Potluck @ Anshul’s apartment — powered by Mezcal

Everything that goes around comes around

We’ve had a total of 4 weekends in Kenya. The first one barely counts — everyone was exhausted from the long flights, jet lagged and had to work on the first presentation to our clients. Glad they toke us out to see the Elephant Orphanage, it was a great way to start our trip.

Second and third weekends were dedicated to safaris. On the fourth one we were feeling a bit more relaxed since most of our work had already been elaborated and seen by the client during our mid-term presentation. That helped us with not feeling guilty about taking one Friday off to go to the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and talk to computer sciences students about what we were doing in Kenya, the CSC Program and our jobs at IBM. We were split into different groups to discuss different topics: cybersecurity (hot!), career management, consultancy work and women in IT. If you know me just a tiny bit, you’ll know that I was part of this last one. Asking a feminist to talk about this is like giving bananas to a monkey.

In a group of approximately 70 students, only 8 were girls. My initial thought was: “No one is interested in hearing us talk about woman in IT; we’re gonna be sitting here in the corner by ourselves waiting and no one will come talk to us”. Luckily, that’s not what happened. All of the girls came and talked to us and they had a lot to say for themselves and lots of questions for us. I know it sounds like it’s easy to talk about this subject when you work for a company where the CEO is a woman and that has well known diversity inclusion policies. But that doesn’t make us immune to sexist behavior from various individuals that cross our paths daily so I believe we were able to give good advice and that our experiences could inspire the girls somehow. We also learned from the experiences they shared and I do hope to keep in touch with some of them via e-mail and support them when needed.

After such enriching experience, we headed to the IBM Research Lab, built inside the University Campus.

“The lab’s research agenda includes the development of cognitive computing technologies that can be applied to address issues in public health, education and agriculture. A number of projects are already underway in the areas of energy, water, transportation, agriculture, healthcare, financial inclusion and human mobility and public safety.”
Wale, myself, Holy — Peter, Kirk and Jess

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I’ll tell you, it is great indeed and they’re doing an awesome job. We had the opportunity to talk to some of the scientists and pick their brains a little bit. The technology at the Think Lab is impressive but the people working there are even more impressive. Brilliant minds working on solutions for the people and putting into practice one of our values — “Innovation that matters, for our company and for the world”.

CSC Professional League of Foosball @ IBM Research Lab Nairobi

That day was the cherry on top of an incredible journey of learning and overcoming prejudices. I felt I had lots of good energy to share so the next day (Saturday) I went with some colleagues to one of the safe houses that give shelter to women and children who seek for help at the GVRC (Gender Violence Recovery Center). Unfortunately Kenya’s statistics on gender based violence are alarming so the work that GVRC does is very important and gives the survivors the required medical attention and a chance to start over.

The shelter we went to was very clean and organized. We brought some toys and played with the kids outside. They were very kind to us and seemed to be happy to have us there spending time with them. Seeing them play enthusiastically with a semi-flat soccer ball made me think of how we take things for granted.

Since we were all in good spirits, our weekend was closed with a great group activity: on Sunday each one of us cooked a dish to everyone else and we shared a great meal all together. The result:

Indian, Armenian, Japanese, Italian, Kenyan, Peruvian, American, British, Australian — different cousines well represented

I prepared the two at the bottom: potato+butternut squash gnocchi on sage with a cashew white sauce and shimeji mushrooms sauteed with shoyu. Bob helped me cooking the gnocchi (tks, Bob!) and we had fun sharing family stories and quiet moments of joy in the kitchen. Oh, I also brought a bottle of Mezcal from Mexico as a gift to my colleagues. It was a great night, we shared lots of love through our food and great stories as well. It was a perfect way to close our last weekend together.

Coming back home I need to focus on engaging in volunteer work again. I’ll find a way to do it in Mexico, since it is where I live now. No more “In Brazil I used to do this and that but here I still couldn’t find the time”. No more excuses.

Gratefulness generates tons of good energies that can be spent helping people out — I have plenty of reasons to feel grateful. You do the math :-)

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