My first trip to Africa
Andela Kenya’s Dojo
Last month I had the amazing opportunity to visit Kenya and meet some incredibly talented - one might even say ‘world-class’ - engineers that are part of Andela’s Nairobi Campus.
I had never been to Africa before and in preparation for the trip, I did what I always do – research the history of a country. On my recent trip to Thailand and Cambodia, I loved learning about the Khmer Empire and it’s impact on the South East Asian peninsula. In my prep for Kenya, I was disappointed to find so little summed up on Kenya’s Wikipedia page - although I highly recommend listening to RadioLab’s episode on the Mau Mau. The Wikipedia page gives you the impression that there was pre-history and then bam! - Imperialists arrive. I knew there was more to the story, so I got on a plane to learn more first hand.
I was woefully unprepared for what met me on my arrival in Africa. The culture, the art, the people and holy crap, the size. Arriving in Africa as a ‘dumb American’ – one that tends to have only seen Africa through a media lens – you’re kind of dumbfounded. My brief visit helped me see that in the west we talk about Africa, a massive continent, as if it had the size and diversity of Texas. In reality, the term ‘African peoples’ feels entirely inadequate for the diversity I saw. I started to realize what it means that there are a BILLION people, so many tribes, cultures, histories – and so so so much potential. There is so much to learn and explore, and so little of it is being widely discussed in my tiny western world. It was an incredible moment of humility and excitement when I realized just how much I didn’t know. Luckily, that is a feeling I find intoxicating.
I had an incredible time - I danced at a Kenyan BBQ (which wouldn’t be complete without the ‘hypeman’), met many Andela Fellows and pair programmed with a few. As a bonus, Mark Zuckerberg visited Andela’s Lagos campus while I was in Kenya, which was great to watch alongside the fellows. Outside the office, I got to see some animals in Nairobi’s national park, including a rare lion sighting. But the absolute highlight might have been going ice skating, in Africa!
Getting to know some Andela Fellows
Typically, when I’ve traveled and come home from a new location, people aren’t super curious about the experience. When I’ve traveled to Asia or Europe, they ask if I liked my trip or general feelings about the culture. Africa is different. Everyone is curious. From the taxi to the plane to the airport, everyone asked me “what did you think?”. So what do I think of Africa so far? The biggest take away I have from my first visit is exactly that sort of curiosity. Everyone I met in Nairobi was hungry to learn, hungry to ask me questions and hungry to improve themselves. It felt like the whole continent was hungry and ready to hustle if given the opportunity. That curiosity and desire to improve, to take control of the direction of their lives, feels unique. I can’t wait to explore further, deepen my understanding, and see more of what Africa really is.