So I just took this random guess on google “Hike near London” and ended up on a website for “Surrey Hills”, downloaded the first hike and went…. after some weeks in London it felt great to get some fresh air!
One of the inscriptions on Chilworth Cementary read “Live is for living” and I could not agree more.
This article will make some of you smile others frown. It is about returning to Western Europe, highly industrialized countries, “the first world”. I stayed in Africa during the last three years. I was often asked whether I am not scared of losing my IT knowledge or becoming “slow” or how I can live in “such” conditions. Obviously such questions already show the asker’s low understanding of my motivations. But even more does it give insight into the image that exists of “Africans” (I really have to put this into quotes having experienced the diversity that exists in the continent). Africans take their time, talk a lot with their neighbors and family, are never in a hurry to get something done and talk about difficulties rather than solving them. So far we “know”. This post focuses on the talking bit of the African culture and the importance of togetherness. Actually this post is about the absence of the two in London… Let’s look at your typical day. Waking up in your room, no sharing needed, you deserve privacy and your salary can afford it! Lights and shower work perfectly, no reason to complain. Your smart phone synchronizes the news and your mail, now just a quick Coffee to go in the corner shop. The shop attendant talks in Hindi with the Guy filling the shelves. “1,20″ really doesn’t require an answer, but your coffee is done before you arrive at the bus stop. You “touch in” your oyster card, but the loud beep and the driver’s shaking head tells you that your ticket expired and, yeah, you can’t buy bus tickets on the bus. You decide you can walk the two stops, at the tube station you extend your weekly transport pass on the machine. At least the touch screen doesn’t look at you compassionately like the old lady when you had to get off the bus. Half an hour later your day seems to have stabilized. Nothing really exciting on the news, so you start scrolling through your mail. You are used to the pushing and polite “excuse me”s on the tube. On entering the office building, this girl greets you on the corridor, she must be new here. Work is going good, emails, reports and one team meeting. A bit annoying is Anna’s new ringtone, she seems to be using her 1000 free texts well. During lunch break you head for a quick shopping tour through Sainsbury’s, these self-checkout terminals are much faster than the usual cashiers! At 5.30pm the cleaning lady looks at you with tired eyes. Finally home, you watch some soaps, the catch-up of the television is cool but ordering movies on Sky is cheap and convenient. You decide to shop for birthday presents on Amazon before you sleep… This summary of my 3 weeks in London shows how technology facilitates life here and also the process-orientation that has taken over: People are used to fitting into the process and the process makes the world go round. If you don’t force it, every day will look like the other and you will not need to talk a single word in 24 hours. Maybe I became slow… But give yourself a break, a small reason to talk and return my greeting on the corridor tomorrow! Oh, and the first sentence that was directed at me today was the “I just wanted to tell you that I like your hairstyle” of a shop assistant. He was black.
And within the first two weeks I already realized that London is different from other cities. Very international and somehow magnetic to people with non-conventional lifestyles.
When I am reading books on Business Models, the Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Social Innovation or Unreasonable People on the Tube, people look me and smile (knowingly?). The other day I was waiting at the doctor and somebody just randomly approached me to tell me that he is opening a social business on healthy food. Universities in the UK were amongst the first to offer Masters Programs on Social Entrepreneurship.
In the next months and years I will have some time to get to know London’s Social Business Scene.
My new job at edge.
My next moves in London.
Sometimes I’m asked why Nairobi. It’s these Saturday morning things: An old muslim mzee cycling by, a massai dressed in colourful blankets, a rasta sitting on the bus next to a woman with a church headscarf. A stranger taking a boy on his lap because there’s no free seat, adolescent writers telling the interviewer on radio that they write life advice books to inspire people who feel challenges to not waste their lives on drugs.
People are so expressive and human