Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Team Kenya: B-school ethics in Nairobi

December 17th was another travel day for Team Kenya. We woke up in Kisumu and made the short drive through town to the airport. During the check-in process, we learned a lesson in Kenyan air travel. When we flew from Nairobi to Kisumu earlier in the week, we were each given a half sheet of paper that looked like a flight itinerary or receipt. In trying to clean up and lighten our baggage load upon arrival, some of us had thrown away our used boarding passes, old itineraries, and baggage tags. Unfortunately, we also threw away that piece of paper, which happened to also be our return ticket to Nairobi. Luckily, the airline checked our passports and issued us boarding passes. Lesson learned for next time!

Waiting for and boarding an airplane at Kisumu is an experience of its own. The boarding gate was actually outside, under a large tent. Passengers sit in rows of chairs, waiting for a gate employee to announce that boarding can begin. One member of our team went to buy a bottle of water from the outside bar (also under the tent), but discovered that they did not have adequate change when he tried to pay. The employee took his money, and walked off into the main building. Fortunately, a few minutes later, he returned with correct change in time to catch our plane.

When our flight was announced, we walked through a gate, onto the tarmac, and took in one last view of Kisumu before boarding.The flight back to Nairobi took approximately 45 minutes. From the air, members of our team saw hyacinth on Lake Victoria, and large rice, tea and coffee plantations between the two cities.

When we arrived in Nairobi, we were following the crowd on the tarmac walking toward the building when we were asked to stop. In front of us, slightly to our right, was a plane that was preparing to take off. We had to wait for it to leave before we could continue walking. While we were waiting, a private jet had arrived and was taxiing up behind us. As the first aircraft left, the ground crew started waving their arms and yelling, trying to get the crowd out of the way so the jet could get into its designated parking area. We all moved to the left and made it out of the way before being run over by the jet.

Our drive from the airport to Maryknoll Guest House was much longer than we expected. The distance seemed long, and was made longer by the traffic. One good thing about being stuck in Nairobi traffic is having an opportunity to view the street vendors. They would walk up and down the street between the rows of vehicles selling random items, such as flags, passport covers, soccer balls, pens and peanuts.

Once at the guest house, we found a gorgeous compound run by the Maryknollers, an order of Catholic priests. Although the power goes on and off all the time, it will be a nice place to stay for our group. It is located in a nice part of town, feels very secure, and has ammenities such as internet access, a television room, and a kitchen with drinks and snacks.

Our next destination was the CRS headquarters, where our team had an opportunity to finally meet up with Viva. She was very excited to see us, and I think we were all happy to see a familiar face. We sat in a conference room and shared our experiences over lunch. We learned about Viva's trip to Mombasa, and she learned about our visits to Kisumu, Homa Bay, Rongo, Migori and Kipingi.

We discussed our memorable moments, challenges and opportunities faced by groundnut producers and local businesses, and plans for the remainder of our time in Kenya.After lunch, our team traveled to the University of Nairobi's School of Business at the Lower Kabete Campus to meet with Dean Nzuve and Professor Karanja. During our discussion, we were told that the University of Nairobi has the largest business school in Africa, with approximately 7,000 students, and offers bachelors, masters and PhD programs. Although the school faces many challenges, we were encouraged at one point when the conversation turned to ethics. When we asked them how the corruption in the country affects and is dealt with by the school, Professor Kiranja mentioned that the business school was looking at incorporating some ethics classes into their curriculum.

Upon hearing this, our eyes widened and our team was eager to share our experiences regarding Notre Dame's ethical foundation. We spoke passionately about Notre Dame, its values, and the structure of our MBA program. When it was time to leave, we left our new friends with a Notre Dame pennant to remember us by and took a few group pictures in front of a University of Nairobi sign.We were given a chance after the interview to go back to Maryknoll and relax for about an hour. Then we all packed back into our CRS van and traveled to David Orth-Moore's house (David is the East African Regional Director for CRS) to meet back up with Viva for dinner and a debriefing.

We were warmly greeted by David and his family, and we all sat outside next to a fire discussing topics ranging from Notre Dame football to microeconomics as it related to Kenyan business. Our team was then treated to a wonderful Indian-themed dinner, followed by dessert. After dinner, we shared with David our impressions of Kenya and CRS's initiatives. We then offered gifts to David and his team as an expression of our sincere gratitude for their efforts to make our trip memorable.

The members of CRS that we have interacted with have been top-notch, and have gone to great lengths to ensure our educational journey to Kenya was rewarding. The evening ended with our goodbyes and a drive back to Maryknoll. Having a nice dinner with friends was a welcomed relaxation after the hard work we have been doing during this trip. On the drive back, we all commented on how lucky we were to be sharing this time together, and how we can't wait to get home and tell everyone about our experiences in Kenya.

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