Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Team's Work in Kenya

It's been nine months since my last post. I really miss writing on my blog, but kept delaying to do so. I was reading old posts and realized that I made so many promises I did not fulfill. This time, I would like to fulfill my promise from my previous post. I am going to talk about my work in Kenya.

My team and I were assigned to work at a consultancy project for Juhudi Kilimo, a micro-asset financing institution that serves smallholder farmers in Kenya. It is similar to microfinance, but instead of providing loans for creating a business, Juhudi provides loans for purchasing assets, such as dairy cows and poultry. I have always been a big fan of microfinance and Muhammad Yunus. I was very inspired by one of Yunus' books and when I found out that I was going to work with Juhudi, I became really excited.

During my three weeks in Kenya, my team and I got the chance to visit Juhudi's field offices in rural Kenya and attend client meetings. We got to learn about how microfinance is conducted on the grassroots level and analyze what kind of improvements that can be done. Juhudi's clients, who were mostly farmers, were very committed. They routinely came to group meetings and paid back their loans according to schedule. They also conducted their meetings in a very effective and efficient manner. This is a video of one of the meetings we attended:

This is a picture with Juhudi's clients after the meeting:

It was a heartwarming experience to hear from the clients about how Juhudi changed their lives: how they now have enough money to send their kids to school, employ their neighbors, and be productive.

Aside from work, we also got to visit Kibera, one of the biggest slums in East Africa. We met people from the youth groups and learned about the entrepreneurial ventures that these youth groups initiated. The businesses were waste management, car wash, sanitation services, and handicraft. I got the chance to visit the sanitation service business that was managed by the Toy Youth Group. Here is the video:

My trip to Kenya is definitely the highlight of being in Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Unlike many other schools who go abroad only for meetings and vacation, my classmates and I were given a real project to work on and have firsthand experience on how to do business in different cultures. It was awesome.

Check out my other blog to know about my fascination towards microfinance and financial inclusion.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jambo Kenya*

As part of my school curriculum, I'm required to go abroad and work as a consultant on a social business. There were four countries that I get to choose: Kenya, Rwanda, India and Peru. I chose Kenya, and there I went from January 4th to January 20th.

It was my first time to Africa, and I was really excited. There were 21 students in the Kenya team, so it was even more exciting to go abroad with such a large group of friends.
The trip was already arranged, all we had to do is sit down and enjoy the ride. Of course, we also had a lot of work to do because this trip is worth 2 credits.

Here are some of the things I did in Kenya:

Tried some local delicacies. I had ugali, which is made from maize flour and is what the Kenyans eat everyday. It's the equivalent to rice and pasta. Kenyan food has a lot of Indian influence to it. I had chapati and samosa almost everyday.

Shopped at Masai Market where we can buy local handicrafts such as carvings, paintings, eating utensils, jewelry and fabric. Most of it is safari-themed and it's really nice and pretty. Above is one of the handicraft I bought.

Went to an orphanage for elephants and rhinos. Some of it were orphaned because of hunters or farmers who had to kill its parents because it was seen as a threat to their farms.

Visited a giraffe center. I got the chance to fed a giraffe and had its long, rough, wet tongue lick my hand. The giraffe center guide told us that its saliva is antiseptic, because it helps heal the giraffe's mouth if it gets cut by thorns or branches. It is also, surprisingly, odorless.

Watched a cultural show and acrobatics in Bomas of Kenya. When the show was over, the guys from my class saw that the dancers were getting ready to play football (a.k.a. soccer) at the field outside the venue. So they played football for a couple of minutes. Football really does connect people from around the world.

On our way to Masai Mara national park, we drove pass Great Rift Valley and stopped at a Masai village. We had to pay KSh 1500 (about USD 19, which I think is expensive) and the Masai people showed us around the village. Their village smells like cow dung because they intentionally spread it throughout their village as a symbol of togetherness (if I'm not mistaken). Their house was also built from mud and cow dung, and could last for 7 years until it is eaten by termite. When the tour ended, they started selling us handicrafts with a ridiculous price. I managed to softly reject them and got away from the village without having to buy anything. However, some friends of mine bought KSh 3,000 accessories (where actually you can buy it for KSh 150 in the Masai market if you could bargain) because they were just too nice and couldn't say no.

I also went for a safari at the Masai Mara national park. I was lucky because I got to see three (cape buffalo, elephant, lion) out of the big five animals (plus black rhino and leopard). I also saw a giraffe, cheetahs, antelopes, and wildebeests. It was astonishing to be able to see animals in their natural habitat.

On our last night at Kenya, we went to Carnivore restaurant. And here is the menu:

I thought that since I was already in Africa, I might as well experince everything they have to offer. So I did. I tried everything on the menu, except pork and chicke gizzards. Camel actually taste pretty good, but crocodile and ox balls are just nasty. I had to gulp it down with coke to prevent myself from vomiting.

Many of my friends got sick during the first few days in Kenya. Some of them got a fever and food poisoning. Fortunately, I was healthy throughout the trip. I guess my Indonesian immune system works well in Kenya. Kenya also reminds me a lot like home, with its crazy traffic, crappy public transportation, and soda in glass bottles. The weather was really pleasent, it was cool during the morning and evening, and sunny, but not too hot and humid, during the afternoon.

