I’m not going to lie, these past few weeks have been really tough. Today I capped off my last whole day of work in December with one of those days where everything goes wrong. Le sigh. Work has been pretty stressful and it’s hard not to get emotionally exhausted. I know I just started so I’m sure it will get better in a few months. Every job is hard in the beginning. Here in Nairobi, the challenges you face I think are different from the US. It’s a whole another level. The basics which I took for granted at my last job are the daily challenges I fight daily here! You live and you learn right? I know it will be a great learning experience so I have to keep reminding myself.
Which brings me to the title of this post…TIA! TIA is an acronym and it stands for “This is Africa.” We expats like to say it when things get a little absurd. We shrug it off and say, “TIA.” For example, here are some use cases:
- When you wait 20 minutes in the grocery store line because the checkout software keeps crashing and they have the restart the computer mid-checking you out.
- Or the power goes out in the store so you have to wait to pick out your tomatoes since you can’t see.
- The taxi is 2 hours late to pick you up.
- It can take you 20 min to get to work, or it can take over an hour. Just depends on things like whether or not a graduation ceremony is happening, or the bus drivers are on strike, or just because.
- Sometimes when I call Mike in Dar, the call drops every 2 minutes so we have to keep calling each other back until we get fed up with the reception and say goodnight.
- You are in a meeting at work, and no one puts their phones on silent, and everyone answers their cell if someone calls them.
Most of it is just stuff we’re not used to. You get really spoiled living in a first world country like the US. EVERYTHING is fast! Self-checkout! The Internet always works. There’s always gas at the gas station. You know, it’s always all about perspective. I try to keep positive but some days are just a beat down.
Mike and I are tired of living out of suitcases for 9 months, that’s for sure. We wanted adventure, we got it! I think mentally, I was prepared for it to take a long time. I know I threw a monkey wrench in the plan by moving us to Nairobi, and thus prolonging our nomadic state. It would be nice to fast forward 3 months to when we’re all settled. =) But life is life and it’s about the journey, not rushing quickly to your “perfect” destination. I always have to remind myself. It seems we’re always just gunning for the next goal and we forget to enjoy.
I want to share a speech I found. I came across it because I met this woman, Susan Mboya, who I was introduced to by an old mentor. She lives in Nairobi and works at Coca-Cola with a long stint at P&G in the US before Coke. Of course before I met, I did my homework and I found this speech. I was so inspired by it and what she had to say really resonated with me. I was getting really comfortable in my “life of leisure” and when I read the speech, I realized if I didn’t get back into my career, I would feel guilty for not giving myself the opportunity. Almost like a feeling of I didn’t want to waste myself, you know? You can read the speech here. I think too often women sell themselves short. Call it socialized gender roles, or the vicious cycle of emulating what you few up with. Whatever the reason, it exists.
At work, I’ve encountered men of certain cultures ignore me or rudely cut me off and I’ve suspected that it’s because I’m a woman. I’ve verified with other women in the office that this happens to them as well. I know this happens in the US too, but probably not to this extent. I’ve never experienced it this blatantly before. I remind myself that women in the US workforce paved the way for our generation years ago. Thank you!
So this post turned into more of a rant-slash-giving myself a pep talk post. Sometimes we all just need a little pep talk and to sleep it off. Tomorrow’s a new day…and I start my long journey back to the US for Christmas!