Tropical conditions as X-mas approaches

16/12/2007 by Janneke

Hey there!

Finally another message on my weblog. It has been a while. I have been busy with my internship. As I mentioned in my previous message, I got the opportunity to do a research for which I had to carry out several interviews. I have been crossing through the whole of Nairobi to meet 26 people who were working in the field of ‘environmental mainstreaming’. It was so interesting! We got to speak to people from different ministries of the Kenyan government, from NGOs, from the UN and from several parastatal organizations. At the moment I am working on the analysis of the results. The research is exactly what I am interested in: environmental policy.


Only a few days left, and then I will fly home again. I really feel like going home, taking a good rest and celebrate Christmas and New Year with my family.


Last weekend I went to Mombasa, a city on the coast of the Indian Ocean. We crossed Mombasa, but did not stay long and went soon after our arrival there to the cottage where we would stay. It was simply heaven! The weather was wonderful, the ocean was like a warm bad, the environment was terrific, our lunch consisted of coconut and banana and the cottage was so big and luxurious! We kept on saying to each other how lucky we were, and how much we felt as if in paradise. We spent hours just floating in the sea, speaking a bit, and simply being happy, with broad smiles on our faces. We did a lot of snorkeling as well. I was só amazed by the sea stars! There were hundreds of them, all in different colors and sizes. I had never seen anything like it. They are animals, but do not really look like it. We could just pick them up, and then we would see their little mouths and legs on the bottom-side. There was also loads of fish, corals, sea edges, and plants to see in the sea.


Now it is almost Christmas, but it is a weird feeling that the weather is still so gorgeous here. The sun shines every day, and the temperature is perfect. Still, I’d like to feel the cold of winter again. Last Tuesday me and Vick, my house mate, organized a goodbye party. We decorated the house with Christmas decoration, placed the Christmas tree (that has a permanent place in a corner of the house) well visible on a table, and played lots of Christmas songs to get in the x-mas mood. Just before I went to Nairobi, I had put some Christmas songs on my memory stick (which was in August). I can’t have (the days before) Christmas without Christmas songs!


Well, I think this is (one of) the last messages. My adventure is almost over now. Some times were not as nice I had imagined them to be, some were greater than I imagined. My illness has restricted me in lots of ways, but I can still say that I had a great time here and learned lots of new things!



After a long while…

02/11/2007 by Janneke

Hello there!

It has been a long time since I have written something on my weblog. The reason was that I have been quite ill lately. I had a nasty ear inflammation.

On Monday morning my ear started aching. I was feeling quite bad, so I went home. The pain got heavier, and suddenly my ear started bleeding. I decided to go to the UN doctor. On my way to the UN I saw a UN taxi, so I immediately asked him to bring me to the UN. There they sent me to the Aga Khan hospital, to see a specialist. I was very lucky that my housemate, Vicky from the
UK, was willing to join me. I was very worried, and she calmed me down a bit, and said I would be all right (which I thought was very hard to believe at that time). In Aga Khan, the doctor cleaned my ear and put a bandage and some drops in it. My ear drum was damaged somehow, because of the inflammation. It could be caused by the altitude here, or just an infection. I got medication (antibiotics). Have a look at the photo’s, which are made thanks to Vicky. Luckily I can laugh about them now

I have been home for one week, and been unproductive at work for about two-and-a-half more weeks. Luckily I am feeling much better now, but still very tired. So I just take it easy, and sleep and rest a lot.


Well, these were all my adventures for the past weeks. My work (the only thing I have been doing lately, except for sleeping and eating) is much more exciting at the moment. I really enjoy it! A new consultant (about my age) has joined us recently, and I have another supervisor, who is very nice. We do a lot of work together, and discuss a lot, so it is not just sitting in front of the computer anymore. It is much more interactive.


At present, I am working on an inventory of all the documents that are available. This gives us a good idea of how we should organize all the documents, which documents should be on the website, and what documents we still need to produce. I already selected the country documents for the website (have a look at and admire my work (ahum)). We have lots of discussions on how we should display the useful documents on the
PEI website.

Alongside this, I am working on setting up a network of all the people around the world working on the Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI). This Network is still at an early stage, but the idea is that people working with the
PEI can respond to our messages with all their comments, suggestions, questions, advice, experiences, etc. This will create a global exchange of knowledge and experience. It sounds very interesting, and I hope I will be able to handle the first real questions concerning ‘real on the ground’
PEI work!

Next week my job will be enriched by another task: doing interviews for a handbook on guidance and tools to ‘mainstream the environment’ (=the main task of the
PEI). Together with the new consultant, Caitlin, I will have to go round Nairobi to visit some
PEI people and do some interviewing. I am really excited about it, it would be great to meet the people working on the ground, and actually talk about what they do.


Well, that is it for now. I hope I will be able to give another update of my adventures soon! I will also put some more photo’s of my friends here on the weblog.


Hope you are all fine!



Another interesting weekend…

20/09/2007 by Janneke

Hello there!

