My, Was I Misled

My life should be a reality show. You’d likely be entertained. Now, can I adequately represent it in this blog?

Let’s start where I left off— with Nic, a great friend and resource. He’s already introduced me to several media professionals. In addition to running his own film company and co-hosting a travel show, he acts on Mali, Kenya’s first soap opera. He helped me get an interview there as a video editor. The experience was unconventional, as I shadowed employees, but it went well. Being in a new environment felt refreshing. The deal was to come back in a few days, edit two episodes for trial, and potentially get the job.

I felt good about that until I got home. I thought about what it would mean to work 12-hour days and half days on Saturdays. I was turned off. By American standards, the hours aren’t worth the pay. I could make more by bagging groceries for a week. But my Minnesotan Quaker friends taught me how to live in the present moment. Kiya, you’re in Kenya.

The next day, clouds opened.

As mentioned, I’m producing a new fashion TV show as an unpaid intern producer. At an all-staff meeting last week, I was categorized as a trial employee. Also last week, a text from a new friend asked how my slaveternship was going. I just love that! I must’ve come across as overworked. Eh, very well. Allow me to proudly accept my role as slavetern. Imagine if I put that or trial employee on my resume:

Trial Employee                                                              October 2011 until deemed worthy

Anyway, the new show needed a host, so we held auditions. My fabulous co-producer, Lenny, originally said that I’m not allowed to audition. Something about being behind the scenes. But our COO encouraged me to do so anyway. I rehearsed the script that morning. Once called, I entered feeling slightly nervous but mostly excited. I feel comfortable on camera, and the atmosphere enabled me to prove that. The audition was fun and I left it feeling good. Not long after, Lenny came downstairs and told me he hated me.

Later that day, I found out I got the gig. I was so happy!

The evening before I left for Kenya, my former Mapps Coffees boss invited me over for dinner. She introduced me to Turkish coffee. According to legend, the coffee grounds left in the cup after it has been tipped over tell the drinker’s future. It’s prophetic, delicious, and caffeinated. Take that, fortune cookie! . . . Apparently, the grounds depicted me happily working a dream job in Kenya. I remembered the fortune when Lenny asked me to host the show’s first shoot in less than 24 hours.

I was eager to accept, but I needed to make sure I’d be paid. One of many lessons I’ve learned here is: address money right away. If you don’t, you shan’t receive. A friend told me that if you can hustle in Nairobi, you could hustle anywhere. So, I took a breath and asked. I did tell him that, just yesterday, I’d gotten the opportunity to work with a new company and, get ready, they pay. Although, I still had to do the two trial episodes. Okay, seriously, this trial employee concept is too foreign.

When I exhaled, I was still alive. He ensured I’d be paid because if a non-slavetern had been chosen as host, they’d surely be.

My, was I misled. I don’t want it to sound like it’s his fault because he meant well. It was just a premature judgment. Long story short, I went on three amazing shoots between Friday and Tuesday, when I was finally able to talk about payment with the COO. He informed me that the company isn’t ready to pay me. He said they can’t invest in me if the show hasn’t been sold and thus isn’t yet making money for the company. (We produce content and sell it to broadcasters.) He said if someone had been selected outside of the company, she’d have to do the pilot episode for free, too. He said internships are unpaid and, after three months, the individual is considered for hire. I completely held it together during the meeting. I asked a few questions but mostly I was quiet because I was shocked. But afterward, when my coworker asked how it went, I cried… and I didn’t stop for about five hours, I swear. I was devastated. I thought I had a job. Dreams of moving into my own space, finally unpacking my suitcases, buying a plane ticket home, and paying student loans vanished so suddenly.

I had a rough week. Icing: I finally went to immigration only to have a lazy man tell me to come back on December 1st, two days before my visa expires. It’s almost laughable. He looked at me like, why on earth would you plan ahead? Then, I took a stupid matatu home. It had to be the kind that just doesn’t feel like brining you to your destination even though you’ve paid. I was truly Africa’d out.

Is happiness at the bottom of this bag of fries? Is success at the bottom of this ice cream bowl? No, I’m just gaining weight. And it’s not okay.

Thanks for reading,




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