TCB’s Miscellaneous Ramblings – October to November

Posted on November 5th, 2018
Categories: News

The Kenya safari circuit sold-out in October, now there is a happy piece of news, and long may it last. Kenya’s safari product has long been considered expensive when compared to its other competitors on the continent. The quality and diversity of a Kenyan safari experience, however is far superior to anything else anywhere in Africa. You will agree?

But, there comes a time when cost over experience has to stand up to scrutiny. The recent imposition of value added tax on fuel, a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on bank transactions, a levy to support low-cost housing and the general tightening of our tax regime here in Kenya is going to have a massively negative impact on our value proposition. Not just for tourism but the entire economy.

I can hardly see tourism suppliers not passing these costs of doing business onto their clients. But is there a Plan-B? Perhaps taking the Ryanair model approach, I shudder to even suggest this. Where you pay less for a seat and then everything else you want is added on, which equates to a ton of incremental revenue – turn this model on its head with a safari overlay and what do you get. A from price that blows everyone out of the water, and you could then possibly tailor the add-ons into must-haves.

Thinking out of the box, any box, rather than increasing the price is an option we should all consider. I’m just saying – so please don’t shoot the messenger.

As most of you will know my favourite coast destination is Watamu just south of Malindi, a sleepy back-water with to-die-for-beaches, a few small hotels, rustic in a word. Progress has to come that’s a given, but you’d never ever expect plans for a 61-storey tower, 370-metre high, the tallest in Africa, to suddenly and unexpectedly appear on the road across from the beach.

I’m no engineer but to underpin a building as high as this on coral rag and sand is, well, not possible anywhere in the world. There are so many other issues surrounding this fantasy build, not least the amount of empty beds and the state of our coasts tourism industry. Blinded by the ‘J’ word, jobs, the county government is all of a twitter, they are also blinded by the environmental impact it will have on the region.

But let me share the blurb from the developers just so you know from whence I speak: a 270-room 5-star hotel and spa, 180-luxury apartments, a 24-hour casino, a convention centre, an observatory, a shopping complex/mall, and a private beach.

Now we all know that there is no such thing as a private beach in Kenya, so lets knock that one on the head.

The company touting this ludicrous fantasy is Crystal Business SA of Lugano in Switzerland – its Chairman is Dr. Guiseppe Moscarino a vet with few substantial credentials other than his love for Africa, the Managing Director is Oliver Nepomuceno his CV on their website shows little capacity for a project like this, as is the case of the architect Lorenzo Pagnini.

Nicky Parazzi a long-time resident of Watamu and a leading eco-warrior penned these comments on social media recently.

Described as outrageous, and Dubaiesq: and an April fools joke by many, but apparently being touted in Italy and elsewhere, including (according to the developer himself) in high political circles in Kenya. Of concern, at a stakeholder meeting in April, the developer and his team could not answer rudimentary, questions about the build in an extremely challenging, natural geographical area and the project in general – including a simple question about how many people the building would cater for (both workers and clients). And yet again the promise of jobs over-rode all serious questions. A sure sign there’s a need to scratch the surface. 

 We can NOT afford to take this lightly! Let’s stop spoiling Watamu! Keep it natural for future generations. Click HERE to sign our petition.

 One interesting snippet gleaned from the dailies last week, was that all imported used vehicles HAVE to be shipped from Mombasa by rail. So, it might stand to reason that us folk from Nairobi and up-country will be able to utilise the empty wagons back down to Mombasa when on holiday or on business, for our vehicles, thus saving us all the drive.

 To read the current edition of Travel News, please click here: http://www.travelnewskenya.travel/#folio=1

Meet Nyamwathi Gichau – Yoga Instructor, Psychotherapist & Energy Healer

Posted on September 11th, 2018
Categories: News

Nyamwathi Gichau is an Internationally Registered Yoga Teacher (RTY 200) with the Worldwide Yoga Alliance. Her styles include Creative Vinyasa Flow, Alignment Based Hatha & Yin Yoga. She is also a certified KinAesthetic® and Reiki® Therapist with a BA in Psychology. Each of her classes incorporate a holistic approach to union (yoga) using breath-work (pranayama), mindfulness, energy healing, aromatherapy and meditation.

Nyamwathi first “met” yoga over 15 years ago and has used it as a personal transformation and healing tool for over a decade. She studies and practices in both East and West Africa, shuttling between Francophone Senegal and Anglophone Kenya.

Nyamwathi’s vision is to be a healer and a teacher in service to others, helping transform and restore physiological and psychological wellbeing through the gift of yoga. Her passion for self-discovery and healing led her to be the Founder of Indigo Wellness® and Goddess Wraps® ; serving as a platform for self-love, wellbeing and recovery after trauma and abuse through nature-based healing retreats, holistic therapy programs and head-wrap styling. 

For more please information visit  www.yogininyamwathi.com & www.goddess-wraps.com

TEACHING STYLES + EXPERTISE:

Alignment-based Hatha, Vinyasa Flow & Yin Yoga

Private Instruction, Group Classes and Corporate (Office) Yoga

 

  A passionate and holistic yoga instructor with advanced training in psychology, yoga, meditation, energy healing, marketing, communications & graphic design. “I enjoy inspiring, motivating and empowering others to prioritise wellness, self-awareness, self-healing, and commitment to long-term health and fitness goals. Energetic, nurturing and empathic intuitive abilities enable insightful guidance to what each student needs in aiding in their wellness journey, recovery and growth.” Nyamwathi

EXPERIENCE:

Yogini Nyamwathi (Nairobi) – Lead Instructor: November 2016 till present

·       Creating personalized programs to increase wellbeing for private practitioners with different levels (Beginners, Intermediate & Advanced Practitioners).

·       Incorporate each student’s special needs and design dynamic and healing classes. 

·       Guide meditation and intention setting at the beginning and end of every practice enabling practitioners to center themselves and build their body-mind awareness

·       Identify and address incorrect posture and repositioned students alignment

·       Develop promotions, packages and create themed classes to increase reach, awareness and engagement

 

PRISM Yoga (Dakar – Senegal) Resident Instructor: November 2017 & February/March 2018

·       Led yoga classes for different skill levels (Beginners, Intermediate & Advanced Practitioners)

·       Focused on teaching correct alignment of each yoga asana (posture) to ensure maximum benefits, correct posture and safety

·       Guided meditation and intention setting at the beginning and end of every practice enabling practitioners to center themselves and build their body-mind awareness

·       Worked with students of different ages, body types and fitness levels, creating personalized programs to increase wellbeing

 

Office Yoga Instructor – Ogilvy Advertising (Nairobi): February/March 2017 

·       Created and launched OgilvYoga – a corporate yoga program to decrease stress and increase focus & workplace productivity

·       Research & Proposal Writing for Corporate in-house wellbeing programs

·       Provided in-depth research and information on the human anatomy focusing on vagus nerve stimulation

·       Focused on teaching correct alignment of each yoga asana (posture) to ensure maximum benefits, correct posture and safety

·       Special focus on the lumbar spine decompression for alleviation of lower-back pain and spinal disc injury

 

Get in touch with Nyamwathi on +254 737 543 789 or e-mail: [email protected]

TCB’s Miscellaneous Ramblings – August to September

Posted on August 6th, 2018
Categories: News

The world sizzles, while here on the equator we freeze – in relative terms of course. Our highland Kenyan winter, as its known here, has seen lows of 8C and highs of only 21C under murky grey skies. Which is the norm at this time of the year. Followed recently by days of sunshine up to a balmy 26C and today as I write this thunder, lightning and a downpour of epic proportions.

Has the world’s weather finally succumbed to the oft broadcast theory of global warming or as some say it’s all cyclical. Hold onto your hats and don’t be too hasty in your judgement.

That said, I enjoyed a holiday in Scotland – and hot it was, followed by an adventure to the Greek island of Corfu, which was even hotter. No complaints mind, when news from home told of a cold spell. I hadn’t visited Greece for over 30-years, since my heady days of working for a certain Mr. O. Of course it has changed, it had to – but it’s still a charming friendly country and most importantly reasonably priced.

We stayed in the fishing village of Kassiopi, a quaint little port surrounded by taverna’s, and thankfully not overrun, by dare I say it, tourists. That small villages like this have survived in Greece, so that we were able to enjoy the authentic Greek way of life, is the Greeks love of their cultural history. On a couple of boating trips we saw some gargantuan hotels- that one a Russian, that one a Polish, that one a German. Ugly in a word.

