Tag Archives: Kenya

What’s in a Bag

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So this is my current handbag that I bought at Maasai Market in Nairobi, Kenya

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Handbag contents

  • Brown notebook and a pen
  • Black kindle / novel
  • Tissues
  • Contacts lenses
  • Lip something or other
  • A pair of sunglasses
  • Ear phones and obviously phone
  • Pink Wallet
  • White power bank
  • Spectacles Case
  • Green scarf

So, what’s in your handbag????

 

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Book Review: Who Will Catch Us As We Fall

Against the backdrop of the political shenanigans in Kenya, I read this very interesting book on Kenya by a Kenyan Indian author.

About the Book.
Haunted by a past that has kept her from Nairobi for over three years, Leena returns home to discover her family unchanged: her father is still a staunch patriot dreaming of a better country; her mother is still unwilling or unable to let go of the past; and her brother spends his days provoking the establishment as a political activist. When Leena meets a local Kikuyu artist whose past is linked to her own, the two begin a secret affair—one that forces Leena to again question her place in a country she once called home.

 

Interlinked with Leena’s story is that of Jeffery: a corrupt policeman burdened with his own angers and regrets, and whose questionable actions have unexpected and catastrophic consequences for those closest to him. Who Will Catch Us As We Fall is an epic look at the politics and people of Kenya.

So my general thoughts:

  • The book had quite a slow start, I mean you could tell she is hinting at something that happened in the past but she wasn’t going to give away anything quite so quickly.
  • I thought it was a good attempt for the author to include Kiswahili phrases but it probably needed an editor who also spoke Kiswahili as in the absence of that the book had basic editorial mistakes like the police moto: Utumishi kwa wote, not utamishi kwa wote; Jogoo House not Jogo House.
  • I thought that the city of Nairobi could have been more prominent unless the narrow lens through which it was presented was necessary to present how insular the Indian community in Kenya is?

The book had a few major themes that were particularly meaningful to me.

Race/ Tribe

  • Love that she talks about the race/tribe relations between Indians and Africans in Kenya. How there is a sense of mistrust and almost antagonistic hate or resentment. This was best played out by the employer – employee relations by the Indian mama and her Kikuyu/ African maid.
  • I thought the discussion between Jai and Ivy at the SONU meeting about what makes a Kenyan Kenyan quite insightful. It made me wonder whether by the same reckoning I would be classified as one because though by birth and upbringing I am one, then again, am I actually one? Will Indians ever be viewed as Kenyan?
  • My surprise at Jai choosing to study at UoN instead of going to England which as the mom confirms is the better option and generally the done thing among this sub population.
  • It was interesting to read about Pio Gama Pinto because he is one person who history has not represented very well even all these years later.

Gender

  • Jai could play outside but Leena couldn’t.
  • Jeffrey just “took over” his friends wife like she was a spare item and no one questioned that.
  • Also the fact that the wife just rolled over and adjusted to this new reality.

Power

  • The dynamics between a maid and her employer were very startling and playing into the perception of race and/or tribe in the book is the difference in treatment for a maid between a white and Indian employer.
  • Jeffrey wielded significant power and that was how over time he was able to become as corrupt as he was.
  • Who really ran the home between Jai’s parents, the mom or the dad?

Home

  • Leena’s characterisation of being in Nairobi vs being in London and how one can reimagine / build it up into something bigger than it really is. (p. 335)
  • I loved the following quotes that best typified Nairobi.

“I love this country but I must accept it for what it is. A place where thieves are celebrated and good men die unremarkable deaths.” (p. 357)

“Nairobi is a sly town. It is so small that run-ins with people one is trying to avoid are a common occurrence, yet it is segmented enough to keep two searching individuals apart. (p. 384)

Not as ambitious as Dust but for a contemporary book, it was a great effort and I would certainly recommend it to anyone.

