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You can’t make this stuff up.

Yes, it’s been a while. See I’ve been busy. But there is so much more to say.

This weekend, Bob had to go to the wake of a young colleague. This man, a young father, had died  while skiing.

When I told Maya that dad was at a wake. She asked what that was. When I explained, she asked me, “Why is dad celebrating the deadness of his friend?”

You can’t make this stuff up. It’s nonfiction.

Fiction, it seems, is pretty easy to define. The kids have been learning about it in school. Maya tells me, “Fiction is when dogs can talk. Nonfiction is when they can’t.” Got it.

And it’s not just her. Shae has some real zingers too.

The other day, Shae said that I smelled good. Then, “It’s that air freshener that you put under your arms.”

“Yes, sweetie, we call it deodorant.”

Air freshener? Well, yeah, I guess it is.

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It’s impossible to summarize my first 24 hours in Kenya, and Africa, in a blog post. I’m sitting outside, the only place I can connect to wireless access, thinking about all of the things that they mentioned in our “safety briefing” this afternoon. Black mambas, flies carrying malaria, elephants wandering through our camp. And yet, I want to sit outside so I can post this. Well, to be honest, there is also a large hairy bat flying around inside my cabin (banda) so I’m willing to risk being outside for a while.

We landed in Nairobi went to the Intercontinental Hotel. Had a fantastic Indian meal and some gin and tonics with no ice. I went to bed at 9:30. I was awakened at 4:30 AM by a woman yelling in pain or distress in the street behind our hotel. It didn’t sound good. I called the front desk to alert them. They called back later saying it had been a “street lady.” I’m not so sure what that was all about.

We went to the airport to collect our guests and then drove 3 hours through beautiful, flat, brown and red scrub to reach our center. Pictures are posted on Flickr.

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Prepping for Africa

As I prepare to go to East Africa, I am doing a little reading.

Here is an excerpt from Bill Bryson’s African Diary

…I can’t say it actively preyed on me that my impressions of Africa were based so heavily on a series of B-movies made in California more than half a century ago, but when a personable young man named Dan McLean from the London office of CARE International, the venerable and worthy charity, asked me if I would be willing to go to Kenya to visit some of their projects and write a few words on their behalf, it occurred to me that there were some gaps in my familiarity with the Dark Continent that I might usefully fill in. So I agreed.

Some weeks later, I was summoned to CARE’s London offices for a meeting with Dan, his boss Will Day and a rugged and amiable fellow named Nick Southern, CARE’s regional manager for Kenya, who happened to be in London at the time. We sat around a big table spread with maps of Kenya, while they outlined what they had in mind for me.

“Of course, you’ll have to fly to the refugee camp at Dadaab,” Will observed thoughtfully at one point. He glanced at me. “To avoid the bandits,” he explained.

Dan and Nick nodded gravely.

“I beg your pardon?” I said, taking a sudden interest.

“It’s bandit country all round there,” Will said.

“Where?” I asked, peering at the map for the first time.

“Oh, just there,” Will said, waving a hand vaguely across most of east Africa. “But you’ll be fine in a plane.”

“They only rarely shoot at planes,” Nick explained.

This wasn’t at all what I had had in mind, frankly. By way of homework, I had dutifully watched Out of Africa, from which I derived the impression that this trip would mostly take place on a verandah somewhere while turbaned servants brought me lots of coffee. I knew that we would probably visit a clinic from time to time and that someone in the party might occasionally have to shoot a charging animal, but I hadn’t imagined anything shooting at me in return.

“So how dangerous is Kenya then?” I asked in a small controlled squeak.

“Oh, not at all,” they responded in unison.

“Well, hardly,” Will added.

“It depends on what you mean by dangerous, of course,” said Dan.

“Like bleeding and not getting up again,” I suggested. “Being shot and stabbed and so forth,” I added.

They assured me that that only very rarely happened, and that it was nearly always one or the other. You had to be very unlucky to be shot and stabbed, they said.

Mother’s Day Tea (with a little embarrassment thrown in for good measure)

My four year-old’s class hosted a lovely Mother’s Day tea. They served treats and tea and sang some wonderful songs. I had a wonderful time until …. I read the program. Then I broke into a cold sweat.

Each child had been “interviewed” about his or her mom. The teachers printed what they said about their moms in the program. Here is what mine said:

My mother’s name is Leslie. I call her momma. She has brown and yellow hair. Me and my sister want to get another dog badly. At home, she works all day. She does not like to work all day, she likes to spend time with me. When she wants to relax by herself, she lays down in her bed. My favorite thing to do with my mom is to watch movies of High School Musical. We have mothers because to save kids if they don’t have a dad. If children don’t have a dad, mothers take care of kids. For mother’s day she would like a present. I love my mother a billion, a willion, a hillion …. that’s a lot.

A lemonade stand as a case study in entrepreneurship

The start-up team had a new idea they were excited about….

They had promotional materials and product offerings addressing multiple market segments:
(“Lemonade $1; Bike $10; Walker (baby toy) $15; Car (neighbor’s ’99 Saab convertible) $8,000; Lemonade (delivered) $1.25.”)
They secured funding and sourced some raw materials and a production facility. They were on their way…
They waited for the market to respond….
Because they were a bit worried about cash flow.

The market responded favorably. Customers were satisfied with their offerings. With this market opportunity validated, they listened to their customer to discover more unmet market needs. A new revenue opportunty was revealed!
They quickly drafted a new business plan to expand their offerings…..

With a new premium service (car washes, $7). Thinking strategically, the team leveraged it’s existing product to incentivize new sales. (Purchase a car wash, get a free lemonade!)

They grow and train their team. Again, they exceed customer expectations.

Which leads to revenues…

Profits …

And, yes, large bonuses for the leadership team.

Coolest of the cool

I had a cold and my back was very sore from my ride last week. But when I got the call at 11:30 AM to come do a quick sales presentation at 12:30, I said yes and scrambled to get out the door.

In less than 45 minutes, I printed up the gift certificates, packed my bag, changed into my black cashmere sweater, fixed my hair, put on a little makeup and whoosh, I’m out the door.

Two hours and $400 in sales later I’m back at home. Such a rock star.

And that’s when my husband leans over and says, “Honey, your sweater is on inside out.”