I don’t know if you’ve ever used airline app’s to check-in, they are so user friendly even a dinosaur like myself got the hang of it first time. Give it a try – you’ll be thanking me when next you travel. No more paper boarding cards, these go electronically into your phones wallet and are simply scanned as you proceed through the airport and onto your plane. You’ll no longer need to stare up a gigantic departure boards, your phone will ping and tell you what gate your flight departs from and when to board. They even send you your baggage tag numbers – which I thought was a bit over the top.

After my last couple of rumbles, I was planning on leaving British Airways well alone – but try as I might, a situation arouse that affected me personally. Which obviously I couldn’t resist telling you about. You’ll all know that BA decided last year that it would not accept unaccompanied minors, they were just too much of a hassle, no matter how much they charged us.

Fortunately our youngest is travel savvy and can manage on her own. Bookings are always made well in advance, to secure the flights we want and as importantly to hopefully score a good price.

We booked, we paid – then came the email. We’ve changed your connecting flights schedule so that it no longer connects to your flight to Nairobi. You will be required to travel to Heathrow the day before your planned flight to Nairobi.

OK, these things happen. Will you be sending a hotel voucher I dared to ask?

The passenger can check on arrival at Heathrow came the reply. Not very satisfactory you’ll agree. With no BA office in the country anymore, my travel agent, for I do have one, called their help desk, which is located in India.

‘No we can not offer the passenger hotel accommodation’ they said.

In the BA man’s opinion it was highly unlikely that the passenger would be offered hotel accommodation on arrival Heathrow as previously suggested. So I took to Facebook, BA’s got a complaints page would you believe – which turned out to be a bit of a mission, as you have to mine down to even lodge a complaint. Quick as a flash came a response no accommodation offered, full refund offered or arrive Heathrow the day before.

Some of you might remember the long used BA slogan ‘To Fly To Serve’ (left) which in my humble opinion is long past its sell-by date. Air travel, as you most probably all know and have experienced is not what it used to be. For a decent fare I’m prepared to put up with a lot – everything is now cut to the bare minimum to get to this point – I don’t like it for sure but accept it. I suppose I’m like all those other robotic travellers who turn up at airports the world over and go through the motions of getting to their destinations. As service is a no-cost item I’d really appreciate some of that included in the package – a smile or two might also go a long way.

Some airlines are better than others in their service offerings, best ask your travel agent – they know.

 To read the current edition of Travel News, please click here:   http://www.travelnewskenya.travel/#folio=1

 

 

EXPATS & PETS: THINK before you get a pet!

Posted on July 19th, 2018
Categories: News

Reposting this very important bit of advice, relevant to everyone thinking about getting a pet!

TNR Expats & Pets SM

Residents offer at stunning Kipalo Hills

Posted on June 11th, 2018
Categories: News

The School Holidays are here once again!

Kipalo Hills Camp  is the place to be – a Fantastic Getaway for Family

Only 3 hours from Nairobi via the SGR!

Unbelievable Offer Calling all Residents

24,500 KES FOR TWO NIGHTS FULL BOARD  

( Children 12750 Kes For two nights)

Includes : Walking Safari, Game Drives in the Conservancy & transfers from Voi Train Station

For your bookings please contact [email protected] or call 0720772319.

TCB’s Miscellaneous Ramblings April-May 2018

Posted on April 24th, 2018
Categories: News

I’ve just heard the news that British Airways is closing its office and laying-off its entire staff here in Nairobi on 30th June. Its customers in the region have long had to rely solely on BA.com or alternatively a call centre in a far flung land. You’ll recall them closing their offices to their customers here last year, so I suppose this is not really a surprise.

For travel agents that supported BA over many years, they too will now have to brave call centres somewhere to the east of us. Person to person relationships developed over many years between agent and airline are no more. You might not know it but BA have some brilliant long serving staff here in Nairobi – as you’d image they were shattered by this news. One of the advantages of using a travel agent was that they could always speak to the airlines, which they continue to do, but alas not to good old BA.

It beggars belief that an airline can fly a daily jumbo jet to a destination without any representation whatsoever. Just look at the guest blog on page 28 to see how BA   handled a situation at Heathrow its home base. A weather based phenomenon, so they say, which caused it’s IT platform to crash, blamed by some on deep cuts to their IT budget. Passengers were told to leave the airport and re-book on BA.com, unsurprisingly it didn’t work and hundreds refused to leave the airport.

Loyalty is a big word. But BA’s business model seems to be all about shareholder value, which is all that seems to matter these days. Customers be damned. Talking of which, loyalty that is – many of our readers have complained about booking or sorting mileage issues with BA’s Executive Club. They say they have tried unsuccessfully to do this online, their only other option is to talk to a Executive Club help desk in South Africa, who they say are singularly unhelpful.

My little travel agency has seen a massive swing away from BA in recent times, seems the product and the amount you have to pay is seen as not very good value.

I’m happy to report that tourism from overseas and for that matter domestically is very much on the up. The safari circuit is already reporting record bookings from July – September, with those unable to secure accommodation during this time spilling over into October and even November. Happy days indeed. The coast is being cautiously optimistic and looks to a strong northern summer – but it’s more of a last minute market driven by price, so we will have to wait and see.

I haven’t stayed in a lodge in Kenya for sometime that was full, in my article on Lake Nakuru National Park in this edition I stayed at Sarova’s Lion Hill Lodge.

OK it was a weekend, but it was full and coping very well thank you. Let’s hope this happy situation continues.

The road up our way, which I used to call jokingly the Banana Hill Expressway, has had a mega makeover and it can now live up to that unlikely moniker. It’s brilliant, with not a speed bump in sight – although I fear they will eventually appear. But here is the kicker; they’ve stopped 500m from my driveway, which I obviously wasn’t too happy about. Thankfully they are now approaching my driveway from the opposite direction – so as it stands I’ll be the last driveway to be connected to the Expressway. Patience is a virtue they say, but I was never very good at that.

I’m all for good causes. I was recently approached to take up the cause through this digital wonder of the Friends of the Nairobi National Park’s opposition to the routing of the new railways through said park. I listened to their side of the story which was convincing. The other side of the coin that from the perspective of government was a blank wall. Using the best contacts I have, no one wanted to give their point of view or in fact defend their side of the story. I just couldn’t get the facts, try as I might. Without both sides of the story it’s hard to get a balanced view on which to launch a platform of protest. We are still willing to help but……………….

Next month will be our 90th edition, it only seems like yesterday that we began this journey.

This edition is all of 6-days late, my sincere apologies – technical gremlins and writers-block being just two of the many challenges.

Our Guest Photographer in this edition was in Amboseli National Park after the recent grass rains – the photo (below) shows a dusty elephant in a desiccated area of the park pre-rains.

Until next time…. 

To read the magazine, click here: http://www.travelnewskenya.travel/#folio=1

7 things I wish I’d known before moving to Nairobi

Posted on April 24th, 2018
Categories: News

I moved to Nairobi a while ago and here are some of things I wish I’d known before moving here.

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  1. Nairobi is surprisingly expensive

Call me naive but when I moved to Kenya, I thought it would be really cheap as Africa is insensitively labelled ‘poor’ and ‘developing’ in Western news. Therefore I thought items that I’m used to back in the UK would be around the same or lower in Kenya. That is not the case, and western items and groceries tend to be very high. For example I bought salted butter the other day in a large well stocked supermarket for 750kes ($7.50)…7 dollars and 50 cents, for butter? I could buy 7 blocks of that back home. And whilst that may be true, it’s all about restructuring your grocery buying to fit the different costs.

Other items you’ll find expensive are dairy products, seeds and healthy food items like soy milk and muesli, beauty products like shampoo and moisturiser, home furnishings, new clothes, second hand and new cars, eating out and going out. It’s very easy to get through 5000kes ($50) in one night if you are going to medium to up-market expat restaurant or bar. My advice is try to mix going out with eating in, as vegetables and some meat items can be very cheap and also try going to more local places so you get a better sense of the city, rather than sticking to just expat/western style places. Expat salaries far outweigh local salaries, so be aware of the privilege that foreigners have. If you receive excellent service, please tip your waiter.

In addition, you can’t really walk easily to certain places to do your shopping so you’ll need to factor in transport to/from your destination which can also add up if you are taking taxis.

