met a guy called Ikenna, who insisted on sitting next to me on the plane. I pretended to be very annoyed, but his charm eventually intrigued me. He offered to pay for my hotel. “Unnecessary,” I told him.

We ended up texting each other that night, and he asked how my hotel was. I admitted that the whole cockroach situation wasn’t exactly pleasant. He then told me that he booked me a room at a particular hotel, and not to worry because he won’t be there, as he’s flying out of Lagos yet again tonight.

I cautiously went to the hotel with my Sorority Sister, Yinka, who, by the way, is an amazing woman and perfect host. The hotel did indeed have a booking for me. I glanced at a price chart that was on the counter and read that the cheapest room was going for $500 per night.

#zetasabroad

Yinka & me. #zetasabroad

The hotel was comfortable (understatement), and I was cheesing like a gold digger should. I went back to the Cameroonian Embassy again, submitting everything this time. They told me that I’d need to wait yet another couple of days to get it (long story short). I couldn’t keep paying these cameramen their daily rates, so we called it quits, and I allowed myself to enjoy Nigeria while I waited.

Ikenna flew back into Lagos by now, and upgraded me to an apartment. Let me not lie, it felt nice to be spoiled for once. But it turns out that I didn’t get much of a rest, because a man I’d met in South Africa, at DISCOP, a media convention, offered me a day gig of hosting a new series about urban African parenting entitled Mother and Child.

Hosting attire, episode 1/5.

Hosting attire, episode 1/5.

What a beautiful mess of a day it was. The man didn’t pay me what he said he would (stereotypical Nigerian), but, when you’re in debt, any cash helps.

Next stop, Cameroon.

CAMEROON

I made it through immigration like, “Look at me now!” And once my cameraman, Reagan Teh, finally arrived at the airport, we boarded a bus to Yaoundé, the capital. My first impression was… how do I say this politely? I was honestly surprised to see such widespread poverty. Perhaps I should’ve Google Image’d the country more beforehand. Douala, where I landed, was pretty polluted, and the capital didn’t impress me, either. It all reminded me of Amboseli. I was surprised to see such similarities between Cameroon and Kenya, considering Nigeria was different.

It probably also didn’t help that my cameraman took me to a one-star hotel.

But once we went on, to Bamenda, the capital of the northwest region, my perspective changed. It wasn’t a rich area (and no, I don’t need to be in a rich area to enjoy it), but it was beautiful. Full of life and nature. The city and its neighbor, Batibo, are known for palm wine, so I naturally did a story about that.

Batibo, near Bamenda

Batibo, near Bamenda

Bamenda was also great because Mike Muna, a Cameroonian, who I met at the University of Minnesota, was now living there. He took on a fixer role, which helped so much, and it was great to see his familiar face.

A typical day in the life.

A typical day in the life.

Reagan and I squabbled a lot, but, at the end of the day, we got along quite well. It was fun to see him grow from an amateur videographer to a professional in a matter of a week. He was very quick to learn our international standard of video production. I’m proud of him and wouldn’t mind working with him again.

GABON

Gabon. Oh, Gabon. That cameraman did not know how to film. Unlike Reagan, he didn’t catch onto my tips fast enough. And we only had four days.

Nonetheless, I deemed this trip “good” because most people were smiley and welcoming. It was also interesting to see the contrast between Libreville’s lavish city center and the impoverished outskirts.

A Gabonese sunset.

A Gabonese sunset.

Yes, everything was “good” until my final night, when the cameraman withheld the tapes from me at the airport. Usually we pay the cameramen in cash on the last day. But because I stayed much longer in Nigeria than anticipated, I was running low once I got to Gabon. On the very first day, I informed the cameraman that he needs to simply bill the company as soon as possible. “No problem,” he said, smiling. I am not making this up. He didn’t seem upset whatsoever. And actually, before our conversation, he didn’t even know what our normal field payment procedure was.

The reason he withheld the tapes is because he couldn’t get ahold of anyone at the office to confirm. Yet he didn’t ask me to call them on his behalf. He just kept quiet until the final moment. And the reason he couldn’t get ahold of anyone was because it was the weekend; Easter weekend at that! I told him he was being unreasonable and unprofessional, but, in the end, I left Gabon with 50% of the material we shot.

APRIL

The cameraman sent the remaining footage around six weeks later, and I haven’t spoken to him since. He made a big mistake. He could’ve gotten so much work from us. Now, we have a different stringer sending us material.

