Today I will present two challenges and one very pleasant aspect about living in Kenya.


My front door lock and key

The locks are problematic. This is the lock and key to my front door. The other key dangling is for the security screen just outside the front door but it works the same way. The keys work on each side of the lock, so that to open the door you insert the key in the front part of the lock and turn. To lock the door from the inside, you remove the key from the front, insert it in the back and turn. Simple, right? The thing is, if you lock the door from the inside and then absentmindedly remove the key, then misplace it, you will be locked inside. No way out. If there is a fire or a health emergency, you will probably die.

As I mentioned in my post “Secure in Nairobi,” I have had one unpleasant experience already. I was locked in my guest house for a night because of these locks. I had the key to my room and could come and go, but the manager had locked all of the outside doors and then left for the evening. Even the security guard was helpless to get me out.

Today I was working in the Department of Optometry and Vision Science in a back room. I was concentrating on my work, heard the jangling of keys, and then silence for a few minutes. I got up and urgently walked to the reception desk, saying “Julia, are you there? I don’t have a key.” Fortunately she was and she too was working quietly. I told her about my Nairobi experience and we both laughed about it, but it could be a serious issue. No one has mentioned issuing a key to the department door.


My Patio Door

I present to you the door to my patio. I have never been on my patio. The key has been misplaced by a previous tenant and apparently the building supervisor has no extra. For reasons I do not fully understand a group of four people that manage  the housing complex toured my apartment today, commenting how nice it was. I mentioned the issue of the locked door and no key. One gentleman said he would look into it, but I am not too optimistic. I tried to take apart the lock, thinking maybe I could open it, go a hardware store, buy a new lock with key, and reinstall it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure it out.

So there you have it. I am not a big fan of Kenyan locks. I like the country, people, plants animals, birds, and as I will explain later, the rain storms. But the locks I could do without. I could do without the love of certificates too.

The Kenyan government has a fixation on certificates. Unfortunately, I do not have the correct certificates. When I graduated from optometry school 23 years ago, I must have received a diploma. I am sure of it. I just don’t know where it is. Somehow or another, all of the places I have worked have not asked to see my diploma.

I know what happened to my PhD diploma. I never picked it up. I graduated on December 20th, 2001, and it was not ready yet. They gave me a piece of paper with a stamp and a signature that said I had completed the requirements for my degree. I showed that to the University of Arizona and they hired me. I started work January 4, 2002 and never looked back. I never went back to Berkeley to get the official piece of paper. They had a strict credentialing and recredentialing process for professional licensure and I had to show valid paperwork every year, which I did.

Kenya does not have licensure of optometrists, so my hard copy of my valid Arizona optometry license is worthless. They don’t like scanned documents so the myriad of electronic copies I brought don’t seem to be doing the trick. I ordered, paid for, and received a secured and official University of California, Berkeley transcript today documenting my bachelor’s in science, optometry degree, and doctoral degree. Dr. Okenwa-Vincent, who is from Nigeria, is not optimistic that will suffice. He is trying his best, but the government wants a hard copy certificate of my optometry and doctoral degrees. Who knew? Apparently, no one.

There is a process for securing those documents, but it is old school. There are two forms to be filled out, US cashier’s checks to be purchased, and the whole package must be mailed to the University of California, Berkeley Registrar’s office. The order is made every first working day of the month, and only that day, for the duplicate certificates and the process takes 45-90 days once the order is made. In the meantime, without government approval I cannot get a work permit, which means that I cannot open a bank account, so I cannot get paid. There might be a work around solution and I am consulting with my boss and university officials to remedy the situation. There is no lack of good will on everyone’s part. But they need the certificates. Official transcripts will not do, unless an exception is made (and it might be, we’ll see). Fortunately, I will be traveling to the US in early October for the American Academy of Optometry. I will be able to pass through Tucson and get this stuff done, but it will still be at least a couple months until I have them, and then a work permit takes another few months. One day, I tell myself, I will have my certificates, have my work permit, and all will be well. In the meantime, my ignorance about the process has resulted in a time consuming mess. It has been a bit frustrating, to be sure, but I am doing my best to maintain an optimistic attitude.


Afternoon Thunderstorm at the Golf Hotel Bar

One thing that is not frustrating is the almost daily afternoon rain. The morning starts out spectacularly sunny in Kakamega, as the sun warms the earth. The humidity and heat build to about 80 or 82 degrees F. In the afternoon, around 4pm, I notice clouds building over the Kakamega National Forest to the west, the last rainforest left in Kenya and only about 12 miles away. In case the people below were too self absorbed and not aware of the building clouds, about 10 minutes before it starts to pour, thunder sounds and the breeze picks up. The rainstorms are very polite here in Kakamega, Kenya.

5 thoughts on “Locks, Certificates, and Polite Rainstorms

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