Rent in some areas is almost the same as Western cities, so make sure you draw up a budget and stick to it before coming out or you may be in for a surprising shock.

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2. You can’t really ‘go shopping’

Nairobi doesn’t do high streets and it doesn’t really do pavements so it’s not like ‘hitting the malls for a day of shopping’ like you would back home. Running errands will require several trips to several different malls or shops just to find the items you are looking for. Also taking several ubers or taxis adds up to your costs and you’ll find that your Saturdays or after hours time can get eaten up, sitting in traffic chastising yourself for not having bought lightbulbs when you had free time last week. The malls don’t all stock the same items or have much uniformity in terms of shops so you may find yourself going nuts trying to find items you are looking for. It is getting better and the opening of Carrefour (french supermarket giant) in several malls around the city is starting to create a one-stop shop feel to back home. However, I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise how much I’d miss Zara, Topshop, H&M, Starbucks (I hate myself for saying that), Whole Foods etc… Actually scrap Starbucks, there are loads of amazing independent coffee shops here, serving the most amazing Grown in Kenya freshly roasted beans.

Top tip – try outsourcing your food shopping to online delivery. We use FoodPlus by Chandarana Supermarket and on the whole its excellent and they’ll call if they don’t have an item in stock and will try to find the closest one. You could also ask your domestic help (if you choose to hire one) to shop for you as well.

For a list of the best shops to buy home furnishing items, check out my other blog post here. I miss Ikea so much but luckily there are loads of great stores in Nairobi, it’ll just take a few trips.

There are lots of items you simply can’t get here or are just obscenely expensive (today I tried to buy cafetiere and was quoted $160…I kid you not). Consider bringing items from home when packing with my essential list here.

For clothes shopping, the best place is Toi Market, a massive second hand clothes store that will replace your days at the mall with awesome thrift shopping. It’s very affordable and good fun if you are up for bartering.

Get your drinking water delivered on Saturday mornings to your door by Sunny Riveror Bounty Water. Very affordable and reliable service. Saves you having to lug 20 litres up to your apartment.

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3. Map reading skills are different to back home

The most common thing I hear on a Friday night is this interchange upon leaving the house to go out:

Me: ‘Hi. How are you?’

Uber driver: ‘Fine thanks. Where are you exactly?’

Me: ‘Breeze Apartments. Follow the pin on the map.’

Uber driver: ‘Eh? I don’t know the place.’

Me: ‘But it’s on the your map. Look at the pin on your map. Thats where I am.’

Uber driver: ‘Ok’

5 minutes later

Me: ‘Hi, have you reached me?’

Uber driver: ‘Where are you exactly?’

Me: ‘FOLLOW THE MAP!’

This is so common and you will rage inside that your uber driver isn’t just following the map like you would expect. In all honesty, many people here don’t grow up reading maps like we do back home, so presuming your driver will suddenly understand a map with a  weird layout of the city they are not familiar to, pasted onto a grid by a massive American company is an unfair expectation. Try to be calm and use landmarks to help navigate your driver. Nairobians are excellent navigators once you give them a reference point.

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4. You’ll pick up an amazing hobby

I’m going to be honest. If you get domestic help and they are taking care of your laundry, ironing, shopping and in some cases cooking – you are left with a new abundance of free time. This is an extremely privileged position to be in, so please be kind to your cleaners and compensate them fairly and give them time off and a reasonable living wage. Due to your new free time, you can take advantage of the many hobbies on offer. There is so much to do and the weekend possibilities are endless, even if you choose to go out of the city or stay in Nairobi.

Rock climbing is HUGE here and we are blessed with an awesome climbing gym (Blue Sky at Diamond Plaza) and Kenyan Mountaineering Club which organises loads of weekend trips an hour and above outside of Nairobi.

You can fly to the coast for as little as $50 by flight or $7 by train, meaning you can take up kite surfing (best spots are Diani, Watamu and Che Shale) as your new monthly sport. Believe me, its huge here and a lot of expats in Nairobi invest a lot of their time and money in the new awesome sport.

Join a sports team: Volleyball, Netball, Ultimate Frisbee, Horse Riding. There are a lot of clubs and fun teams to join. Have a search on Facebook or via Nairobi Expat Social on Facebook to find a team or get one going. If you like being solo – take advantage of having Karura Forest, the lungs of Nairobi, right on your door step for a run or cycle.

Keeping fit. Although gym membership can be expensive, getting a personal trainer to come to your house can cost as little as $10 a session, which is something you should definitely take advantage of!

For a full list of activities to pick up, please read my blog post here.

Cycling is also huge here, find my post here on it.

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5. It’s really easy to waste a day (in the beginning)

Traffic is insane and it can make you not want to leave the house meaning you may feel like you’ve got some much stuff to do, and instead just stay in bed getting annoyed that you are wasting a day. BUT that doesn’t mean things can’t come to you.

So Number 5 is…: It’s really easy to make the most of your day (when you hack Nairobi!)

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About a year ago I realised that spending a Saturday doesn’t have to involve trying to do my shopping, getting my nails done, try and fit in a massage and see friends all in one day. A lot of the time these services can come to you and AGAIN this is coming from an extreme place of privilege so please be aware of this when reading this article. If you are going to have someone come to your place, please compensate the person coming to your house fairly and tip them, offer tea or transport costs. Extending a friendly hand in Kenya goes a long way and you’ll be amazed when the favour can be returned.

But basically now we have a  gardener come to our house and tend to our plants, and I also get a manicurist, and a beauty therapist to do waxing and also a masseuse. We even organise yoga nights where friends come over and one of the very talented instructors from Africa Yoga Project leads the class any working night of the week. Having services come to you is quite common among expats here and its always good to trade tips amongst each other as to who is recommend for such services. If you want pre-approved rated services, then Lynk is an awesome website that will help you source a service you are looking for and help send over beauty therapists, gardeners and even tailors to your house.

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6. You will tinder. You might even tinder for friends!

Everyone goes on Tinder here. Or Bumble. Or Happn. Or all 3! You will swap hilarious stories with new housemates and colleagues and you may even meet someone awesome! So just embrace the diverse multiculturalism of Nairobi’s dating scene and the potential disasters and highlights that come along the way.

If you are in a relationship, then simply just making new friends can feel like dating. Someone told me there is a new Bumble BFF app that helps you find friends. I say go for it! It’s hard moving somewhere new, so you might as well go all in and out yourself out there.

Other tips for finding friends:

Try join gin Internations (a huge online expat social website) for their weekly Drinks on Monday’s at Tribe Hotel in Gigiri – aimed entirely at new expats coming to the city (yes, weekly drinks! Thats how often people arrive). They also host parties, monthly events and even more niche events around food, painting and hiking. Meet Up also has a good presence in the city, another social website aimed at people looking to make friends in the city.

See if your university back home has an alumni group in Nairobi. Being a big diverse city there are lots of professionals and NGO workers doing a stint here, so check out if your uni has a representative or group in the city.

Stick a message out on your Facebook wall before you move here, asking friends if they know someone in the city. Again it has a massive expat scene (apparently 7000 in Nairobi alone?!) and most likely you’ll have a friend who knows a guy who works here (‘tech or something’) or has a brother’s ex-roomate who moved out here (‘to like save elephants or something’).

Say YES to everything. Pottery and Wine Night at Ikigai Creative Space? Yes please! Brunch and Swim Day at Serena? Oh yeh! Film screening at Alliance Francais? Oui Oui! The more you say yes, the more people you’ll meet!

Also when you go on Nairobi Expat Housing, try meeting up with a few new potential housemates to see if you ‘click’ as they’ll likely become your weekend travel buddies or yoga pants and tv chill partner during the week.

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7. Your new friends will become your family.

We are all far away from our families and our school friends, and not having that network means you’ll start to heavily rely on your group around you.

Over the last 3 years I’ve helped and in turn had friends help me do things I would never think of having my friends back home help me do. So don’t be afraid when you need ask friends to come help you go to the hospital, the police, pick you up from bars when tooooo much booze has been drink, help move house and help consume a large amount of cheese because you are leaving the country the next day and really don’t want to waste $300 worth. You’ll become each others sounding boards and eventually each others rocks.

Also you’ll do amazing things together like hike mountains, go on safari and spot 7 baby cheetahs and also rent ridiculous hollywood style houses at the beach that friends back home can only dream about. The experiences you carve together will be some of the most memorable for your life and the memories you’ll have of Kenya and the friends you make here will be truly amazing.

