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Category: Travel

My Africa Diaries: The Clash

One of the most striking things about Kenya was what a blend of the future and the past it represented in almost every location, all swirled up in one moment of technology and tradition. The iHub was in a way a space out of time or place. The welcome mats read “There’s no place like 127.0.0.1”, as if I’d never left Silicon Valley years ago. There was a mural of the original Mario Brothers game on the wall in the staircase. And dozens of programmers (both genders), with the stickers on their laptops surely familiar to Western programmers. There were…

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My Africa Diaries: Drinking, Eating, and Drinking

THE WATER The first thing many folks tell you when traveling to a “developing” country is about the water quality. Specifically, to avoid the tap water at nearly all costs. This was my first experience in a country where that recommendation was active. Of course, this recommendation is far more impactful than just drinking bottled water. Wait, you’re telling me we shouldn’t have salads and unpeeled fruits? What about handwashing and showering – why is that OK but drinking the water not? And in a tropical country you have to be careful of iced beverages? Most incongruous of all is…

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My Africa Diaries: The Final Sprint

Kenyans are renowned for their sprinting abilities… in stark contrast to my own physical proclivities. But I did my own form of sprinting today, with a back to back day on the heels of a successful Thursday. The first half of the day was brainstorming a plan for the iHub UX lab to become self-sustaining in a reliable way. Their opportunities are many and their point of view is strong, but it’s still a challenge to keep the doors open at times. It’s really exciting to imagine the potential impact they could have – after all, how many other chances…

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My Africa Diaries: Swahili for Westerners

Kenya is most definitely a deeply multilingual community – though they’ve embraced English as a national language due to their colonial heritage, they still boast Swahili as the national language. Residents comfortably switch between the two when speaking with each other. Most locals in the tourism industry will be happy to teach you a handful of Swahili words. While not strictly necessary, it’s a nice little way to indicate respect for the culture when used correctly. Jambo: The Swahili word for “hello”. As with “hello”, this word works as both call and response. It’s not tied to a particular time…

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My Africa Diaries: Working at iHub

The primary reason I’m in Africa is as a volunteer for the Microsoft4Afrika program. One part of their outreach is to match professionals from Microsoft with identified technology needs in African countries. Many of the assignments are either teaching advanced skills or helping with infrastructure and IT needs. For my own part, I was matched with a request from the iHub in Nairobi for user experience training on developing products for Microsoft platforms. I’ve spent the better part of the last month preparing my curriculum from scratch – though I do teach an intro to interaction design workshop back in…

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