Friends in Nairobi

siku njema ya kuzaliwa

Tom Nickel
4 min readDec 24, 2023

They started in Swahili and switched to English, their beautiful lilt.

We were all together, early evening for a group of them in East Africa, early morning for me in the Pacific Northwest.

We were hanging out over the planet. First Overview Effect for most of them, the young women, the high school students who have worked on computers and VR with Paul and Diana for over a year.

Today there were six of them so they joined us in space in two groups of three. The Africa VR Campus and Center, one of Paul amnd Diana’s many children, has managed to assemble six VR headset and six laptop computers without begging, borrowing or stealing. Most of them are working most of the time.

I knew some of them already and they knew me.

They know I met Paul during the very early days of Covid in VR, where some people were finding a place to meet-up during lock-downs. They knew that I was helping.

I knew that I had made a friend I wanted to stay friends with in about the first 60 seconds I knew Paul. I’m older than he is but I’m an older brother.

We hang out a lot. Texting or talking on Discord orplaying golf in VR. I hope we’ll hang out in Nairobi but meanwhile we’re with his wife and some young people sharing a beautiful view.

It’s not some program for exceptional students, They don’t come from privileged backgrounds. They aren’t neighbors and they don’t go to the same school.

One of them hardly ever associates with anyone outside of her small religious organization her family is a part of, but her parents have made an exception.

They meet from all over a few times a month at Paul and Diana’s place way outside the city. Last month, fiber reached their area for the first time, solving long-time problems and creating new ones.

Astronauts aren’t surprised by the Overview Effect any more. They expect it.

It still changes their view of things.

People have made documentaries, videos. The Overview Effect in Virtual Reality is not the Overview Effect that astronauts experience. It’s the VR version.

It still works.

I know because I’ve led people through it and I’ve been led through it many times.

It’s not magic. It doesn’t make folks renounce greed and dedicate themselves to humanity. It won’t make the behaviors that you call your bad habits go away. As far as we know.

All it does so far is to leave people almost speechless at the amount of suffering packed into that tiny object, makes them look for the love inside to send down where it’s needed most.

Gaza jumps out, just up from the Nile, running way down into the part of Africa with Paul and Diana and Agnes and Lucy and the rest of them.

Then came, “siku njema ya kuzaliwa”

Each one of them spoke about the Overview Effect.

It had already been a full day, new adventures for them. They launched their own VRshow, “XR Girls in the Metaverse.”

They said they were moved and they said it in a sophisticated way. Like they had the deep understanding that this was something to savor, not something to get all wild and crazy about.

I am still savoring it

I am still working to help more kids everywhere meet together around the planet, get to know each other, realize we are so much alike and can’t be divided.

Image by David Denton

Tom Nickel writes about new media technologies and other topics he has little if any standing to write about, such as existential philosophy.

Tom and the Tanzanian-British novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah were both born on December 20, 1948. They both went to went to London to study in 1968. Abdulrazak went on to become a Professor and a Nobel Prize winner.

Tom holds a Black Belt in Learning and is active in both physical and extended realities (XR). He also writes some, more here.

You can join a small but growing number of people like you who subscribe to his little gumballs of text for free on Sub-Stack.



Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos