Monday, September 6, 2010
Still catching up…
Communication with USIU has been at times strained. They didn’t let me know I was accepted into the program until a month before I left, and then only provided me with a calendar brochure, a health form to fill out, and a note that orientation would be held on Friday August 27 starting at 9am. I scheduled my flight for the 24th, planning on arriving late on the 25th, and having the 26th to rest and get a bit settled.
A few days before leaving for Nairobi, I emailed a former colleague of mine who is doing the same program and asked if he could give me a ride to orientation that Friday. He replied that I could of course ride with him, but it was going to have to be on Thursday because they had changed the day of the orientation!
Needless to say, no one had notified me of the change, and I immediately started to wonder if I would show up to campus and be greeted with a “Rose who?”
So flash forward to 6am the morning after arriving in Nairobi. I’m up, delirious, and a little cranky. At 7am, Dickson picks me up and we set off for the traffic nightmare that is Thika Road, and the only way to my new school from central Nairobi. We maneuver through the traditional Nairobi maze of matatus (vw vans used for public transportation that drive with a death wish), giant SUVs bumping over gaping holes, and little 4-door sedans doing their best to squeeze into the open spaces.
2 hours later we turn into our well-groomed campus and begin wandering from building to building. After following some students into an undergraduate orientation session we finally find our slightly older group of graduate students across the grassy quad on the far end of the campus.
At 10am when the 9am orientation still has yet to begin, I follow vague directions to the accounts department to pay my tuition. Bounced from one line, to another, I finally find out how much I actually need to pay, tell the accountant a number, and pay. No official statement, no one-stop shop, no automatic calculation of what’s due. Just a scrap of paper someone has scribbled a number on, slid underneath a window.
Satisfied with my accomplishment I walk back to the lecture hall where they have just begun the day’s orientation. Looking around I am certainly the only muzungu (white person). The IR and Business school orientations are held simultaneously, but it seems that my classmates are all a few years into their professions, fairly successful, and all curious as to who I am.
Surprisingly, the first question I’m asked by just about everyone is if I am from Kenya. I am not asked if I’m an American, Italian, Brit, or Japanese (as is usually the series of guesses from folks in Uganda and Tanzania). It’s refreshing, Even if it’s fairly obvious I am ‘other’, my classmates start with the premise that I am of them.
After a long day of not so helpful orientation, we make our way home around 6pm and I just about fall asleep in my chair. Tomorrow is Promulgation day, and then I begin the search for an apartment. No rest for the weary.