One day, you’ll realise it’s awesome to have this network because honestly you’ll really need it when you are so far away from home. They’ll become so incredibly close that when they eventually leave it can almost feel as heart wrenching as a break up. But it’s ok – more reasons to travel to see them for them to come back and see you.

To follow the New to Nairobi blog, click here: https://newtonairobi.com/

 

Wine and Spice and all things Nice

Posted on April 10th, 2018
Categories: News

For a wine lover such as myself, it is always a pleasant surprise to find a classy, trendy, well equipped yet reasonably priced wine shop in Nairobi. And its not just wine! From good quality and exotic spices to paella kits to gin and whisky to artisan olive oils, from detox tea to “youth” tea, from entry level wines to Cavas to premium wines, and since I never grow up, my favourites – gin fusion teabags, gin botanicals and cocktail making gift sets… Makkin Gourmet shop has it all! It’s a lovely place to browse; I felt like I was in a European or South African shop, and the temptation to buy, well frankly most of it – is huge!

             

             

After browsing for a bit, I met with the brains behind the concept – James and Cynthia Makumi. James and Cynthia started Makkin in 2010, selling decent Australian wines from little premises at the Lavington Green shopping centre. Fast forward nearly 10 years and their passion, knowledge and experience has resulted in large premises in the new Lavington Mall, with a selection of carefully hand picked family estate wines amongst all the afore-mentioned goodies. In James’s words: “if we won’t drink it, we won’t sell it”. Their mission statement is: “Our focus is to be a leading provider of fine premium wines and spirits while providing exceptional quality products and services. Makkin continues to stay with family owned wineries and distilleries as we continue our unwavering quest to bring in more extraordinary wines and spirits”. They certainly convinced me! In their quest James and Cynthia have established personal relationships with many of the (mainly) Spanish vineyards, whose proprietors come out to Kenya to visit them and to conduct wine tastings. Apart from Kenya, the Makumis also have relationships with and bring out wines from Australia and The Napa Valley in California.

Makkin organise wine tastings and events to share their passion and to educate people about wine. They sell to hotels and restaurants as well as individuals, and will deliver for an order or a minimum of 12 bottles. But I would recommend visiting the lovely shop and seeing for yourself!

To learn more about Makkin Wines and their selection, click on the below listing:

http://www.wordofmouth.co.ke/?s=Makkin

From Suzie – pet grooming with love

Posted on April 10th, 2018
Categories: News

 

Well – I think that the before and after photo says it all!

I heard about Suzie from a friend and decided that my poor, shaggy 13 year old terrier desperately needed some TLC. At the cost of Ksh 4,000/= one of my family members was very sceptical, muttering “but we can just wash her”, under his breath. His tone changed 100% when he saw the result.

I have never seen pet pampering with such a lovely, unassuming approach. “Pepper”, who had never been groomed before, was nervous at first, but settled into being washed, blow dried, clipped, cleaned, cut and touched with care and respect. Suzie really took her time, she was at our house for about 2 hours, going about her work with quiet confidence, and making my pet look and feel amazing. She truly is acting 10 years younger, and being able to see her face properly has reminded us about how pretty she really is!

Susie loved pets from a young age, and slowly drifted into grooming as a profession. Her love shows in the care she takes, making sure that your pet is comfortable and she will stop to take breaks if they are feeling shy or frightened.

I would whole heartedly recommend Suzie’s services for any pet lover who wants to make sure their pet looks and feels their best!

 

Suzie in action!

  Super happy Pepper with spring in her step!

To read more about the services Suzie offers, and to contact her, please refer to the Word of Mouth listing, below:

Pet Grooming by Suzie

 

 

 

Carrefour opening at the Sarit Centre

Posted on February 28th, 2018
Categories: News

Carrefour set to open fifth branch at Sarit Centre mall

CARREFOUR OFFICIAL JEAN YVES GENIES (RIGHT) WITH CUSTOMERS DURING CELEBRATIONS TO MARK THEIR FIRST ANNIVERSARY IN KENYA IN MAY 2017. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
CARREFOUR OFFICIAL JEAN YVES GENIES (RIGHT) WITH CUSTOMERS DURING CELEBRATIONS TO MARK THEIR FIRST ANNIVERSARY IN KENYA IN MAY 2017. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU  

Carrefour, whose local franchise is held by Dubai-based conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim, three months ago opened its fourth store at the Junction Mall, which was previously occupied by struggling rival Nakumatt Holdings.  Its other branches are located at Thika Road Mall, Two Rivers and the Hub Mall.

The retailer is set to shift to a bigger space at Sarit Centre’s new wing scheduled for completion at the end of the year.

“We are elated to be making our entry into Westlands area, which we consider to be very strategic for our business. The Carrefour store at Sarit Centre, gives us an opportunity to present our differentiated services to thousands of customers who visit this mall every day, due to its prime location,” said Majid Al Futtaim, Kenya country manager, Franck Moreau.

“We are privileged to have partnered with the mall owners before the completion of the new wing, making it possible to influence the design of the space to suit our specifications and international standards.”

Scammed – the perils of super-fast mobile money transfers by Africa Expat Wives Club

Posted on February 28th, 2018
Categories: News

Warning: You too could be conned…

So last week (during half term) I was scammed. Or more correctly, a member of our domestic staff was scammed…which then hit me in the pocket.

It happened just as I was piling granny, granddad and 2 slow moving teenagers into the car to get to a hair appointment. Jared crossed the garden, on the phone (a pretty snazzy Samsung smart phone I noticed) – looking very concerned. Frightened even. It turns out he was on the receiving end of a panicked phone call initiated by a man ringing on behalf of Jared’s son’s school. It went something like this

I’m calling for your son’s teacher (named X) as he doesn’t have credit. Your son (named Y) is in Kenyatta hospital, he’s had a very bad accident at school (school name Z), he’s broken his leg badly and also hurt his head. And there’s internal bleeding. He needs to go into surgery right now. We are at the hospital. You must send money immediately so that he can go into theatre.”

Jared looked like his whole world was collapsing and, I panicked too.

“What’s happened?” I asked and Jared started speaking fast.

“They said to send money, they said my son is in Kenyatta hospital. He’s had an accident at school.”

At this point I wanted to help and fast, so I transfered money from my bank account into my mobile phone/MPesa account, ready to send on to him.

Don’t worry Jared, I’m so sorry. I’m sending you the money for the operation, then you must go quickly to the hospital.

I was about to transfer a little more than the amount requested to Jared’s phone/account (to allow for additional hospital costs) – but then Jared said, “the man said to send the cash to this number.” I follow instructions and send cash immediately. The money left my phone and was received by an Edward Martin Mung’atia – which seemed like a valid/traceable account name. Jared nodded then prepared to leave the house fast.

It takes less than a minute to press send on a mobile money transfer. That’s the beauty of phone banking. Very quick, no hassle transactions from the phone in your hand.

Meanwhile the car is full of my own family members wondering what the heck is going on and we’re all now late for the appointment. I speed off with them all in the car feeling shaken and also processing over the information that I’ve just received. As I convey the story, it just doesn’t seem to add up. How could a boy of under 10 have such a serious accident inside school? The description sounded more like he’d been hit by a bus. And how come the school didn’t call the father before going to hospital and preparing the child for surgery? Surely they should have phoned sooner? Or gone to a nearer hospital? Meanwhile, Jared was repeatedly trying to call his wife but the call just wasn’t going through so he headed toward the boy’s school (closer than the hospital) to try and get more information.

I literally think that we’re going to have to pray for this boy,” I tell everyone in the car (my father-in-law is a religious man) “it sounds like he may even die.

When we reach the hairdresser and I’ve calmed down a bit, I call my husband and tell him the story.

Are you sure it isn’t a scam?” He says immediately. I was honestly blown away by the suggestion and thought, could it be? But at the exact same moment, Jared is calling me too.

Madam, quickly reverse the transaction, it was a conman, I’m so sorry, my son is fine.

Relieved that the boy is fine. Annoyed that I’d fallen for such a scam, I immediately called our house helper to try to reverse the MPesa transaction on my behalf (I’d left my Safaricom phone at home).  She reported back that my Safaricom line had been ringing off the hook since we left, with this guy screaming down the phone trying to get her to send more money. She had explained to him that it was not her phone so she couldn’t help – but by now her suspicions were definitely aroused. She said that the man on the other end of the line sounded hysterical and had wanted her to act fast – but alarm bells were ringing for her.

