Interview with development coordination diplomat Patra Poľašková is a part of MFEA SR initiative Women in diplomacy.

Petra, why Kenya?

I must admit that I have been interested in Kenya since I started at SlovakAid, where I started working in 2013. At first I worked as a financial manager, where I quickly realized that only financial projects management is not interesting in the long run. I became a project manager where I got the agenda I wanted the most, namely projects in Kenya and in the region of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, I was in charge of the Business Partnership Program. I gained a lot of experience and I visited Kenya several times on business. Perhaps it is my many years of experience and my passion for work that have helped me to get the opportunity to work as a development coordination diplomat at the Embassy in Nairobi, for which I am still very grateful.

What do you find most difficult in your job?

For a long time I could not get used to the different mentality of local people and their style of work. We are used to a hurried life full of work or private tasks, which we would like to complete in one day, just so that we can throw ourselves into other activities. The people of Kenya are the exact opposite. Nobody is in a hurry here and a heavy head is not made of anything. I would evaluate it as the rule for them: what I have to do today, I can postpone until tomorrow, or even next week  At first it was very frustrating for me, as I work with local people every day and ordinary work tasks suddenly required a lot more time and energy. I had to get used to it and find my own system and approach to people.

Did you experience moments in your work when you said that you had just touched your personal and professional boundaries?

I don't think so yet. Of course, my life in Kenya brings better and worse days, whether in work or private life, but I try to look at everything from the positive side. All situations and life challenges (even the negative ones) happen precisely in order to teach me something and move me forward. I still rule further.

Are you afraid of exotic diseases?

Certainly yes. African countries in particular have a high incidence of diseases that we cannot protect against, for example, with a vaccine. Even now, my back is running cold, when I remember how my colleague Zuzka Pálošová informed me before leaving about all the diseases and parasites that are common here. Caution is therefore essential. However, I have not had any health problems so far, so the reality is perhaps not so bad.

How did you manage to adapt to life in Kenya?

I would say that I adapted relatively quickly. As I mentioned, I visited Kenya before I came to work at the Embassy, ​​so I knew roughly what awaited me and I had no drastic culture shock. Of course, the difference is to come here for 2 weeks and work here for a long time, but I quickly got used to the fact that drinking water no longer flows from my tap, that the security situation is worse than in Europe, but also that I am far from family and friends.

Did you meet at work or in your free time in Kenya as a woman with discrimination?

Fortunately, I did not have such an experience. Maybe it's partly due to my position and the work I do. But, of course, I realize that local women face discrimination and unequal treatment on a regular basis.

Would you recommend the work of a development coordination diplomat in a developing country as a diplomatic career?

Definitely yes. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I would recommend it to everyone. I gained a completely different view of development cooperation since when I no longer see projects only on paper in the office in Bratislava, but I can observe it directly in the field and meet people who implement the projects in person. Of course, I still do not consider myself as an expert and there are many things I still want to learn, respectively to do better in order to become a benefit for this work.