I came originally at the start of 2008 to work as an IT Trainer with the Department for International Development. Yasmin is my fiancé, and mother to my 2 children Ayanah (girl, 2) and Kaelan (boy, 9 months). We met in a bar in Nairobi the night after I arrived in Kenya, and partied 7 nights a week through my first spell out here. She is from the Taita Hills, near the border with Tanzania, but lived most of her life in Nairobi. After I left Kenya, we each came back and forward, as I was working in a number of other countries in between. Then In 2009, I decided to move to Kenya and we started a family. At the time of moving here full-time, I was still undecided about what work I would be able to get out here in the IT sector.
How did you end up having your own business there?
I was finding it difficult to get work in IT – or at least anything that paid well enough to justify working. I had some money saved up from my business back in the UK, and Yasmin had experience in the furniture industry. So, I decided to invest, and see what happened. Two years later, the business, Ayanah Furniture and Interiors (www.ayanah.co.ke) has been going from strength to strength.
Why did you leave Ireland?
I am 32, almost 33. I left Ireland to go travelling in early 2003, and have only ever returned for short visits to family and friends. The original plan was to go travelling for 2 years – South America for 6 months, working in San Francisco and Sydney, followed by 5 months hitch-hiking, cycling and general adventuring around Australia. Then I worked as crew on a sailing boat from Australia through Indonesia, spent a few months in Asia, and returned to Ireland at the end of 2004. After a few weeks in Ireland, in the middle of winter, I realized there was way too much out there still to be done, and I decided to leave Ireland as quickly as possible for the sake of my sanity. I moved to London in January 2005, set up my company Alan Russell Consulting Limited, and used London as my base for the next 4 years before moving to Kenya.
What do you miss most about Ireland?
Family and Friends. Drunken sessions. Silly parties. Spicy Chicken Rolls from Spar. My mother’s pancakes. Iskanders kebabs on Dame Street at 3am. Waking up on the nite-link at the Finglas terminus, with an hour’s walk home. The school years. The university years.
Would you consider coming back soon or are you a lifer there?
I’ve travelled a lot since I was 16, so I would be more inclined to say that yes, Kenya is now my home and will be my base, but the travelling urge never leaves me. I have been to around 80 countries so far, working in around 15 of those – but there’s always room for a new adventure on the horizon. If I was ever to come back to Ireland, I have fond memories of the West Coast from my youth (although I’m a Dub, if I were ever to return to Ireland – however unlikely that may be – I would choose to live down that way, assuming that it would still match up to the memories.)
Do you still keep up with Irish news?
Occasionally when I’m not too busy, I check up on the Irish Times online, and have a look through the headlines and pictures – but I tend to go more for international news, and if Ireland happens to be in it these days, it’s usually to report on the financial doom and the gloom, which doesn’t make for very interesting reading. Other than that, it’s contact with my family and friends that keeps me updated on what’s going on back home, rather than newspaper stories.
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