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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

PR sux...

Well, I am back in wonderful Nairobi, where Life is simple and the streets are safe. If you turn your gaze to the setting sun you may well see the knuckle-shaped Ngong Hills beckoning you to reaffirm your birthright as an African......

Ida, meantime, is back with her home office and 'best in the west' staff. Back to the excitement and smiles that she has become used to since joining Internews Network......let the story continue!

Q) How do tell when a journalist is not a journalist?
A) When they get a job in Public Relations.

The above Q&A not only describes 2 jobs that are about as far apart as the Atkins Diet and Lucozade, but also underlies one of the biggest challenges that a journalist will ever face - how to get past the PR to get a half baked shot at the truth. Living in a commercialized world of advertizing driven consumerism I have come to realise that most successful ad executives actually really believe the glitz they disseminate. I mean, do rural Zulus really need triangular tea bags?...and can a lurid green compressed lump of algae (the same stuff that we try to get rid of in our swimming pools) really replace the meat and veggies that Granny grew up on? I am told that the very people who market products like Spirulina (that's the algae in the blue bottle so the sun energy cannot escape) actually take their own product for a while...till Western medicine is finally resorted to again.....
Why this rave about PR? Well, on the 26th September 2008, I saw the most effective bit of PR ever....and it moved me.
I have flown many times between Johannesburg and Nairobi and each time we get a glimpse of the peak of Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world....if we are lucky and the clouds swirling around the peak allow us a peek from the SAA flight path some nautical miles to the west.
This last time, my sister, Joy was on board, commencing a trip to Kenya, accompanied by her travel compandium, Maggie. This had been planned for 2 years. Her seat was carefully chosen for the best vantage on Kili. I, Nokia GPS in hand, plotted our approach and was confused when the plane turned 90deg to the east of its flight path. The pilot announced that we should be getting a glimpse of Kili soon....and next thing there she was, just below us and visible like few have ever seen her.
The captain, Themba McLean, realizing that the cloud cover was up to the summit, had diverted and descended so we could literally gaze down the caldera of this old volcano, now falling victim to global warming, as her snow cap decreases every year.
There is no doubt that I am now a firm fan of South African Airways.
We hit the ground and the colours of Kenya hit us.
....and the wildlife too, those irrepressible Maribu Storks that dwell like old retired men in the sooty trees of Mombasa road.
Any good tour starts downtown....and here in Nairobi we were reminded by the security guy at City Hall, how 'our city used to be very bad and dangerous and dirty but now things have changed.'
It occurred to me that the first 2 El Presidentes had clearly been very busy with the stuff of consolidating the revolution and allied interests and it was only the hon. Kibaki that really got down to the nitty gritty of what really matters. And it is not all that difficult to enact here. Simply make the law and the enforce it the next day. They did that recently with anti-smoking legislation and almost overnight the city was free of smokers, who have now been relegated to a small square of concrete outside the public toilets in Nairobi. When we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta AP a rather stressed visitor asked us, "Where can I smoke here?". I answered that he had to take a cab to the toilets in Nairobi and stand outside, and to be very careful about it as only last week a diehard smoker was beaten to death in a pub for refusing to stub out!
So, for non-smokers who have a lot of living still to do, there is plenty on offer in Nairobi, from the famous leaning tower of Pilsiner to the many signs reminding residents of their core values.
Kenya continues to be a land of juxtaposed contrasts, with local hero, Kimathi, the Che Guevara of the struggle for Uhuru, standing proudly defiant in front of the Hilton Hotel to the enormous commitment that ordinary Kenyans have to not chopping down trees (Thank you, Wangari Mathai). The latter, however, is curiously offset by the almost universal habit of burning all garden refuse.
Amidst the peppery smell of the neighbours' burning leaves our friend, Stephen, general factotum, by appointment to our little bit of paradise in Kyuna Crescent, has learnt the advantages of a compost heap....
Stephen's reputation had spread and our visitors arrived bearing gifts of T-shirts galore for the lad....which seemed to elicit the hoped for response.
This is truly a wonderful place to live.........Karibu Kenya!

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