I’ve unlocked a universal truth … shoes take up as much space as you allow them (4 more learnings about life in Kenya)

At home in Canada, what with our narrow entrance way, I was always after my kids and their friends to keep their shoes to the sides.  But no, inevitably the shoes would end up smack in the middle of the entrance way.  I lost count of how many times I tripped over them.

Now in my new home, Kenya, it turns out, no matter how big your entrance way is, people will spread their shoes around to take up the greatest possible amount of space.

And so it goes with living and learning.  Here are 4 more things I’m learning about life here and how they relate to training and development (for the first 4 see the last post ‘there’s a 6 foot long green snake living in my banana tree.’)

5. Look for the universal:

No matter where you find yourself on this vast planet or who you’re with when you’re there, some things are universal.

It can help to look for similarities and what’s familiar, like:

  • in my case a messy entranceway
  • all the moms in the store who were dutifully deciphering the school supply lists (I have yet to see a school supply shopping trip full of dads)
  • finding hot chocolate (my beloved drink, as a non-coffee or tea drinker)

Turns out finding good trainers who know their stuff is as hard here as elsewhere.  One of the first conversations I had when I got here was with a UN staff person over this very topic.  Knowing how to teach in engaging, sticky ways, with attention to transfer of learning is a sought after skill.

6. Seek out ‘other’, seek out ‘different’

Balance looking for same with seeking difference.

My biggest example of difference so far has been when I couldn’t track my kid down after school for two (gray hair inducing, stomach wrenching, gut churning) hours.  Nairobi is a high security place and, to my relief and amazement, things kicked into HIGH GEAR.

Teachers called all the bus drivers in case he had got on the wrong bus.  The school was searched.  Friends called hospitals and the U.N. security.  A friend and I drove around and talked to security guards.

And then blessed relief.  The kind that is sweeter than the sweetest sugar.  ‘We’ve got him,‘ the teacher on the phone said, ‘do you want to talk to him?’  He’d been hanging out with some friends, completely unconcerned and unknowing.

Ahhhh difference.

While I don’t recommend this gut clenching kind of difference, do seek out what makes you curious, what makes your eyebrows rise and your head tilt in confusion.  It’s a whole other world of learning.

7. Challenge long held beliefs

I am a vehement non-coffee drinker and non-tea drinker.  Not because of any high ideals and health concerns, I simply don’t like the taste.

And then.

And then I tried Ginger tea here (admittedly short on the ginger and with extra sugar).  Wow!  I can get used to this stuff.

Challenge your long held beliefs from time to time.  It’ll shake up you, your learning, your training and your participants.

8. Transfer your learning

Learning to work.  Working to play.  Playing to love.  It’s all a mishmash.

Transfer your learning to home, work and play.

For example, how does learning about your entranceway inform your work?  In my case it made me think of what is universal.

As I finish writing this post I’m sitting in the UN cafeteria having spent some of the day planning my role in AIESEC’s 2011 Global Youth to Business Forum which I’m co-hosting next week.  A little fun, a little work, a little play will make for some great transfer of learning.

Stay tuned.  In my next post I’ll share the last of this three part series.


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2 Responses to “I’ve unlocked a universal truth … shoes take up as much space as you allow them (4 more learnings about life in Kenya)”

  1. Sam Crespi Says:
    August 21st, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Am loving your Kenya posts! Having spent 10 years abroad without returning in places where I didn’t speak the language at first, I began to learn how to listen more carefully. I also learned how much global sign language can be. I spent two hours with one young man which turned out to be the one of the most pleasurable experiences I ever had, no words. Just facial expressions, pointing, and lots of hand gestures. We laughed ourselves silly.
    Of course, sometimes with fatigue and the isolation of being a foreigner, paranoia can set in.
    And more often than not, I found myself embraced by the kindness of strangers.
    Keep writing Lee Anne!!!!

  2. Lee-Anne Ragan Says:
    August 24th, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Hi Sam- that’s high praise coming from you, my global, heart minded, adventurous friend! It’s funny you mention language; I’ve been thinking about how much harder this would be if English wasn’t so predominantly spoken. Your story about communicating sans words reminded me of watching my son when he was about 3 hang out with a Thai monk for quite a while. They were both deep in conversation – without a common language. It was so humbling and heart warming to watch. I’ll have to ask him if he remembers that.

    I’m finding kindness by the boatload here- truly remarkable how welcoming people are. The community is used to comings and goings, what with all the UN postings, so I think it’s simply part of the culture. You’re welcome to step into the river of new friends, community and learning, whenever and however you like.

    Also yesterday, being part of the AIESEC global forum was something truly wonderful. 500 energetic, inspired and inspirational delegates from 110 countries! I’m still a buzz. (watch for the next post for more about this).

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