An International affair

It’s any wonder how I get myself into these kind of ridiculous situations. Here I stand, in front of the Kenyan Embassy to Canada, reeking of anxiety and insecurity as I contemplate my inevitable meeting with the Kenyan High Commissioner to Canada, his honorable excellency Mr. Simon Nabukwesi. Ok, lets go through the final check: Fly zipper is up? Check. Breath? Questionable. Socks? Mismatched and soaked. Confidence that I can accurately pronounce his Excellency’s last name? No possible way. While I would agree that these kind of high-pressure situations can often bring out the best in a person, I have come to accept that they can also serve to remind one that they are just a tiny little goldfish swimming in an ocean of giganticness. Is my fly zipper really zipped up? Good thing I checked…
As I often find happens with most other stressful situations like this, I eventually became saturated with my many emotions and environmental stimuli, resulting in a kind of acceptance and tunnel vision on the matter at hand. Either that, or I may been prematurely working my way through the many stages of grief. Fortunately, by that point I was stuck on denial stage and was ready to go. It might have helped that the whole embassy was not quite as opulent as I had envisioned, though I have yet to step into any embassy that fit my ornate, Hollywood stereotype. No, rather I found myself sitting on a three-person pleather couch, admiring the old tourism posters that were adorning as much of the walls as possible. Not a single gigantic marble column was to be found, nor was there one single inch of ornate wooden embellishment adorning the furniture.
Soon enough, into the room steps his Excellency’s third secretary named Victor. A most cheerful and welcoming man, he appeared to be young like me, almost matching in height and body type (with my defeat in all of these categories). After an exchange of pleasantries we started making our way up to his Excellency’s main meeting room.
…And there he was. If the main lobby didn’t quite fit my prejudiced expectations, his Excellency most certainly did. They say that if you have to convince someone that you have power and prestige, chances are that you don’t. With that in mind, there is not a moment of doubt in my mind that that this is a man that possesses power, even before a word is uttered. Huge mitt sized hands grasp my tiny paws, squeezing the vice grips in a honorific handshake that lasts just love enough to likely do permanent damage. However, first impressions pass and we begin our conversation, and I immediately realize that this is actually a very openhearted man, empathetic to my obvious distress and carrying the conversation on his back.
It is important to appreciate this amazing man’s background to truly understand the value of his wisdom. Before he had ever had the slightest inclination towards politics, Mr Nabukwesi spent years as a teacher in the district neighboring Kakamega. Possessing an apparent proficiency for pedagogy, over two decades he worked his was up to principal of a high school, then to district education administration within his district. Finally, in the most recent culmination of his professional success, he was made an offer that no one could in their right mind refuse and is sent to Canada for diplomatic endeavors. Mountains of experience later, he sits before me and is willing to teach. I am now his humble student.
Lets start with my role in the Kakamega district high schools. He agrees that there is a valuable place for a young volunteer like myself amongst the local youth. He makes a clear point to emphasize that it is what I represent that he sees as most valuable, that being a promoter of community service beyond ones personal gain. He explains that this motivation is commonly lost amongst the Kenyen youth he has worked with and needs to be turned around. As well, he explained that the same is to be said about the community surrounding these youth, in that more community involvement and action needs to be understaked by local businesses and personalities. It would seem that his vision is for a greater connectedness between the high school youth and the growing comminty, coming together to undertake projects that will help with social growth and improvement.
In regards to the de-worming project, he made it quite clear that he thought there was no legitimate place for me in it, and that at most I might make some observations as everyone else gets it done. Basically, leave it to the professionals but your intentions are nice. As he was explaining this I had one of those moments where I was talking back to the person while they were talking, but only in my head. Really? No role at all? Everything involved with this project demands specialized skills with lots of experience? While I by no means propose that I should choose the medication, or to actually test the children for parasitic intensity, I nonetheless plan to get a hold of any and all of the organizational, coordination, or whatever jobs that they will throw at me. Of course, all of that was being said strictly in my head.
So there it was, an hour and fifteen minutes later its all over. More pleasantries are exchanged, I am presented with a signed letter from the ambassador himself basically giving me diplomatic street cred. One flash of that paper and I can make anything happen. So this is what power feels like! I’m scared about how much I like it… All in all, pretty fantastic meeting. All of the advice will be taken under consideration, but will ultimately come down to what my CES Kenya brothers and I deem to be the best course of action. At the pace I’d expect that ill be invited to the presidential palace in my first week there!

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