July 18, 2013

Get to Know the IBM CSC Kenya 7 Team Through African Wildlife

Buckle up ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to play “Get to Know the IBM CSC Kenya 7 Team Through African Wildlife.” Like the natural beauty and wildlife found in Kenya, our team is a diverse population. Numerous polls and surveys were conducted and the results are finally in.....

First up, we have TEAM VUMA. Team Vuma worked on a project for the former Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The main focus of their project was to draft a policy document on Youth Polytechnics in Kenya with the goal of it being adopted as government policy and law. They were also asked to research best practices for vocational education and to develop a benchmarking framework. Team Vuma = Ellen, Sarah, Sathvika and Patrick.

From Left to Right: Sarah, Dr. Mwimzi, Patrick, Sathvika and Ellen

Ellen, a teammate from South Africa, added style and increased the “cool” factor to our team substantially. Like a rhino, Ellen is strong, independent and fearless. Ellen introduced me to Stoney Tangawizi, the BEST ginger beer/soda in the world. I’m normally not a soda fan, but I love Stoney. I love it so much that I hope to make it South Africa one day to try the original home brew! 

Sarah, a fellow American, contributed travel knowledge to our team. She knew all the best places to eat, things to do (e.g., where to get a massage, catch a yoga class, etc.), and shop in the Nairobi area. It’s just too bad that we were so busy with work and did not really have enough free time to do too much. Like a golden crested crane, Sarah is athletic, adventurous and a great parent. Say hi to your son for us Sarah!

Sathvika, a teammate from India, always made sure that our team was well taken care of….from battling it out with dodgy safari operators to negotiating deals at the Maasai markets, she’s always up for the challenge. Like a lilac breasted roller (the national bird of Kenya), Sathvika is full of energy, inquisitive and prepared.

And then there’s Patrick aka PG or that cheeky bloke from Australia. What can I say about my mate from Down Under? He’s truly ace (Aussie slang for excellent). PG added great humor and fun to our team. With the exception of his odd affection for hyenas (PG thinks they’re cute, I think they’re a menace), we share similar interests and viewpoints and got on well. Like a vervet monkey, PG is extremely mischievous, funny, loquacious, always ready with quick quip and/or “bad Dad joke”) and a nature nerd (he would often annoyingly spot wildlife first and knew more about them than the guides)!

Next up, there’s TEAM TIKITI. Team Tikiti worked on a project for the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD). The focus on their project was to integrate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) into the curriculum development process, create a framework for global partnerships and benchmark global best practices for curriculum development. Team Tikiti = Dino, Jen, Win and Olivia.

From Left to Right: Dino, Olivia, Win and Jen

Dino hails from the Great White North aka Canada. Dino is our very own Mr. Versatile. Whether it’s delivering babies (he delivered his own daughter Chelsea), leading yoga classes for the team or chatting in Finnish / Norwegian / Swedish with the other guests around a safari campfire, this yogi (yoga master) is a BEAST! Like a wildebeest, Dino is focused, determined and well-traveled. He was on a mission to witness the great migration and I’m happy to report that he was able to experience one of nature’s most spectacular sights.

Jen, another fellow American, added calm and balance to our team. Unfortunately, since we worked on different teams, I did not get to spend as much time with Jen as I would like. Luckily for me though, Jen lives in the Northeast where I regularly travel, so I hope our paths will cross again soon. Like a flamingo, Jen’s elegant, poised and kind.

Win, a teammate from Hong Kong, has a heart of gold. Win spent many hours making balloon animals and flowers for the HIV+ kids at the Nyumbani home after teaching herself how to do so by watching Youtube videos! Like a Thomson’s gazelle, Win is delicate, observant, careful and concise. She’s a great mom and I’m sure she’s super excited to be reunited with her daughter and family.

Last, but definitely not least, for Team Tikiti is my teammate Olivia. She is mia bella amica Italiana (my beautiful Italian friend). Olivia is great fun and you can’t help but smile and have a good time when you’re around her. Olivia not only cooked a delizioso Italian meal with ingredients that she brought from home for our entire team one night, but got our team free bottles of wine and invited to dance parties because Kenyans love her! The only animal to describe Olivia is Kenya’s pride and joy – the mighty lion. Like a true lioness, Olivia is fierce, proud, playful, fun and loved by all especially Kenyans! And like a lion’s roar which can be heard up to a distance of 5-10 kilometers, Olivia’s “Nooooooooooo” is one-of-a-kind and legendary!


Finally, it’s Team AFYA BORA aka the BEST team. Our “official” client was the Ministry of Health Division of Reproductive Health. But since a significant amount of health sector funding comes from external donor country contributions, there are many different key stakeholders with different agendas. One of the toughest challenges is identifying clear owners and budgets. The focus our of project included three key areas: 1. Improving data management and reporting for cervical cancer screening & treatment, 2. Scaling up cervical cancer prevention (HPV vaccination) program and 3. Establishing a national cancer registry approach. Team Afya Bora = Scott, Vinayak, Ulla and Mary

From Left to Right: Scott, Mary, Ulla and Vinayak

My teammate Scott or “Scot” (who knew all Kenyans would pronounce Scott’s name with Sean Connery’s Scottish accent?!) is another fellow American. I don’t know if it was his power suits or presidential ties, but this fantastic father of four exudes confidence and leadership. When our team sings Jambo Bwana, Scott’s our go-to-guy for the African freestyle Maasai warrior yell. Like a topi, Scott is stately, a snappy dresser, respected and an overall stud!

Vinayak, my teammate from India, is also affectionately known as Vin-nee-yak, Vinnie, Vin or Vin Diesel (my personal favorite). Vinayak’s our main man from New Delhi. Named after Vinayaka, one of the best known Hindu deities with an elephant head, this yoga practicing, breathing meditation expert and Indian cuisine chef extraordinaire is our very own elephant whisperer. Like the beloved African elephant, Vinayak’s a strong, easygoing, playful vegetarian who keeps cool in all situations. Namaste Vinayak! A few of us were lucky to spend some post-assignment safari time with Vin & his lovely wife Monika in Maasai Mara.

Ulla or Uuuu-laaahh is my wonderful teammate from Germany. Like her beloved giraffe, Ulla’s pragmatic, honest to a fault, likes the green stuff (e.g., Tusker Malt), equally comfortable in a groups or alone and can be violent when provoked or when you suffer from a momentary lapse of stupidity (trust me, I know from experience)! She also shares a giraffe’s good vision. We affectionately called it the “Ulla Eye”…it was always a heated contest between Patrick and Ulla to see who can spot the animals first during our game drives. My personal favorite “Ulla Eye” moment was when Ulla spotted a tiny bumper sticker (about 5 cm x 7-8 cm) on a moving vehicle that stated “Men are not oxygen, women can do without them.” Ha!

Last and definitely least, I’m Mary and I’m also from the USA. If I had to pick an African animal, it’ll be the dik-dik. They’re cute little things. But since they’re so small, everyone is a predator. This means the poor dik-diks have to rely on their excellent vision and speed to survive. Unfortunately, unlike the dik-dik, I have poor vision (thank you Lasik for helping a bit though). But according to teammates polled, I’m supposedly quick and sharp. While I think my teammates are far too generous, the one thing I think I really do share in common with dik-diks is their loyalty to one another and that they’re mates for life. I consider each and every one of my fellow CSC Kenya 7 colleagues as my mates / friends for life.

I will never forget our team or the amazing time and experiences we shared together in Kenya.
Asante sana to all and a special shout out to Patrick for providing the fantastic wildlife photos.

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