Sunday Reads

What Home Feels Like

Sunday Reads

Recipes
 

Sunday Reads

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I read something lovely recently

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I recently read this (poetry) book and it was amazing. A workmate recommended it and initially I thought poetry *insert puke face*. ASIDE: Am I the only 8-4-4 product that does not appreciate poetry for leisure? Anyway, its ~165 pages and since most of the poems are a couple of lines, I finished it in one fell swoop. I LOVED IT, did I already say that?? Below are some of the amazing poems I loved.

There is danger in letting people misname you. If you are a fire, do not answer when they call you a spark.

Tell the story. Give it a name and skin of its own.

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Please go out and get the book. It’s a lovely read.

 

 

 

Sunday Reads

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Recipes

Sunday Reads

Recipes

Belated: (Women-related) Sunday Reads

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Three thoughts on Ngugi wa Thiong’os public lecture

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His talk was titled “Decolonising the Mind, Securing the Base”.

  1. We exchanged our accents for European accents and in exchange for access to African resources.
  2. If you know all the languages of the world except your mother tongue, you are enslaved. If you speak your mother tongue in addition to other languages, you are empowered.
  3. Names and language is the imperialist’s last battle for the war that begun with the sword.

His talk was disrupted, I think wrongfully but here are a couple of other views you could check out.

Sunday Reads

  1. Interesting take on development in Africa through the tale of the seed industry in Uganda.
  2. Even I got punished for speaking an African language at school.
  3. More women than men in Lesotho are in school.
  4. Technology is definitely making life easier for refugees.
  5. This seems like a simple DIY even I could do.
  6. As Christians we do not look to our circumstances but the hope of Christ and His promises!
  7. A mistake is just a moment in time.”
  8. Be ambitious for life and not just work. Yes!
  9. Ten places to visit in Nairobi.
  10. Six hot podcasts on and by Africans to listen to.
  11. Yummy lemon cake.
  12. What is a PhD?
  13. Awwwww at this cute child‘s response to her mom. Oh dear for this old man.
  14. Lime zest and cardamon mandazi.
  15. Some really inspirational girls!

Sunday Reads

  1. How to read more books this year. I am definitely taking it to heart by reducing my junk TV viewing and making sure I always have a book as I go about various chores.
  2. A reading list on Kenya in case you are interested.
  3. If a story moves you, act on it!
  4. This article on insecurity made me stop and think. Really hard!
  5. Somali nicknames are hilarious 🙂
  6. So many white tears in this article. I see that they have only a given demographic of foreign spouses married to South Africans.
  7. Also, this IS cultural expropriation.
  8. More on how couples deal with finances.
  9. I didn’t know there were Nigerian Jews in Johannesburg. Today’s fact!!
  10. What does it mean to be a boy or girl? National Geographic asks 9/10 year old kids.
  11. Stealing from one of the comments, “This is by far the best article I’ve read regarding LBGT and the gospel.”
  12. Chocolate cake and another vegetarian pasta recipe.

Sunday Reads

  1. Loving these sets of articles about women, women and ambition and the work place.
  2. Thinking of doing this for someone I love.
  3. Something about this video made me so homesick for Nairobi.
  4. Some tips for all the new moms out there.
  5. Love that this guy acknowledges what White Male Privilege has meant for him and his accomplishments.
  6. Kenya goes to the polls in  August this year. A quick primer of some of the issues.
  7. Some great African books to look forward to this year.
  8. Somehow not a fan of all these baby products that work on selling fear to parents.
  9. Some more Obama stuff.
  10. We cannot run from God’s voice, where is He calling you to today?
  11. An effective way to incorporate prayer into your life.
  12. yummy fish recipe.
  13. Getting kids to [always] eat veggies.