Anyway. Life at the Kileleshwa house was going well. Dave and I were getting along. We threw something like six house parties. But sometime in April, he informed me that I needed to move out by June 1st. His placement programme, which provided his housing, was no longer accepting students. Thus the house’s ownership would change, and my rent would increase from 20,000 inclusive to 55,000 plus utilities. That’s a $400+ difference and, when you’re not even making $1,000 per month, despite being on international television once per week, that’s an impossible leap.

When I heard this, I felt like running into traffic. This was my home. This was the only place in Kenya that made me feel comfortable. I went through so much before I got it. I thought it was God’s reward to me. Was I too harsh with the cameraman in Gabon? Was I being punished? I knew it would be difficult to find such an affordable yet comfortable living situation again. So, I began to plan my escape. If I was to leave Kenya in October anyway, what was the point of going through house hunting again, just to stay there for a matter of months?

I tried anyway, and ended up finding a room within an apartment that costs around half my monthly salary. I moved in on June 1st. It’s got water issues, and, with three roommates, feels a lot like college. But I’m content because I’m leaving soon.

MOROCCO

About one week after I moved in, I went to Morocco for one week. The cameraman was absolutely wonderful– what a treat after my last experience in the field! We were productive, and I would love to go back to Morocco.

Abdel the cameraman.

Abdel the cameraman.

We were mostly in Fez and the Sahara desert. Can you believe there’s WIFI there?

RESIGNATION

Back in Kenya and it’s already June. Time to reevaluate. I have accomplished so much. The company has sent me on 11 trips to 10 countries. I’ve been to exactly 20 countries in my 24 years of life.

But that’s enough, for now. I need to make money and, after almost two years of trying, I’m just not happy in Kenya. This year, I started to make more serious friendships, but we’re still not as close as family. Unfortunately, there’s not one person I love enough to stay for. There’s no boyfriend. There’s no aunty character.  There are just good friends. And just good isn’t good enough.

I also don’t like daily interactions with people. I told you I don’t go into the market anymore? That’s because I’m treated like a rich alien. I used to explain, but stopped because no one can believe that I once lived in a shack and ate avocados for dinner. No one believes that I earn a “Kenyan” salary, not an expat one. Just because I know how to dress well, and speak with this funny American accent, doesn’t make me rich. Just because my weave looks real, doesn’t mean it’s my hair. Doesn’t mean I spent a fortune on it, either.  I’m trying to get a deal, too. I’m trying to hustle. And I’m tired of bargaining with matatu tauts on my way to work every morning. I’m tired of being called white, when, in America, I’m definitely black. I’m tired of risking my life while crossing the street. I miss washing machines. I miss walking in heels on smooth pavement. I know I sound unappreciative of living in another culture, but I’ve really tried here. If you read my blog, you must agree that I’ve tried. But anyway, it doesn’t matter what you or anyone else thinks because I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul. And I get to decide when enough’s enough.

When the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport went up in flames earlier this month, a fellow expat posted “TIA” (this is Africa) as his Facebook status. A Kenyan, I assume, replied with something like, “When I see TIA, I say YCL. You Can Leave.” Then, the expat wrote, “TIA is why some of us are here.”

I love that. It’s beautiful. I sure as hell clicked “like.” But when I realized that I never would have responded like that, I felt better about my decision to go. TIA is why I moved to Kenya, but it’s no longer my reason to stay.

Many people ask why I don’t just work for another Kenyan company, one that pays better? The truth is that my current company ruined the country for me. I spent too many months living uncomfortably to believe that I will one day live the life I want here. The negative perception has been in my mind for so long that I can’t imagine changing it. I would rather go home. I can go on another adventure once I’m financially stable. Also, I doubt another company would pay for my work permit. That requires trust, and I’m not about to go through being illegal again while they decide whether I’m worth it or not. No thank you.

On August 1st, I submitted my letter of resignation. My bosses took it extremely well, probably because they saw it coming, and have even offered to give me media contacts. My last day is October 1st, which gives them plenty of time to replace me. Two in-house producers have already begun practicing their presenting skills every day in the garden.

Coming soon. Aren't they cute?

Coming soon. Aren’t they cute?

It’s ironic that, once I officially decide to leave Kenya, is when opportunities start to fall into my lap. I don’t seek out freelance gigs anymore; ain’t nobody got time for that. But when someone comes up to you, asking whether you’re interested in modeling for the nation’s leading newspaper? You gotta say yes.