Of course the money I sent had been withdrawn immediately so the transaction couldn’t be reversed. I was only glad that I had left that phone at home, so hadn’t been compelled by the scammer to send more cash. The con is that they try to extract as much money as possible over a short amount of time, before disconnecting the line.

The conman had known Jared’s name, his son’s name, the name of his son’s school and his teacher’s name. In retrospect, it was the cruelest ruse. In the face of being told that your only child might die – do you quibble?

Oh, so my son is about to be rushed into surgery is he? So how do I know that you are telling the truth? Prove it?”

So after this bruising episode I reported the faker’s number to Safaricom (who said that the case is very common and that scammers are using dead people’s identities to set up fake phone accounts). Then Jared went off and reported the incident to the police (who said this kind of case is very common and nowadays con men hang around schools and estates collecting names and information off local residents and kids to use in scams later).

Story 2:

A few days afterwards, I heard of a similar case. A man gets a call from someone purporting to be from his mobile service provider saying ‘turn off your phone for 2 hours for a 3G update to take place’. The receiver of the call is rushing to a meeting so powers down his phone immediately, but then after 45 minutes and once he’s stopped rushing, he grows suspicious and switches his phone back on.  When it comes back to life, there are multiple messages and missed calls from family members asking if he’s okay as well as a few missed calls from the con artist who said  he was from his mobile provider.

The man in question called his parents, who were beside themselves with worry and immediately asked if he was okay. In fact his dad was already at the bank about to transfer money to an apparent kidnapper who said they’d abducted their son. The scammers had even gone as far as making it sound like a victim was crying out in the background and the parents had assumed it was their grown-up son. Once the man reassured his parents that he was perfectly safe and hung up, the scammer started repeatedly calling the business man back, presumably to ensure that his line was busy and ideally run down the battery on his phone – while trying to continue the scam with other relatives. Later, when the man reported this incident to the police, he was told that there are many scams like this one around.

***

I know about those annoying, scam text messages where you are asked to send money to a stranger –but  emotive phone calls making use of a lot personal information are something else. Especially sinister is the apparent ease at blocking phone numbers, making it impossible for victims of these scams to verify whether the story being spun is fake or not. I was gullible and should have waited before sending money – but when you are under time pressure and high emotions are involved, it’s hard to take a step outside the situation and look at it objectively. Plus, as a long term resident here, I’ve been asked to help in some pretty dreadful scenarios in the past – so in that way, the story didn’t seem completely implausible.  Anyhow, it’s worth knowing, the mobile phone scammers have taken it up to another level, so try not to be fooled.

Featured image: Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

TCB’s Miscellaneous Ramblings February/March 2018

Posted on February 13th, 2018
Categories: News

 Where to start?

You might re-call in my last column that I just couldn’t help myself, and for the first time ever dipped my big toe into the political morass that is currently enveloping Kenya. Most thankfully agreed and found it a tad hilarious, which was the intention. However there was one reader who got really really upset, and literally blew a fuse. He didn’t so much take aim at yours truly, at least I don’t think he did, but more from the perspective that our political system had deprived his candidate of the Presidency.

I think I’ll keep the big toe firmly in its intended place of residence in future.

We drove to the coast on Boxing Day, drive-time from our home in Tigoni to our favourite all-time coastal destination Watamu in just 6.5 hours. No traffic, the tribe asleep most of the way – the pedal to the metal most of the way. Coming back was a completely different story. A terrible drive-time of 10.5 hours.

The government in its wisdom and to somehow address the road carnage on our roads, made the knee-jerk decision to ban all buses from travelling at night. I didn’t quite realise that this is what most of them do. How many of them plied the Mombasa – Nairobi road, was another huge surprise.

Trucks on the highway we can all deal with, they are slow, cumbersome and manageable, but the buses – whew!

There were so many of them, all travelling at some speed – while waiting to overtake trucks, you had to be really careful – a rear-view mirror filled with bus, and they wait for no one, indicator on or not.

If it’s not the roads or the unroadworthy public service vehicles then it’s the bloody incompetent drivers. Who invariably have bribed their way to obtain a commercial licence. With apologies to the majority, who thankfully know what they are doing.

Combine all three, and its mayhem. More regulation, more enforcement, but more of the latter for starters.

The planned new US designed, built and funded four-lane toll road from Nairobi to Mombasa is definitely something to look forward to. Evidently work will start on it later in the year, if press reports are to be believed. From what I understand it is to be a new build entirely, with the old road retained, as you have offer folk the opportunity of an alternative route without tolls.

I’m told the new toll road will have a minimum of interchanges. So, perhaps a 4-5 hour drive without too much stress is in our futures.

 Can’t wait!

While in Watamu I experienced first-hand the new sea-wall outside Hemingways. It is not to everyone’s taste, especially at high tide when you have to seek higher ground, as there is no beach left to walk on. Hemingways management gladly allows you access to a path higher up the sea-wall. There were a few hiccups over the holidays but quickly sorted. I’m told it is all still a work in progress and that the engineers predict that the beach will return in a short period of time and we will all live happily ever-after.

Talking of Hemingways, we stopped in for a cocktail or two at their fabled beach bar. The make-over, which has seen them closed for the past 18-months, is very impressive. We loved it and the price of said cocktails was in line with other establishments nearby.

We enjoyed New Year at Ocean Sports, a great evening followed it has to be said by a bumper New Years day party that ticked all the boxes. Rumour has it, that a new owner believed to be sympathetic to the very ethos of the place is as they say ‘on the way coming’. Full credit to Fabien and his team for a brilliant couple of parties.

Also in my last column were words to the effect that we were looking to move Travel News Kenya on to new prospective buyers. Well, it didn’t happen at least as of this moment – there isn’t an interested dicky-bird in sight. One prospective telling me ‘Why should I pay? I can start from scratch.’ Yeah right.

A lot of kind words from you readers has half encouraged me to continue and not to push the sale button too hard.

Kenya’s tourism is on the up.

There are not many beds left in the Masai Mara this coming migration season and camp and lodge operators are reporting a steep and steady increase in the amount of enquiries received, which in turn ultimately lead to bookings for most of the safari circuit.

The coast which has been in the doldrums for quite sometime seems to be awakening from it decade old slumber. Still the best beaches anywhere….

Long may it all continue.

to read the latest version of Travel News, click here: http://www.travelnewskenya.travel/#folio=1

 

For the expats out there – please read this before you think about acquiring a pet while in Kenya.

Posted on February 13th, 2018
Categories: News

Reposting this very important bit of advice, relevant to everyone thinking about getting a pet!

TNR Expats & Pets SM

The Truth and Lies of Lie Detecting – by Len Nieuwoudt

Posted on January 22nd, 2018
Categories: News

A popular lie about lie detection is that it is able to detect lies. In fact, lie detectors, or polygraph machines can’t detect lies, but actually measure nervous excitement. Why do we say a polygraph can’t detect when someone is lying? Because that would suggest that every person is the same, and there is one magic ingredient engrained in all of us which, when triggered, acts as a dead giveaway. It’s simply not the case.

A polygraph machine operates on the premise that if a person is telling the truth, he or she will remain calm. We always hear about polygraph tests all the time in court cases, police investigations and even when someone applies for a job. The goal of lie detection is to test whether a person is telling the truth or not when answering specific questions.

When someone sits down for a polygraph test, three to six devices are attached to the tips of his or her fingers. A polygraph is a piece of equipment, which records numerous “poly” signals deriving the devices on a single piece of moving paper, or the graph. These sensors normally record the following:

  • The individual’s pulse;
  • The individual’s perspiration;
  • The person’s blood pressure; and
  • The individual’s breathing rate.

At times, a polygraph can also record aspects such as leg and arm movement.

How Is A Polygraph Test Conducted?

When a lie detection test starts, the technician usually asks four to five simple questions as a way of establishing the norms of the individual’s signals. The real questions then follow. Throughout the questioning process, all of the individual’s signals are recorded on the graph paper.

Both throughout and after the polygraph, the technician can study the graphs to determine whether the individual’s vital signs have changed exponentially on some of the inquiries. Generally, a big change, like higher blood pressure, sped up heart rate or increased perspiration can be indicative that the individual is lying.

When seasoned and professional examiners makes use of a polygraph machine, they can rather accurately detect lying in a person with incredible accuracy. However, as the examiner’s interpretation is subjective, and due to different individuals responding differently to lying, a lie detection test isn’t perfect.