Sunday Reads

  1. This article on that tragic election.
  2. This lady trying to make sense of that election (1,000 comments but good).
  3. An education on the for-profit education sector in Kenya and Uganda.
  4. Extra-judicial killings in Kenya. HEARTBREAK!!
  5. Undertaking a life audit/ preparing for your 2017 New Years’ Resolutions.
  6. Why it is important for adults to give back in their community.
  7. I am definitely a sampler. I used to be a compartmentalizer before I got married and had to force diverse groups of friends to meet 😦
  8. Simple items that you can turn into a gift by framing them.
  9. Yummy vegetarian meals.
  10. Debunking the myth of a biological clock.
  11. Who are the middle class in Nigeria? PS: This is not a direct economic answer.
 

Sunday Reads

  1. Women, language, rites of passage and the khanga.
  2. Cobalt mining and the lost lives in The DR Congo.
  3. Rhino poaching in South Africa.
  4. Attitudes to marriage in certain communities.
  5. Nairobi’s art and culture scene.
  6. Pssst! Africans also migrate within the continent.
  7. SERENA. WILLIAMS. SWOON!!!
A reporter asked Williams whether she should be considered one of the greatest female athletes of all time. Her perfect response: “I prefer the words ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.’”
Enjoy!!

Belated Sunday Reads

  1. The movie Happiness.
  2. Environment and other influences also positively (or not) affect outcomes.
  3. Understanding land and identity in Kenya.
  4. An article whose title promised so much but gave nothing finally.
  5. Growing up today. I suddenly felt 76 years old …
  6. Certainly sure my take on this. God loves sinners, we are all sinners.
  7. Is it OK to leave your child unattended while you dash off to the shops?

Reviews of Books I have Recently Read

I had a few books that I needed to get through and here are my thoughts on some of them.

Coconut by Kopano Matlwa

  • The story talks about identify, self expression and family as well as issues of class and wealth and post-colonial African societies.
  • Made me ask myself what makes me African. Is it my dreadlocks, my clothing style, the language I speak or not speak. My race perhaps? Africans come in many moulds and it is fine because we build up each other and our environment.
  • It’s critically acclaimed and I agree that it’s definitely an important piece of literature for our time.
  • The writing style is not great and it was very confusing to know when it was a thought or the actual storyline and a good editor would have helped with this. But its a few pages so you could quickly get past that.

Spilt Milk – Kopano Matlwa

  • I quite liked this book, slightly better written but it definitely had more promise than it finally delivered because it just ended abruptly. To be honest, it also started just as abruptly so maybe this is a stylistic feature?
  • Can’t really say much about the other themes but the theme of education and a School that influences young African minds and philosophy personally appealed to me.
  • I also loved that she paid homage to all the (black) African greats and it was very encouraging to see this greatness that has gone before us. Led me to ask myself, who is writing the African story? My story, your story?
  • Loved the story and would definitely recommend it.

Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta

  • I love, love, love this book. Love the author and her previous collection of short stories. So before you ask, I will recommend this book.
  • Themes: love, marriage/ relationships, family, homosexuality, loss, identity.
  • I love here writing style and the language she uses also how she develops her characters. You get to really understand them and start to root for them.
  • The novel is extremely complex and multi-layered and is not something you read casually.
  • I have shared before my thoughts on homosexuality and fully stand by the fact that the action is sinful but the individuals are beloved of God and so I read the story more for the literature but not because I stand by or believe in it.
  • Nigeria has the Biafran War that has been included in a lot of literature. This made me think of what contemporary Kenyan or Ugandan writers talk about as that definining moment of our history.

Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

  • This book is a historical account of Kenya as a novel. It takes us through the history of a nation through the story of a house and a family from 1963 to 2007/8 when the post-election violence happened.
  • If I had to give any criticism, its that the book has two very distinct parts and only the very patient will see it to the end and enjoy it. It starts slow and seems patchy and disjointed in certain places then it picks momentum and takes off. Beautiful work!!
  • There are a lot of characters, yes, but they are all interconnected so its quite easy to lace through them.
  • The books themes include: nationalism/ identity, love, passion, corruption, leadership, art/ creativity.
  • Must read to anyone wishing to understand Kenya or planning a visit there.

