Me, I'm Mie. Actually it's Mette-Marie but most people call me Mie, and that's fine. I broke up with my previous blog and most of my life in Norway, and started this one when i lived in San Francisco - thus, the name. But, like my friend says: "there will be other San Franciscos". This is the story about those places, currently writing from East Africa.
There’s no place like home. I am back after doing a lot of traveling in Ethiopia - and even though it is a place I feel truly connected to, there’s nothing like your own bed with clean sheets, lit candles in the dining room, episodes of Arrested Development and three month old magazines from my last visit to the real world. And soon I am off again - I have a delicious Christmas break to look forward to, and I really can not f****** wait!!
I have certainly not chosen the easiest places to travel between, and after quite a few weeks far out in Ethiopia, sometimes sleeping in roach infected guesthouses, and other times in a tent, I am beat. Tired to the bone.
There’s much more to tell. I was back in Nairobi for Thanksgiving, and had friends visiting. We baked squash with stuffing, there was macaroni and cheese and brussels sprouts. Walter and Dayo came from New York to visit for Thanksgiving. He showed up with a frozen turkey at 4pm, suggesting we could just run hot water to defrost it. We cooked, drank, ate, talked endlessly and even danced - it was a thankful celebration, even if we didn’t have turkey that day!
Which reminds me: I am very happy that I have a house with plenty of space now! I already had some house guests, and no one has complained about the frequent water rationing, power cuts, or when there’s actually power, the intermittent internet connection. The good life is alive and well.
Christmas back in Norway will be amazing. I need to re-connect with my loved ones, and probably myself. Time for bed. I missed it very much.
Up all night to get…um…lucky?
You were so lucky to get that job!
A couple of nights ago, I was catching up with my friend Chris after a long time. He told me what I have heard many, many times over lately. There’s always someone, meaning well, pointing out that my job is pretty great. That I was lucky to get the job.
So many things happened the past few months! On one hand, I miss the real world deeply. I miss picking up pastries in the morning at my favorite bakery, I miss riding a bike, and to breathe in something that is not dusty. And of course, I miss all my family and friends, scattered around this small, big world.
But mostly, I am happy. Nairobi is still a beautiful place to live. I love the office, all the coffees, the busy dizzy days. I’m having anxiety about work performance, but I am growing a garden, and my hair, and most days I cook and take yoga classes. Whenever the city receives another load of imported Haribo candy to the supermarkets, I eat as much as I can, as fast as I can, with no guilt and no regrets. I was so nervous to re-invent my life again, but I am doing fine. However, I don’t believe in luck. I believe I worked hard!
Last month I was back in Norway, and while walking to dinner one night, I was chatting with one of my friends from the industry that is wildly successful. I told him all these people had approached me during the industry event we were attending as well as during past events, asking me to take some time to talk to them, to give them some advise. I told my friend that I have taken time to talk to people every time this happens, but that I found it funny that not a single person have approached me with real questions about coffee. Or about anything, really. People ask me general questions, like “how did you get the job?” “how can I become a coffee buyer?” or something like that. But anyone that knows how to read can read that answer in any book about job searching. My friend laughed and then told me the most common question he gets is “how did you get into coffee?”.
I do believe in helping each other. Madeleine Albright once said “there’s a special place in hell for women not helping other women”. I can highly recommend to be nice and generous to everyone you meet on your way. I honestly think I got the job because I was always approachable, professional, well prepared. I also think I have been interested in connecting the dots, finding out what’s next, even if I sometimes have seriously wondered if this will ever go anywhere meaningful and my friends and family waited for me to grow up and find a real job.
I wasn’t lucky. I didn’t win Willy Wonka’s golden ticket to the chocolate factory. I just stayed awake all night worrying about work, and finding out what I like to do, and then practiced really hard to become good at it.
I’m writing from Kigali, back in the house that I call new nice. It is a house the company is renting in Gachuriro, the neighborhood with new wealth, every house looking the same. Even if only a few years old, all electrical outlets are being pulled out of the poorly made walls, walls that are so thin I can hear the neighbors sneeze. Still, I love sitting on my bed, reading, and watching the sun set over Kigali.
Soon, I’ll be going back to Nairobi yet again, but finally to move into a house that will be all mine! With my own furniture and decor, furniture I am having made, or buying second hand. The house is old and tired, but with a lot more soul. In my mind, I have already lived there for almost one month, since signing the lease. I always tell people “going back to Nairobi is like coming to New York”, but it is not true. Nairobi has never been, will never be, and never aspired to be like New York. It is itself, with so many flaws I would get dizzy just trying to list them. Still, it is slowly starting to feel more like coming home, and that alone is no small accomplishment.
Kigali is beautiful in it’s own way. Some days going out to the fields, I get to drive from lunch in the wealthy neighborhood of Kiyovu, down Avenue Paul IV, and into Kyamirambo, the section of Kigali where lower-income people live. Streets are jammed with people and cars, small shops, one after another, almost always doubling as homes. Kiosks, tailors, hair salons, pharmacies, bars, all painted blue, green, yellow, orange, though the paint have worn off and colors are faded. The roadside all over the country, packed with women carrying water or produce on their heads, schoolchildren holding hands, yelling “muzungu” at me as if they are very surprised to find a white person driving on their road, men walking arm in arm. I like the sleepy, easy feeling of being here. But sleepy is what it is, and I sometimes want to pull my hair out because noone seems to be in a hurry, when in fact everything is behind schedule.
My past two months, spent mostly in a dusty office, has taught me things I never imagined learning. I go out to visit the washing stations that closed down for the season, or visiting the dry mill an hour outside of town, but mostly I sit in the office and listen. I listen and I listen, and I try to understand what people are telling me, wait for them to finish, find my patience, find their pace. I am learning how incredibly easy it is to have no expectations for the people I work with, doing nothing good but reaffirming prejudices on all sides. It is very difficult to fuse a sense of creating viable business with an equally soft heart, but I am practicing every day. Still so much to learn.
Under normal circumstances I would have cried my eyes out, but I’ve been too focused on putting one foot in front of the other. My face is broken from the sleeplessness and stress. Monday afternoon, flying back to Kigali from Nairobi, I stared out of the window the entire time. East Africa looked so beautiful from above, and too big to be alone in. You’re every bit the man I dreamed I’d raise a family, grow old and die with. It has never been so unnatural to keep my heart so cold.