Monday, July 15, 2019
"I'm originally from Kenya, in East Africa. I was raised in Mombasa. That's by the ocean, on the coastal side of Kenya, by the Indian Ocean. I was 26 when I came to America. I was grown up, you may say.
I did all my schooling there. In Kenya I did my undergrad in business management and majored in procurement. I also studied human resource management.
I wanted a change in my life. I believe in the American dream and I believe I could better myself and I have more chances to grow and become something good, and make a better person of myself here. Kenya's a third world country We are a very young country. We're still growing. We still have a long way to go compared to America or any other first world country. So there are a bit of challenges. So for me coming here, I can better myself and become a better person, and do something for my country as well. Because I love my country.
Most things here were pretty much what I expected. Right now, information is shared across the globe very fast. Through watching TV, through the internet, too, you already have an idea of how another place is, even though you've not been there. Because of all that, I already had a rough idea. I had not lived here to know how it is day by day though, but my mind was already open. I was ready to adopt anything, I didn't have so much of a culture shock. But it is different, though. The weather is different, the people are different. It's different in a good way.
I have extended family here, but I didn't grow up with them. After coming here, it was a process to start learning who they are, and them learning who I was. Everything felt new.
I initially arrived in the DC area. I came here because of work and I kind of liked this area. When the opportunity to work in northern Virginia came, I was happy. It was an exciting thing, because I had to move here by myself and just start a life. I've been here a year now.
Before having this building on Columbia Pike as my full time work, I had worked as a concierge in different other properties in DC, in Pentagon City, on Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria, different properties all over. I had a glimpse of each area, and then I ended up settling here as my full time job.
My job as a concierge is pretty exciting. For people who are trying to move in, I'm the face of the property. First impressions really matter for people who are just looking to live with us. I represent the property. I create a lot of relationships with people who live here. I'm their go-to person when they have an issue. When they have a good day, they come to me. I see them in the morning when they're going to work. I'm the one who's like, "Hello, hi, have a great day." It just feels nice, there's somebody there to smile at you and just wish you a great day. When they come back home and they've had a long, hard day, they find me there and we chat a little bit. And they feel better.
I create a lot of relationships with my residents, letting them feel comfortable, to be happy. It's an apartment building. We all are family, so technically if they have any issues they would come to me and I'd find the best way to assist them or to direct them to someone who can assist them with what they need. Because I've had good relationships with most residents here, they trust me, they talk to me. Some of them go through a lot and when they come home I know how to listen to them.
So much is happening. Everybody's just struggling to make it out here. DC is rough. Things are just moving by so fast. Some people are lonely. They don't have anybody to talk to. They just go to work, come back home. So they come to my desk and we talk, and they just open up to me. People really talk a lot about the struggles they go through. It's not what is written down as my job description. But I just like my job. I'm happy to sit down with people and say, "Let's talk about life. What's going on with you, what's new?" If you give somebody attention for two minutes, it means a lot.
The people who live here are very diverse, from all over. You have Americans. You have Africans. You have people from Asia, Hispanic people. I recently met somebody who told me they came from some island I had never heard of. We literally sat down and Googled it. He came from an island right next to Africa. It’s so fascinating to me, meeting people from places and different cultures that you didn't even know existed.
It's pretty exciting when they find that I come from far away as well. It just brings us closer. Our conversation goes, like, "Wow, you come from Kenya? What’s Kenya like?" I tell them how it is. We learn a lot about each other. The whole world is here. You find different types of restaurants, different people. It's beautiful. I love it.
We try and do events here every month. It’s a great way to just hang out and make sure the residents meet each other and the staff in a comfortable scene as opposed to always having to come to the office to deal with a problem you have, or to pay your rent. The events make people relax and the environment is more subtle and warm. You can just talk about cool stuff, normal stuff that doesn't have to do with anything with leasing or anything to do with the office. We are a pet friendly community, so sometimes we hold events for residents’ pets.I never grew up with pets. This is a pet friendly community and many people have pets. When I came here, I was kind of scared of the dogs, but now, oh my gosh, I love them. The dogs just literally run to me. I hug them, and before I would not get near them. I was afraid they're going to bite me. But now, they're so adorable. I literally come with treats from home for the dogs.
Sometimes we have happy hours. We have snacks, a little bit of drinks, and we have the game on, and just have music and talk. We'll have pool parties. Sometimes we get them food trucks and say, "Hey, you don't have to cook dinner today. Let's all support local businesses and just buy from them and just hang out together." Just beautiful stuff."
Interview and photography by Lloyd Wolf.