Have you read anything interesting recently?

 

On my bookshelf

As one of my goals this month is to read more African literature, these are the books on my bookshelf.

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One Day I will Write About This Place – Binyavanga Wainanina (Kenya/Uganda)

Binyavanga Wainaina tumbled through his middle-class Kenyan childhod out of kilter with the world around him. This world came to him as a chaos of loud and colourful sounds: the hair dryers at his mother’s beauty parlour, black mamba bicycle bells, mechanics in Nairobi, the music of Michael Jackson – all punctuated by the infectious laughter of his brother and sister, Jimmy and Ciru. He could fall in with their patterns, but it would take him a while to carve out his own. In this vivid and compelling debut, Wainaina takes us through his school days, his failed attempt to study in South Africa, a moving family reunion in Uganda, and his travels around Kenya. The landscape in front of him always claims his main attention, but he also evokes the shifting political scene that unsettles his views on family, tribe, and nationhood. Throughout, reading is his refuge and his solace. And when, in 2002, a writing prize comes through, the door is opened for him to pursue the career that perhaps had been beckoning all along. A series of fascinating reporting assignments follows in other African countries. Finally he circles back to a Kenya in the throes of postelection violence and finds he is not the only one questioning the old certainties. Resolutely avoiding stereotype and cliche, Wainaina paints every scene in One Day I Will Write About This Place with a highly distinctive and hugely memorable brush.

 

Men of the South – Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa)

In Johannesburg three men’s lives revolve around one woman. Mfundo is a struggling jazz musician. All hope of ever becoming famous end when he gets into a macho fight with an international R&B artist. No one is keen to employ him any longer, and Mfundo takes the role of house-husband. But his girlfriend Sli is not willing to be the ‘man’ of the house. Mzilikazi is a gay man in a heterosexual marriage. One of the few people in his life who do not question the decision he makes is his best friend, Sli. Tinaye is a Zimbabwean struggling to gain citizenship in South Africa hence his current situation – underpaid and overqualified. The only way to gain citizenship is to marry Grace. But then he meets Sli…

 

Coconut – Kopano Matlwa (South Africa)

An important rumination on youth in modern-day South Africa, this haunting debut novel tells the story of two extraordinary young women who have grown up black in white suburbs and must now struggle to find their identities. The rich and pampered Ofilwe has taken her privileged lifestyle for granted, and must confront her swiftly dwindling sense of culture when her soulless world falls apart. Meanwhile, the hip and sassy Fiks is an ambitious go-getter desperate to leave her vicious past behind for the glossy sophistication of city life, but finds Johannesburg to be more complicated and unforgiving than she expected. These two stories artfully come together to illustrate the weight of history upon a new generation in South Africa.

ASIDE: Claim to fame, the husband went to school with her Husband and we attended their wedding.

 

Happiness is a Four Letter Word – Cynthia Jele (South Africa)

Nandi, Zaza, Tumi and Princess are four ordinary friends living life in the fast and fabulous lanes of Joburg. Suddenly, no amount of cocktails can cure the stress that simultaneously unsettles their lives. Nandi’s final wedding arrangements are nearly in place so why is she feeling on edge?
Zaza, the “trophy wife”, waits for the day her affair comes to light and her husband gives her a one-way ticket back to the township; Tumi has only one wish to complete her perfect life – a child. But when her wish is granted, it’s not exactly how she pictured it. And Princess? For the first time ever, she has fallen in love – with Leo, a painter who seems to press all the right buttons. But soon she discovers – like her friends already have – that life is not a bed of roses, and happiness never comes with a manual . . .

ASIDE: Please read the book and/or watch the movie currently at the Cinemas.