Why Would You Want to Employ a Polygraph Test in Your Business?

Many employers use polygraph tests in their businesses, for many reasons. It’s not to say that you don’t trust your workforce, or that you suspect them. You could even use this method as part of a recruitment drive when looking to hire candidates who will be in a position of authority, or who will be working with sensitive information for your business.

There are a number of other reasons why businesses use polygraph testing in their operations too, including:

  • Having sufficient suspicion an employee was involved in illegal activity;
  • The employee in question has access to the property where the incident took place;
  • The employer is struggling with an increase in alcohol, drug or fraudulent behaviour within the company;
  • The employer is in the process of promotions to management positions and needs to know that they can trust employees with high-level confidential information; and
  • To instill a high level of honesty within the business and to enforce the company’s policies and procedures with regard to company information.

It’s important to note, under no circumstance can you force an employee to take a polygraph test unless they give written consent. In asking if they would take the test, you need to inform the person that it’s voluntary, and they can stop at any time.

The results of the polygraph test can’t be used as the only evidence when trying to prove guilt, it needs to be used as a means of confirming the evidence you gathered already. As there are currently no laws protecting employees when it comes to lie detection, these results alone will not be sufficient in a hearing.

As the rate crime is increasing, businesses all over the world are doing everything they can to ensure the business as well as its intellectual property is protected. One of the ways to achieve this is to introduce the use of lie detection into the work environment. This helps make businesses a stronger unit in an insecure world and sift out any nervous excitement that might be hindering business operations.

Author Bio:

Len Nieuwoudt’s years’ of experience since 1989, in the SAPS(South African police Service) and the security industry his company Secure Polygraph Solutions was established in 2012. When Len isn’t performing lie detector tests he like to ride his bike on long journeys in and around South Africa.

Let’s SHIFT…..

Posted on January 19th, 2018
Categories: News

 By Tazim Elkington

As I sit here pondering what to write, my mind brings up the question again and again on ‘What comprises being Kenyan?’This question has been swimming in pools of many waters. The need for clarity and direction is imperative as we embark on this journey towards a more uplifted Kenya for Kenyans. Let’s carry on the discussion in defining a common platform where we operate from as Kenyans. There are constant, consistent ongoing debates on how individuals ought to do this, that and the other. How and what the politicians, religious leaders, the donor world, civil society, private entrepreneurs, legal firms, grassroots organisations and umpteen groups, need to do it differently.

We need to end the old siege of bombarding ourselves with an unending stream of reasons/excuses as to why it must be done one way and not another. The finger pointing blame game has passed its ‘sell by date’ and it’s now time to look for effective and efficient ways to ‘become, feel and be’ truly KENYAN!

A topic that invariably comes up at every 2nd conversation is what are the limitations that face us and why are we stuck in 19th century mode on various aspects. What do we need to do to propel us into the 21st century and get with the program? Before I get into what I see and feel, let me make my stance clear. There are many topics, aspects and discussions I get involved in that are taboo in many circles. Until we understand and realise that without conversations, communication and discussion – nothing changes, we will not change that which limits us. There are 2 sides to every coin and in following belief systems, some are expansive and some extremely limiting. We have innumerable traditional, cultural, religious, status, class, social, tribal, gender equality, community and family belief systems. This can cause much confusion if we stick to a belief that was necessary 100 years ago and out of date today as an example.

Because something has been done for 2 or 3 generations does not make it automatically right. What may have worked and the reasons why are based on a different way of life many moons ago. It is not only important but necessary that we question where a lot of our beliefs come from. Many are based on oppression due to the colonised mind that created us, people of colour, as the secondary or insignificant human ready to salute to superiority. Many beliefs are based on people living in small, tight communities as the population was sparse. People had to create these close-knit circles for survival and keeping the wealth amongst a people. Countless beliefs also came when orthodox religion was brought to us from different parts of the world. These religions took away our inherent belief in nature, in the rain, mountain, river, sun, moon gods and made us bow down to a MAN who runs a ‘house of God’. The umpteen mistranslations of the verse based on personal bias cannot be qualified or quantified. Some of our beliefs come from those in authority that want to keep us locked into belief systems that provide them with the power of control over our lives.

Two very destructive patterns that I have observed since my return home last year are: The Poverty mindset and the Culture of Silence.

In conclusion, here is what I know. Until we start changing some of these so-called disruptive bad habits and patterns, until we take responsibility individually and collectively, become accountable, face consequences regardless of good-bad or ugly, replace those who have no values with those who do, we will keep chasing the same ghosts of the old constitution. To implement the new constitution we need to ward of some very old un-serving limitations that are not current. Time waits for no woman or man! Let us start by taking out the spokes in our personal wheels, start redefining and re-evaluating where we operate from individually and look at how best to create a NEW KENYA from ME to WE!!!

Goodbye 2017 – Blog by Bikozulu

Posted on January 18th, 2018
Categories: News

 A hysterical blog post by a Kenyan Blogger – http://www.bikozulu.co.ke/

Goodbye 2017

I didn’t post anything last week because I was thinking. I was seated at my desk at home, leaning all the way back in my chair and staring out the window dreamily. I have a massive wall to wall window that overlooks the verandah of the neighbouring apartments. There was a bird standing in the opposite balcony. She had just done her nails. She was leaning on the balcony, balls of cotton wool stuck between her toes, rifling through her phone. I could hear her nails dry. She couldn’t see me through my sheers, but I could see her which technically made me a peeping Jack. She had on her house clothes; tired-looking track bottoms and a well worn t-shirt. She had a physicality about her that seemed to magnify in the sun.

My mind drifted. I thought to myself, I would like to run away to some place. Some place far away. Some place with a beach and an old boat with paint peeling off the sides. A boat that is constantly moored at the shore and gets slapped slapped by waves. Sometimes children play in it. Sometimes it gathers puddles of water when it rains. Other days a bearded, wiry old man sits there, sucking on a homemade cigarette wedged between his bony fingers, looking out at sea through eyes that look cataracted. A boat whose owner nobody knows. A boat without a name.

But I can’t run away to a place like that now because our coastline is now choked with Nairobians on holiday. Do you know the most common thing guests at hotel buffets at the coast say in the mornings now? Come on, don’t be lazy, guess.

“You look familiar.”

And this is when you are waiting for your waffles to be done. Another person from Nairobi in his beach shorts. Now you have to stand there with your waffles growing cold as you guys run through all the places you might have seen each other.

Maseno?

No, I was in Moi…uhm, Caribea? [It always goes back to bars]

No, I don’t go there, well maybe once for Gogo’s birthday last year.

Gogo? The one who sings?

No, that’s Gogo Simo. This one is Gogo, just Gogo. He’s a farmer, or rather, he farms for people who are too busy or too posh to get mud on their shoes. His company is called Tukalime.com

That’s an interesting concept. [He turns to the chef] Yes, omelette…. everything but ham…just a little green pepper. Yeah, that’s enough. Make it well done. [Back to you] Do you work at KCB?

No. Do you?

No. But I bank with them so I thought maybe you are a teller.

Haha. No. I don’t count money. I spend it.

Haha. Boss…

[His face lights up and he snaps his fingers]Queens? You go to Queens?!

Er, No.

[A baby shows up and starts pulling at his shorts] “I want more juice! I want that green juice!”Is that your daughter?

Nah, I don’t even know whose kid this is.

[The little insists] “Dad! I want that green juice!! That one!!”But she is calling you dad…

I have never seen this child in my life. She’s been following me since we checked in jana.

Aaah, then let’s move away from her.

So, no. Coast isn’t what I was thinking about. That boat without a name might be there but so are people who go to Queens.

I swung away from the window and Whatsapped a friend.

“If you were given one chance to run away, where would you go?”

I stared at the message. It remained grey tick for a over a minute, so I gave up waiting and swung back to the window. The bird with balls of cotton wool between her toes had gone, carrying her drying nails with her. My view was now a white wall, reflecting the sun. The sun shone brightly but not harshly. I nibbled on my pen. Then I heard a message come in.

“Phu Quoc,” she wrote.

I quickly Googled Phu Quoc: Small island off the coast of Cambodia, in the gulf of Thailand. Damn. What a coincidence. It seemed like a place that would have an old boat moored at the beach.

“I think this is the kind of place that has a boat that nobody uses,” I wrote.

“Ooooookaay…”

“A boat without a name.”