The Nation's Saturday Magazine

The Nation’s Saturday Magazine

It might’ve been around that week, if not the same day, that I decided to go to Haven, a local pub owned by my friend’s parents. It used to be my regular hangout, but I hadn’t been there for some time. That evening, I met a guy who represents artists, and he told me that he could get me some presenting gig. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I thought. “This is just some guy talking to me at a bar.” Before I knew it, I was MCing last weekend’s Kenya Fashion Week 2013…

Kenya Fashion Week 2013

Kenya Fashion Week 2013

…and singing at Nairobi Fashion Week.

Singing at Nairobi Fashion Week.

Singing at Nairobi Fashion Week.

As I advance in my career, so do the people around me; from my coworkers to the twin boda guys, who sold their bikes earlier this year, and are now taxi drivers. Their father is a matatu driver, by the way. They are quite the transport family. Being that Nairobi is small, Stevie and I eventually kept running into each other so much that we began speaking again, though not about what happened last year. He now drives me at least once a week in his decorated car. But taxis are expensive. So, he referred me to Isaac, who quickly became my regular boda driver. I rarely called anyone else. The last time I saw Isaac was Thursday, August 15th.

He was the sweetest guy. Always smiling. We hugged each other when we met and departed. He would ask me, in advance, about whether to bring a helmet or not because, you know, you can’t always wear one when you’re rocking a high bun.

We once went clubbing with the twins and their friends, who were all obnoxiously drunk. Isaac, on the other hand, was cool and collected. He was the only one I enjoyed dancing with that night.

Last Monday night, Stevie sent a text that said Isaac was hospitalized after an accident. I didn’t think so much of it. Figured I’d check in with him tomorrow. I was honestly more worried that they’d expect me to cough out a lot of cash, which I don’t have. I didn’t think he was in critical condition.

Then, Stevie called me repeatedly on Tuesday. I don’t always pick my phone at work, so I was becoming annoyed. I texted him. What’s up? “Am sorry he passed away today.” Oh, my God. No. I called to find out what happened. At one of the many Nairobi construction sites, he hit a curb. In fact, it happened on the same road I take to work every weekday. Isaac and I have been on that road together countless times. Isaac was a good, cautious driver, so what the hell happened? A curb? I couldn’t believe it. It seemed too stupid. I felt angry with God.

Simon took Isaac to a public hospital, which was unsurprisingly overcrowded. The nurses did not see to him well enough. He died.

Two to five minutes passed before I started crying. Then, I couldn’t stop. I was teary-eyed all of work on Wednesday, and bawled as soon as I got home. This morning, I cried, but work was easier because, can’t lie, I spent most of the day writing this. (You can’t fire me! I already quit.)

So, as I move on with my life, most likely to America, although, I have also applied at stations in South Africa and Antigua, I will live for Isaac, as I’ve continued to live for Trevor, a friend who was murdered in high school. I cannot sit still. That’s why I go on adventures, follow my heart and search for my happy place. It’s too bad it wasn’t in Kenya, but I don’t regret one day in this life. I’m so strong. Even though I cry, I’m strong.

TV Presenter Reel

I’m sorry that this isn’t a written post! A long-winded one is coming soon. Meanwhile, please watch and share my latest demo reel.

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Routes and Roots

I’m not homeless anymore. Thanks to the Nairobi Expat Housing Facebook group, I live with a very kind, British housemate, Dave, who posted an ad for our beautifully furnished, decorated home with a large, gorgeous garden within a gated compound in a good neighborhood. Richmond Court is a 10-minute, 20-shilling matatu ride to the office. Rent is only double that of my old place (“shack”), which is affordable considering wifi, electricity, running water and a weekly maid service are included. There’s even a friendly dog that hangs out outside. Many people were interested in living there, so God must’ve answered my prayers to touch Dave’s heart after my interview. I was in a bad place before. But now, I have only one worry, for lack of a better word. I’m adjusting to him asking how my day went. He cares. It feels like I have family. It feels strange, but good.

Although I’m finally living comfortably, I’ve been singing “I’ll be home for Christmas” nearly every day since October. I’m so Dorothy Gale. I feel particularly homesick today. Journalism ethics aside, Obama won and that’s great. God bless the USA. I just wish I were in Minnesota, celebrating with loved ones. But I will be home for Christmas; from 10 December to 2 January to be exact. My salary is still ridiculously low, so my company is loaning me money for the plane ticket. I’m essentially working for free for the next few months in order to be with my family who I haven’t seen in one year, two months and seven days. Worth it?