 

Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya)

Kenya, 2007. Odidi Oganda, running for his life, is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi. His sister, Ajany, and their father bring his body back home, to a crumbling colonial house in northern Kenya. But the peace they seek is hard to find: the murder has stirred deeply buried memories of colonial violence, of the killing-sprees of the Mau Mau uprising, and the shocking political assassination of Tom Mboya in 1969. When a young Englishman appears, searching for his missing father, another story, of love, or at least a connection, begins.

This is a spellbinding state of the nation novel about Kenya, showing how the violence of the past informs the violence and disorder of the present. Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s memorable characters; Ajany’s mother, deranged with grief and past violations, the Trader, embodying the timeless nomadic traders of Sudan, and Odidi himself, who transcended his past, came to success, and then a tragic end, are enchanting. Owuor reveals to us a new Kenya, a Kenya of bloodshed but also of modernity, suffused with a spirit world only half-remembered. This is a country where the characters listen so acutely for what is not said, and for the voices from the distant and recent past.

 

Rachel’s Blue – Zakes Mda (South Africa)

After a few stalls of beets, kale and zucchinis, and of candles made from beeswax and shaped into angels by a beekeeper who is also selling bottled honey, Jason stops to listen to yet another busker . . . He concludes that it is not for her voice – rather airy and desperate – that her open guitar case is bristling with greenbacks. It is for her strawberry blonde bangs peeping out from under her hat, and her deep blue eyes, and her willowy stature, and her brown prairie skirt of plaid gingham, and her bare feet with tan lines drawn by sandals, and her black T with “Appalachia Active” in big white letters across her breasts – the entire wholesome package that stands before him. She is trying hard to make her voice sound full-bodied and round, but she was not born for singing. She loses a beat to say “thank you” after Jason deposits a single, and then she tries hard to catch up with the song before it goes out of control.

At that moment Jason recognises her. Rachel. Rachel Boucher from Jensen Township . . .
Athens County, Ohio, USA. When Rachel Boucher and Jason de Klerk meet again – five years after high school – they immediately renew their friendship. But for Jason their friendship is just a stepping stone to something more – a romantic union that seems to have the blessing of the whole community. That is until Rachel becomes involved with Skye Riley.
As Skye and Rachel grow ever closer, Jason’s anger at the relationship boils over into violence, violence that turns the community on its head, setting old friends and neighbours against one another. But this is just a taste of things to come as, it turns out, Rachel is pregnant . . .

 

The Texture of Shadows – Mandla Langa (South Africa).

It is 1989, a high point of hope in South Africa’s political history. The nation is abuzz with rumours of Nelson Mandela’s imminent release, the dismantling of guerrilla camps and the possibility of peace.
A band of exiled People’s Army soldiers returns to South Africa. After years in Angola they think the change they have been fighting for is finally about to become a reality. They have been ordered to carry and deliver a sealed trunk to an unspecified destination. It is a mission that makes them a target as different parties set out to separate the men from the trunk and its mysterious contents, setting the stage for several fierce conflicts.
The Texture of Shadows explores a world of hardened guerrilla fighters, corrupt police officers, ex-political prisoners and the victims of abuse of a system of bannings and beatings. But there are also cracks in this steel-edged world that hope, love and beauty can fill as the reader is swept up in the story of Chaplain Nerissa Rodrigues and her fellow soldiers.

Will post reviews as I read them!

8 years

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On this day in history, well, only eight years ago,I boarded a plane with a plan for two years but all of my worldly possessions and came to start my Honors and then Masters Degree the next year.

All I can say, this far the Lord has brought me and has continued to sustain me through so many lessons, firsts, lasts and experiences altogether. In keeping with my desire to be grateful this year, I am extremely grateful and my heart bubbles over.

Thanks for the memories and here’s to so many more years to come.

