Since Aga Khan is an international University it is no surprise that working for it involves a certain amount of travel. So two weeks ago I was in Nairobi, among other things visiting two schools in some of the poorer areas in which our sister organisation, the Aga Khan Foundation, is active. Children were absolutely fantastic, difficult to relate the smiling, laughing, eager to please, smartly dressed youngsters with the stories we were told about their living conditions.
I was asked to introduce myself, and as part of that asked, 'Look at my face, listen to how I speak, where do you think I come from?' Somewhat taken aback to get the answer, 'Mombasa'. I think the logic here is - Mombasa is a far distant place of which they'd heard but never been nor expect to go in the foreseeable future, in which presumably strange people like me live. We got to England eventually, not through China this time but I have had that previously.
A few pictures from Nairobi if I may:
Not normally one for praying in Cathedrals, I found the austere beauty of All Saints Cathedral, not far from where I was staying, really quite captivating. Not allowed to take pictures within the Cathedral precincts, this is the best I could do I'm afraid:
Met up with David and Liza Cooke for lunch which was fantastic not seen them for 30 years, they're now missionaries based in Eldoret, and happened to be in Nairobi at the same time as me, in their case for a language course. Hope to see you again in somewhat less than 30 years this time!
On the way back I was in the airport wanting a cup of tea. When I saw they were offering herbal tea I asked if they had Earl Grey. It became clear that the shop assistant hadn't heard of it, and the conversation then became somewhat bogged down, whereupon he said, "You are difficult to understand, you have a very strong accent."
This was, as you might appreciate, red rag to a bull. I drew myself up to my full 5 feet 10 inches and said, "Excuse me! This is English from England! This is English in its highest and purest form with no accent at all! Indeed, this is how the Queen of England speaks - hurrah for Her Majesty!" The shop assistant and his colleagues seemed to appreciate the pantomime.
So, that was the week before last. And then on Monday last week I was about to pack up for the day when the 'phone rang, could I go to Kampala? By 12 noon the following day was on the way, this time to represent the University at a meeting of teacher training college principals in connection with a large project involving a number of Aga Khan agencies. Somewhat humbled to meet a principal who had traveled for two days by bus to be there - and I complain about delayed flights....
Back in the office on Friday and Saturday, and off to Lesotho via Johannesburg tomorrow starting off at some ridiculously hour. And may be going back to Kampala on the way home (yes, I know, geography never was my strong point!) I finish with a list of currencies I currently possess:
UK pounds (locked in my filing cabinet in my office for when I return);
Tanzanian shillings (normal, 2500 to a pound)
US dollars (not all the time but pretty normal, seems to be accepted pretty well internationally)
Ugandan shillings (2 to a Tanzanian shilling)
South African Rand (taxi ride to hotel is about 100, will get clued up about the exchange rate on the way)
Kenyan shillings (20 Tanzanian shillings to 1 Kenyan shilling)
My mid year's resolution: I will never say a rude word about the Euro again.