We’ll see how much longer I’ll last with being broke. When I was in South Africa last week, an agency offered me a job in Nigeria that would triple my current salary. Don’t be surprised that I can’t easily accept. My company paid for my $6,000 work permit, so I feel obligated to stay in Kenya for now. But my eyes are open. It was at least encouraging to know that I’m capable of getting another job. In fact, my boss once said that, if I wanted to, I could get a job in Minnesota tomorrow. He said it’d be easy because I’ve been on international television.

My CV is sparkling. I’ve field produced a lot of stories. Although, South Africa was a rushed, messy experience. Unlike in, say, Uganda, people don’t seem to be as flexible with last-minute interviews. Nobody wanted to talk on the weekend. Every location was far from the next. I wish I’d planned better because more would’ve been accomplished. On a positive note, I bought new clothes and enjoyed South Africa’s beauty. Yet it was difficult to undersand that country. Except for in Rustenburg and Soweto, I didn’t feel like I was in Africa. South Africa was nothing like the other African countries I’ve observed. It felt more like Europe. So, any American who has only ever been to South Africa, and comes home bragging of having deeply experienced Africa, I encourage you to take another trip to, hmm, maybe Kenya? Live our hustle and post a blog about your adventure or something.

Image

Children in Rustenburg, South Africa

I’ve traveled a lot this year. I went to Uganda (twice), Rwanda, Italy and South Africa. I was in Italy on 10th October, when I posted a Facebook status that said, “From office intern to world-travelling journalist. All in one year at A24 Media.” It got more than 100 likes. I’m grateful for the support. I know I look crazy for having moved to Kenya alone on a one-way ticket without a job lined up and around $400 in my account. I often feel crazy. But I’m still on this journalism journey, and it’s proving to be valuable.

Please read this wonderfully written article that shows I’m ambitious rather than a complete nutcase:

http://wallinpartners.org/2012/kiya-edwards

Anyway, time is ticking before the holidays and there’s a lot to do at work including planning a trip for Cameroon and Gabon next week. I’m looking forward to working in the western part of the continent. Yet there’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…

Kenyaversary

One year and three days ago, I arrived in Kenya. My Kenyaversary is on September 3rd, and there shall be two more.

This is what I looked like as a one-year-and-two-days-year-old in Kenya

I’m having a pool party on Friday at my friend’s house, in celebration of having survived this lifestyle for one year, and in hopes that the next two will bring joy.

Summary of living conditions:
In September 2011, I stayed with my ex-fiance, and yes, we’d broken up before I moved there. The first lesson I learned in Kenya is: never live with your ex. I lasted three weeks before moving in with Monica, my host mother from when I was an exchange student in 2009. She and her kids had moved to a smaller place since then, so there wasn’t much room for me this time. Yet I stayed there for four months because I couldn’t afford rent anywhere, as my internship was unpaid. In February, I moved into a “shack,” as an American friend called it when she came over, once, in the ghetto known as Amboseli. Rent was affordable, but I hated everything about that house. I went to Kibera yesterday and saw houses in better condition than that one. Anyway, back in August, someone broke in while I was home (see previous post for details), and I’ve been staying with friends ever since. End.

I’ve always believed that your home should be your haven, and I haven’t had that for one year. And now, after negotiating with my company about salary, it looks like I won’t have it for another two years. I was hoping they’d give me enough to move into a securer neighborhood, but they didn’t. I’m back to square zero, looking for another shack. And I swear, if one more person suggests I live in a servant’s quarter, I will flip my quarter. F I look like?

I wish I were in a better mental state to celebrate my Kenyaversary. I’m trying to focus on these four positive, upcoming events.

1) Chords ‘n’ Cords
Wordbenda, a spoken word artist and guitarist, and I are performing at Dass Ethiopian restaurant in Westlands tonight.  One of the songs we’re doing is called “Tattoo Tribute.” Here’s the flyer:

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2) Kenyaversary Pool Party
Tomorrow (Friday) in Lavington. Text me for details.

3) Italy
My company is sending me on a five-day business trip to Italy in October.

4) Christmas
I’ll be home for Christmas! Leila will have had her baby. I’ll get together with everyone. I’ll do winter activities like sledding, and I’ll go to the cinema with my family. EVERYTHING WILL BE ALL RAINBOWS AND BUTTERFLIES.

What Should Africa Call Me?

I’m sorry, but some of these posts are too funny and true.

Africa Journal

It’s my 7th week co-hosting Africa Journal! Tune in every Saturday at 12:30pm on KTN in Kenya, and every Wednesday at 8:30pm Tuesday at 7:30pm on the Africa Channel.

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