She started typing. Then stopped. Then started typing again. Then she typed and typed and I wanted to ask her, what the hell are you typing for that long, a dissertation? There are people you can’t chat with because they write long blocks of chats instead of chats in each line. They make chatting so arduous because you have to sit and watch them type a bloody scroll. Does it kill people to write one line then another then another? Then what’s with the stopping while typing? Type and send. Type and send. Type and send. Goodness!

She was still typing. Then she stopped typing. Finally her message came in.

“Imagine I can’t swim?” she wrote. Goodness grief! She typed for three hours to write she can’t swim? I bet she also can’t ride a bicycle. Or make good dough for mandazi. Or can’t whistle. There are people who can’t whistle; they fold their tongues out and try very hard to whistle but only air comes out. And you say God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

I wrote: “By the way, how long can you have balls of cotton between your toes before the polish dries?”

“What??”

I put away my phone and turned to the laptop and wrote about the highlights of my 2017.

Here we go,not in any order of importance.

Tamms
Here is how I knew Tamms is slowly getting into that womanhood zone. I was in a bar on a Friday night. About 9pm Tamms Whatsapps me and says, “Papa, my stomach is paining.” She had been acting very needy because her mom had travelled and she was feeling abandoned and so she kept saying her stomach was paining. She took Relcer for her hyperacidity and I told her to sleep early and dream of nice things like strawberry. Now she was texting again.

“How bad is the pain on a scale of 1 to 10” I texted back, “1 being ‘not bad’ and ten being OH MY GOD, MY STOMACH HURTS SO BAD I WANT TO REMOVE IT AND PUT IT IN THE FREEZER!”

“What do you mean?” she wrote back curtly.(Either she has no sense of humor or she never wants to laugh at my jokes.)

“I mean, how bad is the pain, darling?”

“I want to go to the hospital,” she wrote back.

I whatsapped her mom because mothers know what should be done. “Take her if it will calm her down,” she texted back. I was secretly hoping she would say, “It’s fine, she just needs to sleep, if it persists in the morning take her.”

“Okay, dress up, I will be there to pick you up at 10:15pm,” I Whatsapped Tamms.

Then I went back to my drink. At 9:45 pm she Whatsapped me.

“Is there jam?”

“Jam for bread?”

“No, traffic jam.” (See? I can never make her laugh.)

“No, why, darling?”

“Because I’m waiting.” (She’s as impatient as me.)

I wanted to write to her, “What time is it where you are? Because where I am – IN KENYA – it’s still 9:45pm. But that would have made me a bad father. So I downed my drink and went and picked her up and we went to Aga Khan’s pediatric clinic and at the nurses station they took her vitals (all fine) and asked her to go step on the weighing scale. The male nurse was an enthusiastic, young, cool guy, probably fresh out of nursing school. Great with children too. He even made Tamms chuckle, which is something I do once a year if I’m lucky. Maybe she was just chuckling to play me against the nurse or maybe she just found him funny. Whatever it was I was going to be a bigger person because I had had two doubles, so I was in a very happy place.

Anyway, we went to that weighing scale and she chucked her shoes and stepped on the scale and it read 50kgs. I wanted to say “Darling, just how heavy was your dinner?” but I didn’t. Here is the thing, she asked me how many kilograms she was and I told her 50kgs and for a brief moment there I saw in her eyes what I believed was panic or disappointment. “Is that a lot?” she asked casually and I said, “No, that’s okay, I’m 87kgs, that’s a lot.”
“But you are big,” she said and it didn’t hurt my feelings one bit because I had had some whisky and I was in a good place with my 87kgs.

That 50kgs then hung between us like an unspoken taboo. Nobody wanted to touch it. It hung in the car as we drove back after midnight, her snoring softly on the passenger seat and me afraid to drive over 50km/hr.

MY BEST FEEL-GOOD STORY OF 2017
I wrote this story about my grandmother on IG/Facebook in May. She’s knocking on 90. I wrote about how she thinks I’m a boss at Nation. How she thinks I know Raila personally, like I can call him. How she is convinced I know many important people. I said how I shamelessly and unapologetically perpetuate this belief of a poor old woman. I tremendously enjoyed writing that piece. They are pieces I write with immense love. This piece about her was one of them.
One of my cousins told her I had written about her on this strange thing called the internet and now “eeeeeevrrybody” knows about her, she is famous! She called me so happy and excited, to ask me if it was true that I wrote about her on the newspaper (she can’t wrap her head around what the internet is) and now the whole world knows about her. I lied to her again, I said “Yes it’s true, the whole world now knows about you.” She laughed so much and felt so good and I felt so good. I think at her age it is such small things that give her a reason to smile in her world of arthritis and aching back and an empty homestead with only her cows and framed pictures of her children on the wall (half of them dead) for company.
Today I will be seeing her in shags and I will show her the story from my Instagram and read her all those comments. So please if you want to send shout-outs to my grandma, do so here Instagram posttell her she is still young and beautiful. She will love that. Who wouldn’t?

MY BEST BUSINESS DAILY INTERVIEW – 2017
Joe Mutugu, CFO, Old Mutual. HERE. Business Daily Africa

He’s a recovering alcoholic who was peaking in his career but then plunged into the watery arms of alcoholism and then dusted himself off and got back on the horse. He allowed himself to be vulnerable during the interview. And when we really got into it, he was so raw and honest talking about his problem with booze and how it felt to be down and out. There wasn’t enough space to capture this man’s essence in 1000 words. He needed pages and pages because he’s like tons of us; functional alcoholics who wear suits and because we drink single malts our problem isn’t termed as a problem.

Speaking of booze…

“DRUNK”
I wrote a small book. I spent a year writing it. I respect people who write books, because that shit sucks everything from you. It’s laborious.In fact, it’s like labour, because you forget how painful it was and you keep going back like I want to do in 2018. You can buy the book here Fireplace or here Amazon I will be printing a few copies because some people say they can’t read books on devices comfortably. They want to smell the characters. Look out for that.

BEST TRAVEL DESTINATION
Nobody in their right mind goes to Europe for the beaches, not when we have Watamu. But should you ever find yourself in Barcelona and you have a day to kill, take a train to the small coastal town of Sitges, an hour away. It’s a small charming seaside town with little cafes and restaurants and narrow cobblestone streets that open to the beach area. We sat in the verandah of a makeshift cafe at the beach. Before us were tourists and locals sunbathing and reading in their loungers and recliners. It seemed like a normal beach tableau, save for one thing; nobody was wearing a bra…including the men who should have been in bras. If you go with company and you are a breasts-man you are in trouble, buddy. Because then you have to pretend that you aren’t noticing the myriad breasts walking up and down the beach, from the ones pointing up at the sky from their the lounge beds to the ones pointing true north.

I didn’t like the beach because of those topless birds, I liked it because they served fantastic grilled sardines and prawns and amazing burgers and our waiter was ever so curious about Africa. I drunk bourbon, ate enough sardines to start a fish farming business in me and napped on and off until sunset.

MY WORST INTERVIEW – 2017
Most people in the public light have two faces; there is the face they show the media and then there is the face of who they really are. The most deluded of these people are those have forgotten to separate the two and, as a result, have come to believe they really are who they show the media. These are people who have bought into their own façade. What this means is that an ugliness normally simmers just below the surface of this charade. This particular woman was one them. She said things on the record then she went home and freaked out and demanded to see the copy before it ran. She threatened us with lawsuits and bullied us and became this extremely ugly person who was a complete departure from the person I had met. Hers was a textbook case of delusion of grandeur. I hardly regret meeting people I run into in the course of work, but I deeply regret meeting her. Her story is the one story I am embarrassed to have my byline run under and I emailed her and I told her as much.

MY BEST BLOG STORY God is a Gentleman loved writing it because I didn’t know how to write it. I felt unworthy to touch her story. And when Lydia came to Java to meet me – with a face carved by the merciless knives of her tragic past – I suspected she didn’t come alone. I think God sat there next to her to listen to her account because sometimes when I think of God I think he likes to show off just a bit.

MY MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT DURING INTERVIEW- 2017
I went out to Kaddu Siwe Ssebunya’s house in Karen to interview him. He’s the president of Africa Wildlife Foundation. Very fresh and sharp Ugandan guy. There are massive and tastefully furnished houses that never feel like home. Kaddu’s wasn’t one of them. It was that kind of house you want to and say, “I could live here,” because it has a warmth to it. It’s a home, not a house.

