Friday, 13 February 2015

First Impressions of England - by Caroline Kiugo

In January 2015, New Country Manager Caroline came to the UK for training and to meet the UK team in Sheffield. We asked her to blog about her experience. Here is the first of several blogs on her visit to the UK.

"This is my first blog to write, all my thoughts, feelings, opinions in England for a short time will not know any boundaries. I have had so much happen in such a short time that I can't squeeze into one blog post.

This was my first time out of Africa (It always has to start from somewhere) and I was nervous as a worm in a henhouse. My friends thought I was going to get lost when connecting my flights in Dubai..... I was too. But I got to my destination safe and sound.

I always had this picture of England in my head, from the movies (Pride & Prejudice), books like Jane Eyre... I wanted to come to the land of the queen, ever since I was young, TO SEE THE QUEEN! When you grow up reading Cinderella and beauty and the beast... all you want to see a palace, the queen and squirrels on the compound. Or better yet my adult imagination made me think that it would look like.

View of Sheffield from Caroline's Accommodation

My colleague Ben, picked me up from the airport and something was unusual as we drove to my hotel. No one was honking on the roads and as tempted I was to ask him, I held back but luckily I got an opportunity to raise the question when we had to follow a cyclist, Ben wasn’t impatient, he wasn’t hooting he drove at 0 speed, in short he gave a cyclist WAY. I phrased my question on what I would have done if I was the one driving or someone else in my Country ‘I would have honked, passed the cyclist, shout at him and honk as a sign I was angry for 5 minutes’ (Old habits die hard) . He answered my question, it’s an offence to do so, its noise disturbance in England while it’s a day to day norm in my beautiful country.

We passed through this big ‘white’ park covered in snow and many white animals (sheep), it was beautiful. Although, it was a disappointment in a humorous way to see such a big park with no elephant, lions, buffalo, leopards or Rhinos or small ones like gazelles as I AM USED TO SEE IN MY COUNTRY.

I noticed everyone observed the traffic lights, the city was so quiet and in an orderly manner and that made me to recover from the matatu (local buses in Kenya) fragrance oven! Until the winter weather and its meaning struck me.

First day when the clock struck 3 am I was already awake…3 hours difference to my usual wake up time, this happened for 3 days and by the fourth day I was an English timer. I woke up not feeling my toes, curling like a cat at a corner and under a heater which was reading… heat 30 degrees. I had so many mixed feelings, emotions were running high how will I survive this weather? I promised myself to enjoy the ‘moments’ whether cold or warm, it was time to push doors that clearly say PULL!

Furthermore, adventure doesn't come without its own set of surprises. In this case winter was my adventure.

The first day to the office was full of anxiety of meeting the UK team, as we walked with Ben from St. Mary’s street to Ashland Road I was grateful for life, it's the most wonderful experience to be able to give and receive. To be able to see different things, colours, faces and places. Although I lost count of the many bars in Sheffield…

As a pedestrian you have right of way, not only can you use zebra crossing but also there were press buttons (sorry didn’t ask what they are called). They were at every sign of zebra crossing, pressing the button stopped the moving vehicles to give you right of way; when it buzzed all the vehicles stopped. (It was hilarious but the most important road technology I wished we had in our country).

By the end of the day I was grateful for so many things and people that were adorable especially Dig Deep UK team (Thanks guys), I have no idea how I would have made it through if it were not for the kindness, warm welcome from you.

The rest of week 1 went on well. Snowballing and sledging, every piece of this experience was to cherish for a lifetime. The fact that I had to sledge.... was a completely new phenomenon to me nonetheless I enjoyed it."

Caroline enjoying the seasonal weather and demonstrating some fearless sledging.

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