trip report: kenya

One month ago, I was thousands of miles away from the United States on an intense, week-long, life-changing trip. It’s taken me a while to absorb the intensity of everything- there are so many things that happened and details I’m aching to share, but it’s been so difficult for me to express what I saw and what I felt for a lot of it. I finally put together whatever I could to write up a short summary of my travels in Kenya!

I had never traveled this far before, and especially not to a place that would be so wildly different from everything I’ve known. Before the trip, I was already in a whirlwind of preparations and thoughts. Between getting paperwork in order, scheduling my long list of vaccinations (fun), packing, navigating dance and event obligations (FanimeCon was just a few days before before I left!!), and being very aware of the fact that sheltered and non-worldly me had never even traveled outside of the United States – I did my best to get my LIFE together in the weeks leading up to the trip.

I had a lot of swimming feelings before I even left. How would I feel when I saw what I saw? What was I expecting? Was I nervous, excited, or both? Would I be handle everything coming my way, being so far from home, in a place and culture I didn’t know?

Taking off from San Francisco:
20170602_133420
And landing in Amsterdam, before the next leg to Kenya:
20170603_095841

Two long flights, consisting of 10 hours to Amsterdam, and another 8 hours to Nairobi. At least I watched a ton of Chris Pratt movies, and KLM Airlines offered complimentary wine!

20170602_162606

We landed in Nairobi and had the next day off to explore. It was my very first experience in seeing a culture and people so different from where I’m from, and experiencing what Kenya’s capital had to offer! Personal observation: Wow, most people in Nairobi dress so well (business casual) compared to what I see in the west coast in the US.

20170604_132546
A view of Nairobi, from the top of the convention center.
20170604_134218
Masai market, in downtown Nairobi:
20170604_122404
…and the dress I bought from the market, which I haggled for with the help of a local!
20170606_084015

My first taste of Kenyan coffee – it was so delicious, along with all the other cups of coffee I had on the trip!
IMG_3330

After resting and exploring Nairobi, the next day would be the start of a busy, back-to-back multi-day journey through parts of Kenya. We first drove to visit a partner hospital in the area, where I had the chance to meet surgeons and patients of our work for the first time.

From there, we flew to Eldoret – the home of the Olympic champions. Located in the countryside, the town was incredibly beautiful and such a stark difference from the industrial, city feel of Nairobi.

We stayed in a beautiful, bed & breakfast inn in a charming part of Eldoret.

My first experience with bed nets

My first experience with bed nets

The next day, we drove to visit another partner site. I saw and experienced things in the hospital that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

And again the next day, we drove 3 hours from Eldoret to Mumias to visit our 3rd partner site, in a relatively more rural and remote-ish part of Kenya. The drive for this felt quite adventurous and wobbly, as we navigated through very bumpy streets and off-road areas! As we drove in, we were welcomed by a joyous parade of dancers following our cars, celebrating our visit. It was such amazing!

IMG-20170607-WA0069

Afterwards, we drove again (a lot of traveling!) through the countryside another 40 minutes away to make a more personal visit. We exited our cars and hiked a little ways up to visit the home of a patient in the area.

IMG-20170607-WA0060

 

From Mumias on that same day, we traveled to Kisumu, and caught a flight back to Nairobi to spend our last night in Kenya before heading home.

It was an exhausting few days, traveling from site to site, and immersing myself in all things so grand, so personal, and so very difficult to express. I was so touched and so humbled to have seen what I’ve seen, but it was also very physically and mentally overwhelming.

On our last day before our flight, I was able to squeeze in some free time for some much-needed and chill tourist activities.

Breakfast while overlooking the Nairobi National Game Park.

Breakfast while overlooking the Nairobi National Game Park.

David Sheldrick elephant orphanage!

IMG-20170608-WA0062
IMG_3403

Feeding giraffes!

DSC_0692
20170608_123416
20170608_130733
20170608_133157
 

I’m grateful that I got to see and experience a range of things from Kenya – the city, the countryside, the ugly, the beautiful, rural villages, remote sites, crowded slums, somber hospitals, cute animals…

Reflecting on the trip, I realized that I wasn’t completely surprised by some of the things I saw, so maybe I would give myself a pat on the back for handling certain first-time experiences well. I think I should feel proud of how I handled meeting different people, aiming for professionalism, and remembering my place as a foreigner from the US, in a space and culture that was not my own. But it didn’t make the trip any less difficult, or less emotional, or less impactful. Some nights on the trip, I cried. And these moments came from a place that felt new and heavy, that I’m still reflecting on and learning how to navigate today. I think it’s important that I carry these moments for the rest of my life.

