Monthly Archives: October 2014

Working night shift

I’ve been working for about a week now. I’m still getting the hang of working in this country. It is not too bad. The biggest challenge so far has been getting rest during the day. It’s a normal thing for most people here. My body is still adjusting to that change. It’s not an easy adjustment. Luckily the job is a a Monday to Friday with occasional overtime over the weekend.

The thing that surprised me the most was the 3 breaks in an 7.5 hour shift. Two 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute ‘lunch’ break. I thought it was hilarious to have a ‘lunch’ break at 2.30 in the morning. I don’t find it funny anymore as I’m starving by that hour and need to eat something to make it through the shift. There is unlimited coffee, tea or chocolate to keep guys fresh. I had to get coffee to keep me going the first few days when I started but I’m getting the hang of it all and I don’t need coffee anymore to stay awake through the night.

I sleep as soon as I get home for 5 or 6 hours. I’m up in the afternoon and get an hour or two in just before I start my shift at 10 in the night. It’s an interesting schedule but one that is necessary.

It’s an interesting mix of cultures at work. I’ve met interesting people at work from India, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and of course my fellow Kenyans. We are everywhere 🙂 .

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1st Job

I started my first job in this country on Friday night, exactly 3 months since I got here. I’ll be working for an IT company. If it wasn’t for the contacts I’ve made since I got here, I don’t think I would have gotten the job. Networking means everything in the job market in this country. I got the job through an employment agency contracted to recruit contract workers for the IT company. Complicated stuff. Reliable transport was one of the requirements for the job. I don’t have a car yet but I can’t make arrangements to be at work when required.

The employment agency has it’s headquarters in Southfield, Michigan. It has a representative here in Houston. Met her at a Starbucks coffee shop. Tonnes of paperwork to go through, verify legal documents required for employment, a bit of do’s and don’ts, terms of employment, pay check arrangements. I’ll get my first 2 pay checks sent to me before they do a direct transfer.The lady had earlier requested for the go-ahead to conduct a 7 year background check. The offer was dependent on passing a drug test.

I had an option to choose from which Quest Diagnostics laboratory to go to. I chose one closer to where I live. I gave a urine sample and that was done.

I thought it’d take 48 hours for the results to be ready. I was quite surprised when the Agency lady asked me to report to work the following day as the background check and drug test results were back early.

I’ll be working the 3rd shift or graveyard shift as it’s called. I start at 10.40 pm and knock off at 6.40 am. I’ll be working Monday to Friday and Overtime when required during weekends. My host dropped me off early. I felt like a ‘deer in the headlights’. The 2nd shift guys were getting done for the day and 3rd shift was starting. I’d tried to sleep during the day but I didn’t get more that 2 hours sleep.

The majority of the night was spent in orientation by HR. Company policy, data handling policy, hazardous materials training, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) training (never mind that I won’t be dealing with food). There were 2 15 minutes and 1 30 minutes breaks in the 8 hour period. There are vending machines and unlimited supply of coffee in the common area. The coffee came in handy to keep me awake. The last 2 hours were spent getting familiar with what I’ll be doing. It’s a very large building with freezing like air conditioning in place..It’ll take time to get used to that. Glad I had a jumper on. In no time 8 hours were done and I was off to get some sleep.

Sleeping during the day is not normal. The body will need some adjusting but so far so good. It’s a start.

Random observations: Time keeping is of utmost importance. It can lead to termination of employment, Use of cell phones is frowned upon during work hours, Job training is thorough, Rules are strictly adhered to (mishandling of expensive IT components can cost the company thousands of dollars), Discrimination of any kind or use of violence will get you fired, My job pays bi-weekly (after every 2 weeks), Overtime is one and a half times the normal pay.

3 Months later

Today marks 3 months since I made the move from Nairobi, Kenya to Houston, Texas. It has not been easy. It’s a ongoing journey to adjust to a new way of doing things. I’m still learning. It’s the only choice in this new environment I chose to be in.

The weather has been very good. I can’t tell the difference from what I was used to in Africa. It’s Fall already but I haven’t felt much change although the temperatures in the evenings are dropping now. I was out cycling yesterday and felt the chill as I rode my bike around the neighborhood. It’s getting dark earlier than when I first got here. I look forward to experiencing my first winter in Texas. It should be interesting.

Someone asked me to write what it was like leaving my job in Kenya and moving here. I was in the Humanitarian field. Traveling to refugee camps around Sub Saharan Africa to process and assist refugees approved by the USCIS for the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP)

Why did I decide to move here? I wanted change of scenery and the opportunity presented itself. More like a bucket list kind of a thing. I always wanted to live in another country. My main goal in my previous job was to tour Central and West Africa. I did get to travel and see Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon, Mali, Guinea, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire. I had accomplished my mission and was ready to move on. 10 years was long enough for me. When the DV opportunity came along I was more than ready.

