Adjusting to Life in the Nuru International Kenya Project

Removing the rust and getting back into the field is always a challenge. It always amazes me just how quickly I can become soft. The calluses- both internal and external- seem to thin at a much quicker rate than they were earned. My cast-iron stomach has been the result of years of bacterial battles from which I emerged a scarred victor, yet now a little food poisoning and I feel it. Traveling 48+ hours on transport used to be the adventure side of the job, as I’d imagine the Indiana Jones map following my progress. Walking 10+ miles a day was the best way to learn the terrain, but now I find that I ask myself, “How did I do this everyday?” Insects now bother me. I feel the bumps and bruises of daily life in rural sub-Saharan Africa. No matter how hard I try to silence it, I hear my parents’ saying, “you are getting old.”

I tell myself that this is the part of the job that I love- the grit of reality, but the reality is that I have gotten soft. It is hard living separate lives, and my homes couldn’t be more different. Part of my life and my year is in Kuria, Kenya and part of it is in Orange County, CA. I thought that it was a challenge straddling Europe and the US for a decade, but this is decidedly more challenging. As a result, Laura, my wife, and I have decided to make the best of both lives, but it doesn’t make it any easier during the transition from one to the other.

Now that the transition is more or less complete, and I have now had a chance to reflect, I cannot help but welcome all of this daily battering and bruising, but for the sake of adventure, the grit of reality, or even for the sake of the story, but because it serves as a reminder of why I am involved with Nuru and why I have chosen this line of work. The transition back and forth is always a bit of an overload for me. When I go out to the field, I cannot help, but be struck by the level of poverty. When I return back to California, I cannot help, but be struck by the affluence.

People adapt to their reality over time. It happens. Certain things just become normal. While I don’t feel that I have ever lost my sense urgency in our fight against extreme poverty, when it is your everyday reality, it becomes more accepted. I welcome the shock that I feel right now to serve as a reminder as to why I do what I do.


About Aerie Changala

Chief Executive Officer — Aerie earned his BA in International Affairs from John Cabot University (Rome, Italy) and his MA in International Conflict Analysis from the University of Kent (Canterbury, UK). He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in northern Burkina Faso. Aerie has been part of Nuru’s leadership since Nuru’s earliest days. Aerie initially served as Nuru’s second Team Leader in Kenya (following Jake) and has since led scouting, launching and designing of Nuru’s projects. Having spent the majority of his adult life living throughout Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, Aerie has traveled extensively, speaks seven languages, and brings a global perspective to his work at Nuru.

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