East Africa, the 4th Continent. I would say the most interesting out of all of the adventures I’ve had so far partly because of personal reasons and partly because how sideways things went. I came to Africa with high hopes looking for business opportunities in a “Wild West” environment with no clear objectives but instead found a church community, the Red Cross Society and other social intrigues on a radically different continent, here is my reflection on the past over half a year using the 5 questions I like to use.
Who Did I Help?
Initially I wanted to help by solving some sort of business problem, but things just didn’t work our and I found solace in church (my first church) along with all of the offshoots that are part of a church community.
Firstly orphans, the orphans that were part of my church in Dar were very friendly and open with me. I enjoyed spending time with them and they called me “Uncle.” Visiting orphans in their (far away) home is true religion according to the Bible (James 1) and not only did I visit them in their affliction, I managed to raise a few months rent for them through some impromptu mission work.
Also related to my church in Dar, there were a number of leadership events that took place where I had the opportunity to speak, after which days even weeks later members of the congregation would approach me and say how moved they were by my words and bring up specific details of things I said and how it inspired them to think.
As for the pastor of the church now that I think about it, I helped him in relatively small ways, I cleaned the church when things got flooded, bits and pieces of technology, but perhaps he saw something in me, that’s why he invested so much time into me.
In Kenya, things were tough in that lockdowns put a lot of restrictions on what you can and can’t do. But I did manage to pass down some basic accounting/bookkeeping knowledge to high school students and young adults who may find the knowledge useful through a short series of lectures.
In terms of the church in which I was involved in, I built out a website both for the bishop and the church, a capability that I had that no one else that was already there has. This one has potential for future opportunities that may present themselves.
What Did I Learn?
In the beginning of this leg of the adventure, I had very little knowledge of scripture, it was never something that appealed to me, but months of being immersed in the culture leads to some of it rubbing off on you, so after a lot of active listening, I do know a things or two about scripture.
Being also an outsider in the African continent who isn’t loaded with cash (yet), I’ve had to use my fair share of local transport (that and walking) as such, I’ve gained a fair amount of knowledge on how to navigate my way through a foreign city using local transport.
And I’ve found church involvement has helped me in learning how to develop a group of people around me that forms some semblance of a community. And one that can be moved through asking for friend of friend referrals when moving to a new area.
As for matters that are more concrete, being surrounded by church related activities, musical instruments naturally were brought up as part of the repertoire of skills to learn. Specifically, the drums and piano, both of which I have a fundamental understanding of that can be put to reasonable use.
Beyond church, the fact still remains that I look radically different then everyone else here, as a result, unwanted comments are sometimes made and dealing with it on such a frequent basis has given me a thick skin towards it. I’ve come to terms that I can’t control what other people say about me, but how I react (or don’t react) is completely under my control and doing so removes the power from the words.
Of course lastly I did attend a few courses held by the Kenyan Red Cross that taught me some of the fundamentals of fire safety (ie. fire extinguishers) and first aid which may come in handy in the future.
And lastly, Swahili is a lingua franca of east Africa which I picked up quite a bit of.
Who Am I?
Having been a part of such a wide range of cultures these past few years, I will say that I am more open minded then most when it comes to the wide range of perspectives that I’ve soaked in.
This goes beyond just the language and culture but the multitude of numbers of ways of life I have gained insight on. This of course includes the wide range of professions I’ve tried my hand on but also the people I’ve observed. Specifically in East Africa, I’ve visited the homes of the rich and the poor, pastors and students, UN representatives and orphans.
Some of the insights, especially from those less well endowed, may not seem to matter much, but the beauty is you never know which piece is useful. They all have their place and with time each one of them will find their use.
What Matters to Me
Well I’ll tell you what doesn’t matter to me is sitting behind a desk and working some office job for the rest of my life, that would be just plain misery. Suppose this has been part of me since high school, I wanted to do my own thing. And now I am, the stuff I am doing now may not make sense, but ultimately it’s about discovering how I could make the most lasting impact and I can’t do that without putting boots on the ground.
And of all the places I’ve visited, just going there to see the sights just gets plain boring and having been to so may countries. One just gets jaded after going to see this and that so many countless times. But the people, now they are priceless and worth a great deal seeing as there is a surprise when meeting someone new, especially when they are from a radically different background, not just culturally but in every regard.
The most vivid memories I have in fact, involve all the colorful people I’ve met along the way and not only met, but had shared experiences with. A worthwhile site has an entry ticket price tag, but the memories forged with people when your lives intersect, that is priceless.
Now having had so many of these novel experiences in such a wide range of areas, I think it is appropriate now to really focus in on one or two things that I want to be good at and becoming one of best at it. Only in this way will I be most capable in solving problems. If I say that the people matter so much to me, well then I need to be able to go in and solve their problems and I can only do that by being the best.
What Am I Good At?
Latin, Asian, African, needless to say I’ve learned a few things about how to integrate into new societies. This can only be done to a limited extent of course given the fact that I still look different. Even so, going in and being a (visiting) member of society is something I know how to do.
As part of inserting myself into new societies, adapting to the new environment is obviously part of what is involved in being part of it. Along with it is learning new skills which I think I am quite adept at. Being quick on your feet and adapting is key, now taking that competence and moving it to excellence is the next step.
There are a number of overarching themes of skills which I am good at. Tools that may very well come in handy later on down the line, I won’t go into too deep detail, I’ll just go and list them out.
- Travel Smarts
These areas I think I’m going to dial down on and really focus on as I work on building a between me that can solve more problems and bring more value to the table.
“Reflections on Having High Hopes”
But now thinking back in hindsight, my intentions when coming here to Africa were bold yes, but still rather fuzzy and unfocused with no clear goal nor actionable steps that would help in getting there. Being widely optimistic that things would some way some how work themselves out was a tremendous leap of faith, but was foolish to think that it would magically work itself out as I continued to try and figure things out as they went along.
It wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of pessimism in whatever you do as things may not work out and one needs to be mentally and emotionally prepared if that becomes the case.
All in all, east Africa filled a lot of holes I had in my life that prevented me from being well rounded. Now as I close this chapter, it’s time to take that well roundedness into focus.
Kingston S. Lim
May 16, 2021
About Kingston’s Journey Series: Kingston’s Journey is one “inspiration video/motivational video” of a lifelong series. This is the travel journal I take with me. Whether you have questions such as how to change my life or how to travel the world, I think you’ll find value in the life lessons I’ve experienced and documented in this travel notebook. They may serve as travel inspiration for you. In Chinese, there is a saying, “讀萬卷書,不如行千里路.”
This means, instead of reading ten thousand books, why don’t you walk a thousand miles. This is my inspiration to travel every nation (or as many as possible) in my pursuit of my global MBA by learning as much as possible and recording these life lessons learned only by travel. In the end, I think the achievement of dreams, personal growth & aspirations out there through travel and adventure will lead to a more fulfilling life. Living and experiencing the “now” is how I’ll make my life a great memory in the future.