A Typical Day Working in Nairobi

Abigael painting the clay beads.

Since moving to Nairobi, I have been going non-stop. I pretty much work seven days a week. There is always something to be done or an unexpected problem to solve. It’s been a very big challenge, and I have learned a lot. It is very different than traveling through Africa. The typical frustrations of travel on this slow continent start to wear on you when experiencing them on a daily basis. Plus, the traffic in Nairobi is a much bigger problem than I had remembered. I thought I would share with you a typical day for me, as even though everyday is different, this will give you an idea of how very much all of over the place I am. Yesterday I moved (long story and more on that to come) which will significantly reduce my commute (yay!). But the work will still be there so not much will change except that I might be able to fit more into the day. 

Wednesday, 23 January

7:15 Wake up tired after being on Skype until after midnight. Crawl out of bed after a few minutes and get in the shower. Make tea. Get ready for the day, make a few notes, and gather supplies that I will need.

8:45 Go to the kitchen to fill water bottle and realize I never drank my tea. Cover the pot to take it later.

8:50 Realize I have a text message from Onesmus (John’s brother). He’s really sick and on his way to the hospital. Call to get more information. Find out he went to the hospital last night but they had no medication and sent him home, so he’s headed back this morning.

9:00 Walk out the door (late!). Take a matatu and then a bus. Sit in high amounts of traffic and stress about being late.

9:50 Arrive at our workshop. Since I have a meeting with the brass artisans at 11, I seek advice from the two ladies to review my pricing to ensure it is fair. They get a big kick out of the high prices the artisans originally asked for (I tried to reassure them that I had not negotiated yet) and at least I’ve provided a laugh for the morning. Encourage them to focus, so I can get through all of the products in time.

11:05 Brass artisans arrive. Unbeknownst to me, Fred had called them the night before and told them to be receptive as I am very familiar with local pricing and could always go to someone else. Suddenly they are much more agreeable, unlike the resistance I received the day before. I know my prices are fair, and above the necessary price to pay, so we agree on virtually all of my proposed prices. After negotiating on my own, Fred arrives just as we are wrapping up.

12:30 Wrap up brass meeting and agree to meet later in the day for me to provide quantities and deposit. Once they leave, I start helping one of the women who is stuck on a bead pattern and can’t find her mistake.

12:45 Go to print off spec sheets for brass workers so I can chart out prices and quantities for them. Realize on one of the three pages, I have duplicated products and am missing a column of photos. Ask the printer to print another document of photos so I can literally cut and paste to correct the spec sheets. As luck would have it, the power goes out in the market right then, and I will need to come back.

12:55 Start writing out the pricing and quantities on spec sheets. Call Onesmus for an update. Still hasn’t been seen by a doctor.

1:30 Send Fred to see if power is back on and print remaining product images.

1:40 Correct last spec sheet and write quantity and pricing for remainder. Then go through and realize that after adding everything up, I am over budget. Must go back through all items and adjust quantities until we are nearly right at our budget.

2:30 Write out a handwritten invoice that will match up each product number with the spec sheets. Show subtotals for each item and jewelry category, as well as the Deposit and Balance. Check all calculations.

3:30 Finish work with women and close up shop. Go back to printer and make copies of everything so I have a record as well.

3:50 Meet up with Fred to go to ATM and an M-Pesa (mobile money) agent to pay deposit to brass artisans. Call Onesmus again. There are no needles in the lab at the public hospital for them to run tests, so he is on his way to a private hospital.

4:00 Withdrawal money and grab some meat pies at the grocery store since I haven’t had time to eat, while Fred stands in line for the M-Pesa agent.

4:10 Join Fred who needs my ID to deposit into my M-Pesa account. Not only do I not have my passport, the required ID for foreigners, but I remember that my M-Pesa account is registered in Onesmus’ name so I can’t use it. We deposit the money into Fred’s M-Pesa account instead.

4:20 Make it back to the workshop to meet with brass artisans. We review the spec sheets and invoice and go through which items need another sample before production on those can begin. Transfer money from Fred’s phone to the brass artisan’s phone.

5:15 Feel relieved that one thing is officially off of my plate, and I can move on to other things. Hop on a bus to head to town. Receive a text from Onesmus that he has five (FIVE!) types of worms and needs a little more money in order to buy all of the medications so that he doesn’t have to go home and come back for them the next day. Call Fred to the rescue and ask him to send it from his M-Pesa since I have now realized that I can’t use mine.

6:30 Traffic is awful and I’m an hour late to meet a friend. We go to grab some chai and review our partnership with his NGO here in Kenya. We also discuss educational programs and brainstorm for the school that his NGO runs.

8:45 Catch a matatu home. Since it’s late, I hide my money and my phone in my underwear (yeah, I’m cool like that).

9:15 Arrive home too tired and too late to cook. Prepare for work the next day and head to bed.

So, that at least gives you a glimpse into my days here, even if they are all different. Some days I am scouring the town for supplies, working on new designs, or trying to solve quality issues at the workshop. We are slowly making progress. I am hoping in the next few weeks to be spending less time with the artisans and more time on the front end of the business to prepare for our launch. Have any questions? Feel free to ask!

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