Anyway, despite all the rough times that happen around the world every day, I’m extremely grateful that I have the privilege of being in a place where I see great work being done to help others worldwide. But wow, what an eye-opener. I think I didn’t too too badly for my first time out of my comfy place in the US. Now I’m feeling a little more confident, and a whole lot more wanderlusty and eager to keep seeing the rest of the world!

Surprisingly, which I think was impressive, I didn’t get sick on the trip. Yay for not catching malaria from mosquitoes, and remembering to take my Pepto Bismol! At least, I didn’t get sick until I rode on the crazy-ass Super Shuttle from SFO on the way back home. Nononono. Dude was driving like we were still in the crowded streets of Kenya, but we were on the CA-280 being thrown around in the van like rag dolls in the van at like 80mph. At this point after a 20+ hour trip to the US, all I wanted to do is be home and not feel like puking. worst car ride of my life. almost threw up. never again super shuttle 0/10.

July 9, 2017 - 2:45 am | Comments

trip report: washington dc and 17NTC

I’ve had a busy start to spring!! It took me a while to put this together, and it’s a bit of a late post- one month ago, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a conference: the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference! There was a lot of learning and fun times, and I got to visit and experience Washington, D.C. for the first time. Here’s a report of my trip!

20170322_084251

I got to bring my Nintendo Switch on the plane and get some Legend of Zelda time… just like in the commercials. Several people noticed it, including a flight attendant, and were super curious! I was pretty surprised, but I had some good conversations with people about it!

20170322_095833

My first sunrise in DC:

20170323_070658

The conference itself was fun, informative, and great for nerdy, passionate people to support each other in a collaborative environment. I brought a lot of good notes and takeaways back home to my work.

IMG_2917
20170323_073121
20170323_101419
20170324_133237

I got the chance to visit the Smithsonian National Zoo (free!). Unfortunately, many of the animal exhibits were closed, probably due to the colder weather.

IMG_2893
IMG_2907

Earlier at the conference during one of the lunch sessions, I asked tablemates for recommendations on desserts and/or cafe recommendations (because finding dessert places in every city is my #1 goal in life)- and one lady said, “You need to go to Un Je Ne Sais Quoi!”

And I was like okay coo I love French places, where is that and how do I get there?

IMG_2919
IMG_2920

The Metro in DC is the cleaner, nicer, more crowded version of BART here in California. 100x better and more enjoyable to ride than our Bay Area transportation.

I made my first stop to Metro station in downtown-ish DC somewhere near the National Mall-

20170324_163510

Being the excited tourist I was, I walked and wandered around a lot.

IMG_2923
IMG_2924

White House!

More wandering around led me to a field of cherry blossom trees that hadn’t fully bloomed yet, in front of the Washington Monument-

IMG_2933

So with all that walking around, it was time for me to find this French cafe, which would mean another hop on the metro to another part of the city. I ended up in Dupont Circle, one of my favorite spots:

A post shared by Mirabel (@chibi_m7) on

20170324_182853

At Un Je Ne Sais Quois, I ate the creampuff first and tried a cup of their mocha, and OH. MY. GOD. If that wasn’t the most delicious creampuff and cup of mocha I’ve ever had. I’m ruined forever. Because I can definitely taste the difference compared every other creampuff + mocha I’ve eaten. And I’ve eaten a lot of creampuffs and drank a lot of mochas. It’s one of my favorite pastimes.

20170324_183649
20170324_232411

I brought back more goodies to the hotel, one of them being the most delicious thing in the world, the MERVEILLEUX. Am pretty disappointed I can’t find another one of these anywhere near me…

There was a cute little French-inspired boutique called Lou Lou’s, which had a lot of goodies – picked up some souvenirs for me and my family here. I really liked shopping here.

20170324_192420

I sat on a bench in front of the fountain as the sun was setting, watching salsa dancers and people going by, with the romantic sounds of aggressive rush hour traffic honking around me. I loved it!

IMG_2968

The rest of the trip and the conference was really enjoyable! Of course, I spent the return trip home on the plane playing more Zelda.

20170325_151734

Was very grateful for the opportunity to come here and learn, as well as be a tourist. As a city girl from the west coast, I’d love to come back and take more time exploring the area, and the east coast in general. Of course, having friends, family, and an SO can be great travel buddies, but seeing new city sights solo is really a special experience that I was long overdue for.

April 28, 2017 - 4:25 pm | Comments

conventions and conferences! – svcc and 16ntc

Back in mid-March, I spent a lot of time at the San Jose Convention Center downtown for two awesomely-nerdy events: the first annual Silicon Valley Comic Con, and the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference right after! I loved both of these events in different ways, and I wanted to write about and share these experiences here (photos from DSLR + smartphone, heads-up for varying quality)!

