Today, I am headed up to Northern Kenya for the first time. I am going to be doing some surveying of businesses, and overseeing training sessions about borrowing and lending (nominally) and then taking some photos and videos as well. All together, I am going to be gone for a little more than three weeks. I head out this afternoon, and get back on Friday, August 3rd. Until then, I’ll be pretty incommunicado. I might have some mobile phone service from time to time, but internet is unclear at best.
I am really excited about the trip! I feel like perhaps more in than any just about any other profession (though I’m clearly very biased) much of international development is fundamentally removed from the work that is actually being done. I have studied development for the better part of four years at school, and have held various jobs and internships, but have yet to actually interact directly with the people I am aiming to help. That all changes today!
More than anything else, my goal is to learn a great deal more about the individuals with whom we work. In the office, I am constantly thinking of hypotheticals and new ideas—could we try this, could we do that, and all my co-workers can really do is say what they think. Now, I’m going to get much more practical answers. “Is there a way this process of recordkeeping could be made more useful?” “Do you think your customers would buy a ‘family pack’—a week’s worth of food, if it were offered at a discount rate?” “Can this savings program be better fine-tuned to coincide with school fees?” I fully expect to wear out the other people I am working with through my constant questions.
The feeling I have just before I depart is closest I think to the one I get the day before school starts. I have a general idea of what the experience is going to be like (I think), people have been talking to me about what to expect, I’ve been getting things together (only instead of folders for school, it’s survey forms and a notebook for my “field notes”). At some point though, all the preparation in the world can’t ready me for what’s about to come. I’ve just got to go out and do it. As Bilbo Baggins would say, (and yes, I went there) “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Can’t wait to see where I get swept off to this time.
As a footnote, for all of you worried about whether or not you’ll get to read exciting new blog posts while I’m gone (and by “all of you” I mean Mom, Dad, Ryan, Matt Pacana), never fear! WordPress has a feature where you can write posts, and then schedule them to be published at a later time. Accordingly, in the past couple weeks, whenever I’ve thought “that would make a good blog post” I’ve made note, and have been trying to write like crazy over the last few days to have three week’s worth of blog posts. So every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I’ll have new content. And for those of you that refuse to watch shows or sports on TiVo cause you only like to experience it live, I don’t know what to tell you.
Cheers, back in August!