12. South Africa v Kenya 2015 audit

Following from Fridays post and this one two years back I would like to extend the list by  a few things that say home to me and that don’t feel the same here

  • Kenya has a huge tea culture. Even when families have a big do and people have been drinkin’ when tea time (4-5pm) rolls in, people – old and young, male and female, will all take a break and have a cuppa. Not so much in SA. How many times have I hosted people, offered tea and heard, ” well, we are drinkin’ so maybe not.”
  • Also, just the fact we prefer tea to coffee. Despite growing and exporting both.
  • Also, just the fact that it took me years to find a local brand of tea bags that was brewed as strong as the one I loved at home. Hello Five Roses African Blend which is perfectly strong and is sourced from Eastern Africa teas.
  • Taxis that do not have a fare collector or someone that calls out the route. Meaning that the person that seats up front, next to the driver, has to take the fare and give back any change. Nerve wracking when I used to take a taxi where the fare was R11.50 per person and you had to quickly decide how much was due for all the 15  taxi passengers. Fast. It also never ceased to amuse me how the driver would be so uninterested i.e. if you needed him to give you two fifty cents for R1, he would look ahead and say he has no change! So what must happen?
  • In addition, you have to learn all the different taxi signs to be able to signal correctly to the driver.
  • All this, against the fact that I do not speak any Zulu, which is standard taxi language for Johannesburg. NERVE WRACKING!
  • Also, I find that I still compare the price of taxi (matatu) fare in Kenya v SA. Very expensive in South Africa.
  • Standard rice in South Africa is fat and Basmati is quite expensive. I will just leave that here because in Kenya we have different quality of Basmati rice for all!
  • One ply tissue? One ply tissue? WHY? What does it do. I find that I totally judge any establishment that has one ply because ONE PLY TISSUE IS INEFFECTIVE!
  • Fast food and eating out is much cheaper in South Africa than in Kenya. Although, the food in Kenya is naturally organic whereas it is highly processed in SA. On this, I would rather be in Kenya.
  • Being asked all of the time (still) what my name means. Urrggh! Almost universal fact is that all South African names have a meaning and it is expected that similarly African names on the continent will be the same. Which for the most part is true. I just happen to be that minority with a name similar to a local name that has a meaning, but mine doesn’t. It would take a separate post to explain all the inappropriate places where I have been asked what my name means – just off the top of my head, calling for official purposes to speak to an individual and having to leave a message with the receptionist who will keep me on the phone longer to ask what my name means and whether I have heard of the local equivalent. Urgggh just urgggh!
  • I miss the fruits in Nairobi that taste great all the time!! Not so much here where it’s a lottery of what you might get.
  • Talk radio. Bye Bye all the morning drive filth in Nairobi. Just good bye and good riddance!
  • How the country bleeds or shines when the Boks, Proteas and Bafana Bafana play. I don’t get it. I am most likely to be the person shopping because people are at home or at Sports bars and I can finally pack by the entrance to the shopping centre.
  • South Africans have labour rights and a social security system that actually works. It still surprises me!
  • The state of education. I argue all the time with people I know that it is unacceptable and that in Kenya poor people work hard and get the best quality of education that they can possibly get for their kids and the pass mark is much much higher than here. It saddens me that in Public primary schools, the kids get like half an hour of homework, Monday to Wednesday and maybe on Thursday and this stops almost a month to the final exams! Yes, I know there are private schools but there you get what you pay for – as it to be expected!
  • Beach fronts in Cape Town and Durban are easily accessible to the public. You can park your car and walk to the beach and not to have to walk through a dingy path or pretend that you had gone for drinks at a hotel. Nah! None of that, you just walk across and sit beach side 🙂
  • Expiring data??? Not sure if this applies in Kenya but where does expired data go? Does it slow down or what happens? I do not understand why data has an expiry date.
  • Also just Kenya rocks for the fact that Wireless is widespread and the net speed is much faster.
  • Our lackluster presidents. UK and JZ belong together and both sadden me!

If you have been to or lived in either country, please let me know your thoughts? If you have only ever lived in the one country, what makes it home for you?