1

0

 

We spent only 1 day at SVCC (Saturday), but will definitely spend the whole weekend next year for sure! We attended Opening Ceremonies by Steve Wozniak, got to see the Jeremy Renner spotlight (seeing his handsome angry resting face in person was awesome <3), checked out a lot of great exhibits and art, saw a brief glimpse of Stan Lee’s head, and ended the night with dinner with a friend and a Super Soul Bros. concert!

2

The Woz’s wax figurine unveiling!

8

Jeremy Renner- squee

3

4

6

Captain Bae-merica

5

It was a lot of fun, albeit quite a bit more crowded than expected for the first year(with the experience of Fanime crowds though, it wasn’t too difficult to navigate). The BF and I were very lucky to grab our wristbands ahead of time, and thus entirely avoided the massively epic linecon that wrapped around the center.

20160319_173115

I’m looking forward to seeing how the event grows in the next few years, and how they’ll improve upon the first… and of course, getting the chance to see more celebrities in my hometown!!

Just a couple of days later was the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference in the same location, so I swapped my Captain America T-shirt and hairbow wings and out for Silicon Valley start-up fashion of business casual jeans-and-blazer. It’s my first work-based conference, so I was excited. The world of technology in nonprofits is fascinating, and I was looking forward to learning many new things to bring back to my own workplace.

20160323_082611

20160323_082608

20160323_102023

20160323_103032

20160323_121623

There was so much to learn at 16NTC. I was super grateful to see passionate people and professionals from different cultures, interests, and knowledge in my hometown. The panels and speakers were informative, diverse, educational and engaging… I nerded out so hard each day, wondering which session I should attend from the 100+ choices offered throughout the week. It was a geek/philanthropy heaven come true, and reaffirmed how grateful I am to be working at a place I love for a great cause. I also think that week was the most I ever tweeted in a single timespan, ever.

20160323_084157

20160324_133418

Great sessions by amazing panelists

20160322_101634

So many interesting topics.

20160324_103136

Buttons collected throughout the week!

20160323_150053

20160323_131413

Of course, like any other awesome convention/conference… free swag

20160325_091058

I learned so, so much about digital communications, WordPress, Google Analytics/Adwords/things, nonprofit, content, etc… so many notes were taken that I’m still trying to compile and reflect on them even now!!

These events have been an excellent experience, intersecting everything I love into one place- comics, culture, tech, philanthropy. All this convention time has been a great warmup to the craziness of FanimeCon, which is happening pretty soon! Work has been blowing up with exciting news, competition season has been rough and busy. It’s been challenging to prepare for BW Ball again with our recent competition lineup, but… I’m really excited to dance for it again!

We’ve got something fun in store for a showcase routine at ball this year-these recent experiences have shown that there’s nothing better than combining something geeky with something unexpected, like ballroom dancing… 😉  Stay tuned!

April 5, 2016 - 7:32 pm | Comments

mobile blogging

Upgraded to a new phone (Samsung Galaxy S3, woo hoo!) and playing with it while getting some internship work done! It’s super fun. Checking out the WordPress app as well-

Going to try my hand in a game of croquet with my co-workers in a couple of hours.

July 30, 2012 - 10:55 am | Comments

summer days

Hello! I really wish I could remember to post more often. I’m thinking the site needs a major design overhaul, too.

Anyway, I never got a chance to post up my projects since the end of the semester. So here’s some of my finished work from a couple months ago!

ROBOT ARMY
My final project in one of my advanced projects classes: A light-up acrylic robot, designed then cut with a CNC Laser. It was my first time using different processes and a CNC machine to build something like this. It took quite a bit of trial and error, but I learned a lot, so I think I was fairly successful.

The blue one is my favorite! =)

Tron Memory Disk
A group project! We built a “Tron Memory Disk” (lol) that actually has a space in the middle for projecting video.

Here is a clip of us testing it, so you can see how it looks:

Untitled?
I’ve been playing with the vacuum former on campus and basically smashing my stuffed animals into molds. The result: a 5-foot-ish tall curtain of deformed plastic stuffed animal forms. It will eventually be hosting in a gallery setting sometime in the beginning of the Fall semester, so I hope to have nicer photos of this later.

Fun video of the squishing process:

It still needs a title.

Summer break has been good to me, although still kind of hectic at times. I’m enjoying both of my internships/jobs a lot, though! For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m doing work that’s really important to me. Hoping I can continue to hold on to this feeling after I graduate.

Besides work and projects, I am also making sure to spend my vacation time for myself and my loved ones.


We call this, “Cousin bonding time.”


subZERO festival in San Jose


Great America

July 9, 2012 - 10:45 pm | Comments