In short, Kenya was awesome. The things I experienced there is completely new and exciting. I would definitely go back to the continent if I have the chance.
I'll talk about the work I did in Kenya on the next post.


*Hello Kenya
Thanks to Carolyn for the safari picture.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Priadis Reunited

After 1 year of planning,
1 year of separation,
Heavy snow,
Closed airports,
Trapped inside a plane,
Stuck in the immigration police,
Lost wallet,
4 day delay,
Wrong bus ride,
Canceled West Coast trip,
Cancellation fees,

Finally, I get to see my sisters.

Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Different My Life Is

I can't believe it's been 5 months since I left Jakarta and one quarter of my studies have passed. So many aspects of my life changed and I have learned a lot from the experience of living by myself.

Ever since I knew I had the opportunity to study at the US, I felt that I was obligated to make the most out of it. I still do. I have to work really hard, learn as much as I can, get good grades, make people back home proud, and prove that a Psychology major can do good in Business School. Apparently it's far more difficult than I thought it would be.

I used to be a laid back student and felt that getting a GPA above 3 out of 4 is good enough, thus I didn't put too much effort in studying. Now, almost everyday, I study until past midnight even though it's not exam week, I have to do group discussions, read case studies, and do readings. It is indeed typical for a student, but I don't usually do this during college and high school. The student lifestyle change was sort of frustrating to me. During class, I felt that I have to understand and contribute in class discussions. After class, I have to rush through my lunch and go to group discussions, where I also felt that I have to contribute. By the time I'm home, I continued studying or make write-ups, which takes me quite some time because I don't feel very confident with my academic writing. If the above activities are not fulfilled, I feel very anxious, which frustrates me. There were times where I actually cried because my anxiety has taken a toll on me, and eventually frustrates me even more because I feel pathetic that I've become such an ambitious student.

As for my daily life, it has also changed a lot. I live alone, and most of my friends I hang out with live pretty far from my apartment. As much as I like being alone, it gets lonely every once and a while. But most of the time, I like being by myself and have the liberty to do anything I want.
Of course, I do all house chores by myself. Grocery shopping, cleaning, washing, cooking, paying bills, you name it. I thought this part of living alone will be tough for me, but I actually enjoy doing it. I like walking through the aisles in the supermarket, cooking the way I want it to be, have a sparkling white sink, have a clean spoon when I need it or have my clothes smell good. I get to appreciate those little things I never pay attention to.

Other than enjoying house chores, there are other surprises I experienced. Considering that I have always lived with my parents my whole lifetime, it's surprising I have not cried, not even once, because of homesick. Being in a long distance relationship with M.S. is also not as difficult as I thought it would be. Furthermore, living far from home made me understand what my sister is going through this whole time, I feel that I'm closer to her because I feel the need to talk to her more often. It's embarrassing how I only made a skype account after I moved, which is 5 years after my sister moved from Jakarta.

A couple of weeks ago my friend asked me whether or not I'm happy here. I hesitated when I answered that question because I never thought of it. After writing my thoughts on this post, I know for sure what my answer is: I am definitely happy.

Happy holidays!
Greetings from my frustrated-yet-happy-student desk

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Hi People!

I'm already at Baltimore right now. I'm only going to write about my journey to Baltimore on this post. My life in Baltimore itself will be in another separate post.

It was very hectic on my last day at Jakarta. I wasn't done with my packing, had to do some last minute responsibilities, while replying farewell messages on my phone.
My best friends also came to my house to take me to the airport. It was very nice of them, considering that they were supposed to work or be in class. Furthermore, my Abang None friends also came to my house to give me a very sweet farewell gift:

The gift was pictures of my Abang None friends where each of them held a paper with a word on it. Each of the picture was then compiled to become a complete sentence. It was very nice of my friends (especially Sutan Batara Putra Pane, who apparently had the idea and contacted all of them).

I then left to the airport with my best friends and my family. Other friends of mine gave me a surprise and went through all the hassle by taking the bus to see me, 15 minutes before I boarded the plane. When it was time for me to board, a typical airport scenario happened:

I knew something like this was going to happen. It was kind of embarassing, I'm not much of a weeper.
Since Baltimore is very far away, my flight had to stop at Abu Dhabi, Paris and New York. Afterwards, I had to take a domestic flight from New York and finally arrive at Baltimore. Fortunately, I only had to add a couple of dollars to my ticket if I want to stop at Paris. So there I stopped for 4 days, and met my dear sister.

Despite the fact that I had to climb seven flight of stairs at least twice a day (that's how my sister live in Paris, her apartment has no elevator), Paris was great. The weather was nice, I ate the food I wanted to eat and get to see my sister and her apartment. I also got to see the annual man-made beach at the banks of Seine.

I then continued my flight to New York. There was no plan to stay there but my mother wanted to, so there we stayed for another 4 days. I was actually already exhausted and started to get anxious because school was going to start in less than a week. But I got over my anxiety and enjoyed New York.

Finally, Baltimore.

Baltimore is actually kind of scary, the pictures is the better part of the city. I've grown to like it, though.

One last thing, please check the link below. I promise it will be entertaining.

Me dancing.

Thanks to Ken Uyama for the link. :D