Week 2 of Crash Course: Preparing for Kenya

June 11, 2018

By Meg Carroll ’20 

Jambo, it’s Meg!

We’re in the midst of prepping for our trip to Kenya! This week we’ve been holed up in the SAL glued to our desktops while we’ve practiced Swahili, read about African culture, and reviewed/practiced different GIS tools. Our week has included conversations about office etiquette and we have even researched alternatives to plastic bags due to Kenya’s ban on them. We’ve talked through some of the obstacles we might face and some of the cultural differences that we will come across. It’s been helpful to learn about some of the beliefs that are valued in African culture, such as status, respect, and relationships. Although many cultures have similar beliefs, it’s fascinating to see that cultures have different priorities. For example, in many African countries, relationships are much more important than some American values such as doing business as quickly as possible without a focus on the actual people doing business.

Meg and Griffin preparing workflows

The majority of our time has been spent focusing on the work we’ll be doing in Kenya. This has included writing up workflow drafts and gathering and preparing the data files that we’ll take with us. First we catalog the maps, then georeference, digitize, edgematch/combine polygons, add attributes, and then wrap up with metadata. That’s practically nothing, right?! And only for 1,340 maps give or take! Easy! Honestly, it’s all a bit daunting and we still feel a little uncertain about how a lot of this will happen. In short, we aren’t sure what to expect. Nonetheless, we’re very excited for this project and eager to meet our colleagues.

Everything requires an overwhelming level of organization and every step is very detail focused. We’ve run into some amusing obstacles along the way; I think keeping a good sense of humor is of the utmost importance! For example, while cataloging a settlement scheme map, it appeared to have the numbers “5810” on it. Later on, while georeferencing the map, we could not find where it was supposed to be placed. The 5810 made absolutely no sense because the grids aren’t organized into blocks that go up to 5810. Through trial and error we found out that the 8 was an ampersand! Kim pounded her fists on the floor. It was quite the day!

We’re excited to head to Kenya soon and I think that we will face many obstacles in the office, but as long as we keep a good sense of humor we’ll be all set. I’m pretty sure the saying “patience is a virtue” will be my mantra.