I made so many friends at work and around the continent, I got paid to go to places that I would never have visited and most importantly I got to change another human beings’ life while at it. The pay was Ok, allowances or per diem as we called it were a bonus. I’ll always treasure the experiences I had at my former workplace.

The opportunities that this country brings was also a factor in deciding to immigrate. I’ve always wanted to fly planes. I did an assessment at a flying school in Kenya and it was fun. Flying is so expensive in Kenya so I pushed it to the back burner. I’ll pursue it as far as I can while I’m here.

I’d visited the US for vacation and work and I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. It will not be easy but I hope it will be worth the move in the long long run. When you are on vacation it’s fun and you shop and shop and visit places, shop some more and soon you are on your way back home. This is very different, scary even to imagine you’ll be here for a while before you see the loved ones you left behind. I don’t have a family so that has really helped. I’m only dealing with my adjustment. I didn’t have high expectations when I arrived here so I haven’t been disappointed by what I’ve found.

My experience and education is not really taken into consideration here so I’ll have to start at the bottom and go up the scale. I’m not being choosy at all. Most people are ashamed of what they do when they get here. I’m not one of them. I just have to do what I have to do to get where I want to go. I’ll tell it as is. Entry level positions are a must to build experience. I have to go back to school and get more credentials, get experience working here. It’s a long journey ahead but I’m positive and ready for it.

Being focused is the name of the game.

I have a job offer pending a 7 year background check. Will see how that goes.

Applying for a job

I’ve spent the last week applying for jobs online. Having internet connection is an absolute necessity. Most households have them anyway via the cable connections. I’ve had to redo my resume to match what employers are looking for here in Houston. Most of my experience and education from Africa does not account for much to American employers. It has been a delicate balance to show employers you can do the job at hand.

There are very many Manufacturing, Chemical industries, Gas companies, Shipping and Logistics, Oil drilling, Oil pipeline, Customer service, Hospitality, IT, Health care, Warehouse jobs available in and around Houston

Most of the jobs I’ve applied for are through employment agencies. You upload your resume online and fill out lots of details including but not limited to if you are legally employable in the US, Will you need visa sponsorship in the future, Do you have a valid driving license, Have you ever been in the military (Apparently Military Veterans are given preferential treatment when applying for jobs), Are you willing to travel for some jobs and for what percentages of travel you are willing to do, Are you disabled..etc

Having contacts in different organizations is very helpful as you get to know which job openings are available and through which agencies to apply from.

I’m looking forward to hearing back from the recruiters. One got back and asked for lots of information which I provided. I’m hoping to hear something from that end.

It is an interesting and confusing journey at times but with my host at hand to assist when I get stuck, all is moving well. I can’t complain about the journey so far.

Random Observations

I’ve been practicing driving on the roads here this past week. The roads are confusing and people don’t keep to those advertised speed limits. I drove into downtown Houston today for the Greek festival and my oh my, it was scary doing 60-70 mph on the freeway with construction ongoing. This means the lanes are narrower than normal and on several occasions I crossed over lane dividers. Nothing serious but when you feel the tires rumbling from hitting the lane dividers on a 4 lane road it’s a bit scary.

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The interchanges with all the I-45 South, North, I-610 East, West are so confusing for me. I hope with time and a GPS i’ll be good to go. There were very many potholes on the side roads we used today to get to the festival. At least I’m used to dodging those.

I learn’t from my pal that I cannot be wearing my ‘Cuba’ tshirt in America, So I’ve retired it permanently. It’s not cool and I just might get trouble with it. I wore it a couple of times to the mall and other places but he hadn’t noticed. It is a big deal because of the relationship between US and Cuba.

The food here is different. My weight is changing upwards. I don’t eat out save for the occasional pizza, cook Ugali and other foods, run, cycle, exercise. That hasn’t stopped the weight gain. My conclusion is that regardless of what you do, the body will take time to get used to the food here.

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I went to the Greek festival today, it was packed, had great food, beer, music.They had lots of beef, tacos, lamb with strange names like Solivlaki. I noticed there weren’t very many black people there and people gave us the ‘look’. I can’t explain it but it was more like ‘what are you guys doing here’ kind of vibe. Interesting.

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The festival was in downtown with no parking, so they had instructions to drive to a school parking 15 minutes away and they had shuttle buses to take guys to the festival. Very organized. After we were done they had shuttles to take you back. Will check out the festivals more often. They even had mobile ATMs, how cool is that?

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I’m forever grateful to my host for opening up his house for me. I don’t take that for granted. It’s a very different environment, new systems, different food and people. I’m blessed to have him as my mentor as I start over here.God bless him.

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I’m applying for jobs through the employment agencies this week. Will see how that goes. It’s quite a process.

IMG_1001Little pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place. A day at a time is my motto.

IMG_1002The Diversity Visa 2016 Program is open through the month. I’m living proof that that stuff works. What started as a joke has turned into a new life thousands of miles from home. Never thought it’d happen to me but here I am starting afresh. Try it out just for the sake of it, you never know. Here