Welcome to the latest post in the Day in My Expat Life series. Today we are back in Africa – but this time up from me a bit, in Kenya. Although Kenya is a long way from South Africa, there are a few things which feel very familiar – in particular the bars on the doors and the keep. Please welcome Mahua, who blogs at nyc2nairobi.
I’m a New Yorker and a User Experience Strategist and Designer. My husband and I have moved to Nairobi for his job with the UN a little over a year ago. We plan to be in Nairobi for several more years. We are lucky in that his post is open ended to a degree because we really love it in Kenya.
On my blog, I post about the more interesting or exciting things in my life. Someone might read it and think that life in Nairobi is all about the excursions and travel and fun. There’s plenty of ordinary life as well. Dare I say it, a day in my life is actually a bit boring.
The day starts with security. We disarm the security system and unlock the safe haven gate every morning. This is a common thing in Nairobi. Houses have safe haven gates (a strong iron gate that prevents anyone from getting to the bedrooms upstairs) and most homes have a security system and/or askari (guard).
We get dressed and eat breakfast. My husband goes to work at his office. Our house keeper arrives around 8 am and I’ll talk to her a bit about anything she needs to know for the day. And then I go into the usual routine.
My day to day actually varies. Some days I don’t leave the house. I try to plan something outside of the house for once a twice a week. This could be getting together with a friend, something work related, or even just an errand or mundane appointment. When I go out, I need to plan it.
We have one car. Sometimes I’ll take it for the day. Other times I’ll use our regular guy who drives us – not a full time driver, just my usual go-to guy. I’ll need to make arrangement for anytime I want to leave the house. I’m not trapped, but I do have to plan.
Also, if I leave the house and no one is home, I will arm the security system. Most days, unless it’s a holiday, our housekeeper will be around so I won’t need to arm the system.
Most days, my day involves working from home as an independent consultant. What does that mean? First of all, yes, I really am working. Secondly, it’s flexible in working hours. Kenya has very strict rules about work authorization. You can’t even volunteer without a permit. Much of the work I do is tied to U.S. companies and I work remotely. I also work with Kenyan companies, but they need to get me the authorization first.
Outside of assignments, I’ve also done some pro bono work (again for firms outside of Kenya). I’ve started writing some professional pieces. I’ve done one speaking engagement and I plan to do a few more. These are things I didn’t have time for when I worked as staff in any company (either in Kenya or in the U.S.). It’s nice to be able to do these things now.
I also work on my blog. It’s fun and I enjoy it. However, it’s something that is starting to shift more and more into the realm of work for me. It’s not just writing the posts. I plan out an editorial schedule so that there are always posts. I take and edit the photos that go up. I work on making sure to syndicate the content and drive traffic via Twitter, Flipboard, and Instagram.
I also make sure I eat lunch. When it’s nice out, I’ll eat my lunch outside.] Actually, if it’s nice out, I’ll take my work outside unless I really need to use my large monitor. If it’s warm and sunny and I can get away with just the laptop, it’s the outdoor “office” for me!
The other item that is part of my day to day is fitness. It’s really important to me. I look forward to my workouts. I enjoy doing them. I feel great afterward. Sometimes I can do this during the day to break things up. Sometimes it’s more in the late afternoon or at the end of my day.
How all those things happen varies day to day. But, it’s fairly certain that on most days I am in front of a computer working away, with a break for lunch and a workout. It’s that routine in activity even though it changes in timing and occasional outing.
Most days, my husband gets home around 5:30 or 6 pm. At that point, my brain is fried so I’ll shift into some hobbies while my husband does his workout. (Yes, we are a fit and active couple.) I’ve got a little studio in a spare room downstairs where I’ll draw, paint, or knit. I’ll do that for a bit before I make dinner…by make, I should note that I rarely make dinner. Sometimes, yes. Many times it’s reheating food that our (once a week) cook makes for us.
After dinner we’ll relax and watch some tv. Then it’s time for bed.
The day ends as it began, with security. We lock up the front gate, arm the house alarm, and lock the safe haven before bed.
Thank you for this insight into expat life in Nairobi. It’s always good to remind the world that our lives can be quite ordinary too. Please remember to check out the other posts in this series, and let me know if you would like your expat life to be featured on this blog.