Here another message from Nairobi. I again have had a very interesting weekend. On Sunday I went once more to Mathare. As people already told me, it does get heavier the more you walk there. One cannot really sense the poverty in the way people act and how they look, because most of them often look very cheerful. Children always smile whenever you walk there, and also adults greet you mostly very politely. They do not ask you for any money or food, and they generally do not look very starved. A lot of them actually look very well clothed. And, whenever I go there I get offered plenty of food which I cannot even finish! However, the more you walk in Mathare, the more you see the different layers that are there. There is waste everywhere and the sewage system is running openly trough the streets and goes directly into the river. There are children (mainly from single parents) who collect pieces of steel in the river and sewage to earn some shillings. The air is not what it is supposed to be, and in the trees and plants that live in Mathare are extremely few. The population in this slum is about 600.000. There are different sections, and the one section is richer than the other. Some sections exist of high flats of concrete, where people live in a room of about 20 m2. Some streets look like one big waste belt with some huts on them, some streets look more like shopping streets.

In Mathare I met Erick, a young man who lives in Mathare. I visited his house, had some chai with cake, and then we went to church. It was located in a school. It was amazing to see how many churches there were. Only in the school there were two misses going on! We got inside the class room. There were about 4 people standing in front of the class, one of whom was the preacher. He was speaking very loudly and very passively about God. All the people were sitting on the benches and had there heads on the tables in front of them. It was as if they were in heavy pain. It was very interesting to see. I have been told that in some misses the people start shouting, and that they get in a kind of trance. I’d love to experience this one day… When the preacher was done with his talk, I had to present myself. I was seen as the special guest (because of my white skin).

After the miss we had some lunch (rice with beans) and then went to Erick’s brother. It was in the other part of Mathare, so I have the feeling that I have seen half of Mathare now. It is somehow interesting to see how people live there, but it is also a very hard way of living. I think there is so much more to these people’s lives than one can see when you just walk there. There are many many community based organizations, self help groups and ‘merry go rounds’ (a kind of gathering of people to collect money). However, I also heard that people can be very harsh on each other. Of course, poverty and lack of food can make people act in weird ways.

This Saturday I was in a totally different environment. Nairobi has so many different sides! The area of the UN is very wealthy, and there are so many white people here. There is a forest nearby my house. I went running together with my housemate, and we went trough the forest and the fields for 2 and a half hours! I can still feel my muscles. But it was so beautiful! It was really like a tropical rainforest. The air was so fresh, and parts of the forest smelt like eucalyptus trees. We saw huge trees, plants living in and around the trees, we saw monkeys and even a bush bock. We ran trough little villages, which was amazing to see. The people living there were farmers, they had small plots in the forest, near the river.

I am now very much involved in YEP. I have been appointed secretary, and this includes the challenge of developing a good structure for the organization. I really like to be involved in this, since YEP has some difficulties finding its strategy and thus maintaining a decent amount of members.
This Friday I am going to Mathare again, together with the new members of YEP. Last Tuesday there were many new interns who were interested in YEP. YEP is such a nice way to get to know people: interns as well as local residents!

I’ll keep you updated!

Second message!

11/09/2007 by Janneke

Hello again!

My second weekend was great. It was the first time I went outside Nairobi. I went to Hell’s Gate, a national park about two hours away from the city. There were zebra’s, giraffes, gazelles, elands, wild boars, and loads of huge birds. It was so beautiful! I went there together with my two housemates. We walked to the gorge, and went down with a guide. It was an adventurous walk, we had to use our hands at some times. The area has volcanic activity, and it was so interesting to feel that the water that came outside the rocks was hot! At some spots it was even nearly boiling! If you walk there and experience the park, you cannot be anything else but amazed by the beauty and sophistications of nature!

Whereas last weekend I was almost the only one in my house, now it is packed with people. We are 8 at the moment, and we even have to share beds. It is very nice, with very interesting people who tell the most wonderful stories about all their journeys.

Yesterday I went to Mathare again. I went together with a girl from Canada, to give computer lessons to the local youth. We went by matatu, a small bus for about 12 people. You always have to squeeze yourself in, since it is not that big. Often they have very loud music, and there are even ‘disco matatu’s’ with loud music, lights all over and even a tv screen! I haven’t been inside one yet, but I definitely will one day!
Anyway, our trip with the ‘normal’ matatu was an experience on itself. We took the ‘short-cut’ through all the small streets of Nairobi. I had the feeling that we had seen half Nairobi before we arrived. It had been raining the previous day, so the roads were extremely bad. There were holes everywhere, and we were swinging madly. We had an average speed of I think not more than 8 kilometers per hour. There were little stands everywhere, and especially lots of shoes that people sold on the road. It looked a bit as if we were driving in the middle of a slum. At one point in time I wandered whether we would ever be able to get out there again. The sight of broken matatu’s and a whole truck that was fallen in the river was not very encouraging. However, after 45 minutes we finally reached Mathare, and gave our lessons. Next Monday we will go again.

