Rebecca’s love for pizza and family excursions

RebeccaHarrison
RebeccaHarrison

If you think you can shame Rebecca Harrison about her Titanicesque romance with pizza, then you are in for an unsatisfying shock.

The way she talks about it, you would think it is prepared straight from God’s kitchen, and perhaps it is. Take a slice then and sit at the corner because her amour propre is only tested by management—more on that shortly.

She is not suggestible, less gullible and more a creature of habit: Friday night wine and dine with the family, a box of pizza nearby and flickering in the background, a movie.

It can be quite a scene, she says, laughing off the cheesy pun. She is living, quite literally, less like St Francis of Assisi and more like King Henry VIII, every single Friday.

But don’t be deceived by her sleight of hand, she has an iron fist below that velvet glove.

How else would she be leading African Management Institute (AMI), cutting through complacency like a hot knife through butter, her pas de deux with management seeing her at the helm for a little over a decade?

AMI’s purpose is to enable ambitious businesses across Africa to thrive in the belief that skilled people build thriving businesses and thriving businesses create jobs and prosperity.

AMI has trained over 42,000 people in over 39 countries and has offices in Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa, with an additional presence in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and Cote d'Ivoire.

With the clean ruthless air of leadership pheromones as a convincing facsimile of her credentials, she is at home coordinating her two adopted boys, going on solo spa dates, and the only girl in a flotsam family of boys.

She loves getting things done—things must not only get done but must be seen to have been done—whether through nature or nurture, at times less hot knife through butter, more margarine left in direct sunlight. This may make her sound boorish, which she is not—she’s just elemental.

She has lived in Kenya for five years and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Not even pizza? I think. I hope?

What is your favourite part about being non-Kenyan?

It’s a privilege to be an expat and live in a different country because you are able to get out of your comfort zone. As an expat you tend to meet a lot of other foreigners, and have a richly diverse pool of friends.

What do you do for the weekend?

My weekends are shaped by my 11 and 8-year-old sons and my husband. They are very active and love exploring and so we spend a lot of time in nature. We try to be out as much as possible.

It seems like game drives are fast becoming an expat cliché. Are you part of that politburo?

There is much more to Kenya than just game drives. We enjoy hiking or getting on our bikes, basically trying to be a little more active.

How do you compare weekends back home and here in Kenya?

My extended family isn’t here, so back home I may spend more time with them. The weather here is obviously better than in the UK, presenting so many more opportunities to be in nature, and go out and see the world.

What’s your favourite part of the weekend?

We have a Friday night ritual as a family where we always order pizza and watch a movie. With ice cream and a glass of red wine—for me and my husband, definitely not the children. Haha!

Every family has their own go-to movie. What's yours?

Yes! Ours is Ice Age. The animation.

Are you into any active sports?

I enjoy running because I find it keeps my brain sharp and energised and somewhat fit. I have all my best ideas when I am running.

I try and do that at least three times a week with a caveat—I am a very bad runner. By Kenyan standards, I feel quite embarrassed haha!

I also do yoga, on and off for the last 10 years. But, I am not a real yogi. I just do it to stay strong and I find it helps in managing emotions effectively.

Was there a particular moment that led you to pick up yoga?

Not really, I have been doing it for so long that it is now second nature.

What’s your superpower?

That I am absolutely passionate about building businesses and skills across Africa. Both of my boys are adopted and of African origin.

I am determined that they grow up proud of their identity and that they see a continent that is thriving. I am committed to playing my part in that and AMI is the best way I can do that.

What's the one thing that would make your weekends better?

I would put my phone away. I really do believe that trying to have breaks from tech regularly especially when you are a parent is critical. Even if it’s just for a few hours.

When you think of the weekend, what food comes to mind?

Friday night pizza. That is what I crave.

What flavour?

I am a regular at Gogol Pizza in Loresho and I always order the Parmigiana. That is a lot of detail haha!

What's your favourite memory in Kenya?

We absolutely love Kilifi. It is my favourite place in the world. I try and drive down with the children and the dog often. But my absolute favourite moment was when we climbed Mt Ololokwe, the sacred mountain in Samburu.

It took us seven hours and I remember the guide teaching my sons some Samburu games to keep them entertained. When we got to the top it was majestic, there is no better view than that.

What’s your special treat as the only girl in the family?

Spa day with my friends. Or just time for myself to read.

What are you reading now?

The Ministry for the Future (by Kim Stanley Robinson). It’s a climate change novel, set in the future where the ramifications of said change are even worse.

It is quite frightening but it’s a really challenging novel. I find reading novels is a more engaging way of getting to the crux of an issue.

Do you prefer your books to have a wedding at the end or a death?

I prefer a little bit of both. I want hope and redemption.

On Sundays, pews or PJs?

We are enthusiastic members of the church. But Saturdays I am definitely in my pjs, and for as long as I can get away with it.

What’s the last thing you do before the lights go out?

I try to spend an hour checking in and planning for the week ahead. I also make sure I have some time with my husband and try not to go to bed looking at my emails.

What’s a weekend hack that you think most people should know?

Hide your phone! One thing we have been doing as a family is having parent-child dates, so we get a bit of time mano-a-mano with each son.

We schedule times when we do something they want to do, and that lets us check in with each child. And sometimes the parents just need some quality time of their own haha!

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