I have now started my ODI Fellow posting as an economist in the Ministry of the East African Community. So far, it has been quite a busy time (I am currently starting my 3rd week) and has involved many meetings. This morning we had a workshop with the media at one of Kenya’s finer hotels. It was a workshop that started at 7am in the morning (really meaning it started at 8:30) but involved a lovely assortment of breakfast items. When the meeting finally started, we were half way through the presentation and suddenly water started gushing through the roof of the conference room we were in. I have never seen people move so fast. My worry was that it was gushing all over the film equipment the media had brought a long with them, until I noticed the smell that was eminating from the liquid and realised there might actually be a bigger problem to worry about. This definitely rivaled the playing the Mission Impossible theme tune (which happened at the last meeting I was at) as a way to wake up delegates in the morning.
We were relocated to another room – many quite soaked from the experience (I thankfully was sitting just out of the way to only get a few sprinkles on me). At the end of the meeting (which was by this time 1.5 hours off schedule – and really not the most off schedule I have had for a meeting so far), the hotel management came to explain the issue. They explicitly told us that they would not apologise as it was a technical issue. They claimed that the lights from the film crew had generated such intense heat that the fire sensors were affected such that the sprinkler system went off. So therefore, had their been a real fire, we would have been safe (hence the need not to apologise). Given the smell, however, I do wonder what they use to put out their fires.
Either way, I guess it was very appropriate timing because when we came back to the office, my colleague noted that it was international fire prevention week – so we got our own full fledged demonstration of how to prevent a fire.