My work for the UN is going fine. It is a bit searching for work in the beginning, I think I have to get into it a bit. I heard a lot of interns do not have a lot to do at first. However, I think I will have to work a bit independently. It is a very new organization I am working for, and I think they just need someone who is going to find out what the role of the PEF is and how the PEF should manage its tasks. So that is quite a challenge, which I like!

Well, that’s it for now. Hope you enjoyed my stories! Have a look at the pictures, if you’re interested!


Arrived in Nairobi!

04/09/2007 by Janneke

Hello everybody!

I arrived in Nairobi, and I am still not robbed, so don’t worry too much J. I am having a great time here, and I think I will be having an even greater time in the coming 4 months that I will be here. When I arrived at the airport, I was picked up by a taxi driver. He immediately started to talk to me as if we knew each other for years and as if he was my best friend. When I arrived at the place I would be staying at, I met two people who live there. They were just going out for diner, so I joined them. We had a party with other interns from the UN. It was great fun. This weekend I was somehow alone in the house, since all of the interns were traveling. I decided to call Janneke, whom I had been in contact with before I arrived here. She invited me for her goodbye party. Up till Saturday morning I did not have the feeling that I was in Africa. Everywhere there are white people, everybody speaks English, the weather is quite like it is in the Netherlands, and the area I am living in is very rich, with lots of green around. Nearby there is the so called village market, which is a huge shopping mall with everything you can find in Europe AND in Kenya AND in India. So I am not lacking anything. In terms of housing, I am very lucky as well. I have a big bedroom with a bed for two, there are several bathrooms in the house, a swimming pool and two huge sitting rooms. And I am even paying less than I was doing in Wageningen!

Today I officially started working. I had to collect my pass. I am an official UNDP staff member now (see picture)! The PEF, the Facility I am working for, is very new. It is located in one of the compartments within the UN Compound, which is a huge green park (many trees, rivers and pools in it) with many UN organizations. The office of the PEF is very new, and I have a brand new working place with everything I would wish for: computer with access to internet, desk, telephone, printer, etc. Today I had to arrange most of the formalities and my installation here, but tomorrow I will really start working. I will begin working on the website of the PEF/PEI, and I will also get in contact with people from the Poverty-Environment Partnership, an informal network of NGOs, governments and other agencies working on issues that concern poverty and environment. Philip Dobie, the director of the Facility, is a really nice guy, and he told me I had lots of work to do. Let’s see!

This weekend I went to Matare, one of the slums in Nairobi (see picture). It was quite an experience to walk there. It was a huge area covered with small buildings built up by pieces of metal and wood. There were several flats as well. There was litter everywhere, and also dogs, goats, cats, ducks and chickens walking around. It was a strange experience, because it did not felt as if people living there were poor or to be pitied with. They were actually smiling a lot to us, and all the kids were shouting ‘How are you?’(even the smallest ones, who obviously did not know what it meant).

I went to Matare with another intern because there was a project of the YEP, the Youth Empowerment Programme, which is an organization run by UN interns. They are setting up a school in the slums, and also a kind of latrine for the people. Very interesting projects, I think I will be involved in the YEP as well.

That’s my stories for now. Hope I have updated you sufficiently.

Bye for now!
Dearest greetings,

Welcome to my weblog!

27/08/2007 by Janneke

Hi everybody!

I can still hardly believe that I have been given the splendid opportunity to do an internship for the United Nations! I will tell how it all came about…

I was extremely in doubt (as usual) what kind of internship I wanted to do for my Master International Development Studies. I was getting very nervous and annoyed of myself when time dragged on and I still hadn’t decided. It was already July when I finally decided that I wanted to take the chance to apply for an internship with the United Nations (UN).

After I had spent many evenings surfing on the internet finding a nice programme for which I wanted to work within the UN, I wrote a motivation letter for one particular programme. I contacted the alumni network of Wageningen University and asked for people who work for the UN. I got a list of people and sent them my motivation letter and resume. Already next day, I got a mail from the director of the Poverty and Environment Facility. He wanted a telephone interview with me! I was very pleased of course, but also a bit stressed. However, there was no need, because after only a couple of questions the director said that I could start my internship in September, being located in Nairobi. I never expected this! It all seems so coincidental. I just applied on the right moment, because the Facility was looking for an intern on immediate basis.

The Facility just started in February of this year. There are now only two people working for it, so I will be the third one. They just launched a website: Have a look if you’re interested! The Facility is meant to support the partnership that was set up earlier between the UN Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme, called Poverty and Environment Initiative. Its aim is to integrate the seventh of the Millennium Development Goals, namely environmental sustainability. The Initiative seeks to help developing countries in Africa and Asia to integrate this goal (to have a better environment) into their national development plans.

I am looking forward to my time in Nairobi very much! I will leave the 30th of August, and will remain there at least till the end of December. Everywhere I read that Kenya is such a beautiful country.
Well, soon enough I will be able to tell you all about it! So keep checking my web log!

To be continued…

Terms of Reference, description of my tasks

Letter of acceptance from Philip Dobie, director of the Facility