So we are in the middle of the interview when his two children troop in from school (it was their holiday break) herded by a young and strikingly beautiful lady. They are those children who go to those posh schools. They were so self-assured and well-spoken. You know them, those children who make eye contact? The children hugged their father and he introduced me to them and they all had small excited banter before leaving.

Anyway, we go back to the interview and I ask Kaddu, “was that your daughter?” and he grins and says, “No, that’s my wife.” You could feel my foot getting shoved into my mouth all the way from the end of the Southern Bypass. “She is beautiful and so youthful!” I muttered. He laughed because everybody wants to know their woman is arresting. “I married well,” he said modestly.

I wanted to hide behind one of his paintings.

TURNING 40
I carried my own bottle of whisky onto this yacht in Santorini, Greece. The yacht sails around the neighbouring islands the whole day, stopping by some islands for people to swim and what not. It was the morning of my 40th and I didn’t want to partake of the complimentary beverages offered on the yacht – basically beers, wines, some odd spirits etc. I was the only black skin there, and I got on board with my own box of Glenmorangie tucked under my arm like it was an important map to a treasure island.

Boy didn’t the mzungus stare?!

I didn’t care. I was 40 years and two hours old, I had paid to be there and I wasn’t about to drink complimentary whisky that I wasn’t going to enjoy. I sat next to this siren on the deck, lying down, drinking, going down to fetch food, drinking, listening to music. Midway through, an old couple (Americans) started conversing with me. The nice lady said her husband loved whisky so I poured him two fingers. He loved it. Then these two Asian/ American couple started a conversation. She said, “He knows all about his whisky,” which is like saying, “He has been staring at your whisky since you opened it, won’t you pour for him a bit? He is embarrassing me.” So I poured some for him. He loved it. Later, at lunch downstairs someone said, “It’s his birthday, he is turning 40!” then the whisky lovers thrust their glasses at me for a fill. Then they sang that silly happy birthday song and I blushed a little because I hate that kind of attention, but I was 40, when else is a group of white folk going to sing a happy birthday song for me on a yacht off the beautiful islands of Greece?

There is a moral here. If you drink lots of whisky in the sun on a moving boat, you will imagine that boat will never dock and when it does, you will step on solid ground and you will turn to the person next to you and ask, “Wait, do you feel the earth move?”

LONGEST ASSIGNMENT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN
I visited Maseru, Lesotho in May. I was staying at this hotel called Avani Lesotho and Casino. It started raining when I landed. It rained the whole of that afternoon which meant I couldn’t go out for my assignment because the hills were muddy. Thankfully the hotel was very posh and my room was something so I stayed in and sat facing the Caledonspoort border of South Africa beyond the hills. At night I went to the bar and had dinner and eavesdropped on boring bar conversations of chaps in seminars . It rained the whole night, which meant my assignment was impossible during the morning. Next morning, I walked for an hour down to their small CBD to roam about in the very slight beautiful drizzle. I bought tracksuit pants in a local store and walked back to the hotel. It rained all afternoon and I wrote up in my room then came down later and flirted with Fifi, a female staff member, who possibly saved me from going brain dead from boredom. My assignment, by this time, was dead in the water. Then a Kenyan lady I had interviewed ages ago – Mary Njoroge – saw my IG post and said, “Biko, I work here! Where are you!” I was super excited; Kenyans!!! Kenyans! It was like seeing a ship after bobbing at sea on a small dinghy with no water or food.

So they came to my hotel and we had dinner at the Chinese restaurant next to the Casino. The next day I flew back with no story to speak of.

KIM STARTING SCHOOL
You pay a tidy sum of money for them to go and colour within the boundaries, sing, slide, eat and then nap in the afternoon. They wear oversized shorts and these colourful bags and Bubblegummers which are the ugliest shoes children will ever wear because they look like unfinished sea vessels but they are hardy. Besides, those kids don’t to go school to catwalk, they go to sleep in the afternoons.

And it’s beautiful to see them start and catch colds and flu from other people’s children and when you go to pick them up they look like the school has a mine where they are forced to work for free. The best part is when you find all of them in the corner of the classroom, sleeping shoeless, some snoring, others’ legs spread wide, a clutch of little people starting life with power naps.

WALKING WITH LIONS
You can pay some money to go to Johannesburg and walk with lions. I don’t know why anyone would do that. I did it because I was getting paid, otherwise I wouldn’t have. I’m black. Plus, World Animal Protection (WAP) doesn’t like it when people walk with lions or kiss giraffes, or kick stray dogs. I bet when they saw that picture of people burying dogs many people at WAP got migraines the whole week. Some took leave to go pray. Would I walk with a lion again? Yes, if they can spell my name.

WORST DAY IN 2017
I woke up one morning to find someone had tweeted (twat?) me: Toni has married Birdman. I remember thinking, “Nooo, she can’t do that. She can’t marry that primate.” But she did. My day never recovered from that news. Neither have I.

THANK YOU
Thank you the editors here, Linda, Mutanu and Ochieng for cleaning my mess here with your big hearts. Thanks to my dutiful travel agents Wahu and Catherine of Saffara Travel Ltd, for always pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Wahu particularly for being ever so patient about my obsession with Exit Seats. Thank you, Jo, for being the unofficial eye in the sky and for always calling my bullshit. Thank you, Vera and Alex of Moran Capital Management for always knowing where to place my eggs because left to my own devices I would fry them.

BEST PEOPLE IN 2017
You guys. No, I mean it. You could be doing a million things with your lives on Tuesdays but you come here and give me your time and it’s mostly a laugh. I appreciate your numerous emails and your wide ranging comments. I know everybody despises the first-to-comment brigade but come on, every family have that special child and it’s our duty to show them love and to continue praying for them.

As per our tradition, I will give you an opportunity to ask me anything between now and 5pm today and I will answer. Nothing personal surely. Don’t ask me what you wouldn’t answer yourself. So then, no mention of foreheads.

Assuming that this post has been posted at 10am sharp, I’ve probably just landed in Kisumu and I’m probably driving to shags as we speak, so I might not respond immediately to the comments, but when I arrive in shags (which is NOT Kisumu!!!) I will sit under a tree and get cracking on my laptop.

Thank you again for reading and for being absolute sports, have a wonderful holiday and stay safe. Shall we meet here again on the 9th of January, if God agrees?

So long, fancy pants.

A heart warming story of overcoming adversity in Kenya

Posted on January 17th, 2018
Categories: News

I met a homeless addict and recognised my childhood friend

By Megha Mohan
BBC Stories
Wanja and Hinga eat lunch together. Hinga's eyes are bulging and he looks emaciated and disturbed.Image copyrightWANJA MWAURA

A chance meeting between two childhood friends helped one begin a journey back from drug addiction after many years living on the street.

It was early October and Wanja Mwaura, 32, was on her way to the market in Lower Kabaete, not far from Nairobi, when she heard someone shout out her name.

She looked up and was surprised to see a tall man with bulging eyes, an emaciated frame, dirtied black overalls and an equally stained thick woollen hat, sitting on the side of the road. She did not recognise him.

But when Patrick “Hinga” Wanjiru, 34, introduced himself, Wanja says she found herself in shock. Standing before her was a friend she had known since she was seven years old.

“Patrick, or Hinga as we called him, and I had met at primary school in 1992,” says Wanja, who is a nurse from Kiambu County, just outside the Kenyan capital.

“Hinga used to be a great soccer player all throughout school. We nicknamed him ‘Pele’.”

Wanja and Hinga sit on the side of the road, she is touching his head.Image copyrightWANJA MWAURA

Hinga was estranged from his parents and lived with his grandmother in a squat. When she couldn’t afford to pay his school fees, he was forced to skip classes. Eventually they were evicted even from the squat. But against all the odds, Hinga did well in his exams, until his grandmother died – then he dropped out of school and his life began to take a downward trajectory.

Hinga started abusing drugs, first marijuana and then heroin. He spent hours sifting through garbage to find things he could sell on the streets.

Hinga and Wanja lost touch.

Wanja and Hinga hug in the street.Image copyrightWANJA MWAURA

When they met again, more than 15 years later, Hinga had been homeless for more than a decade. He looked nothing like the childhood friend who had once been known as “Pele”.

Sensing Wanja’s dismay, Hinga reassured her that he had only wanted to say hello. She asked him if she could buy him lunch. At a local cafe, she ordered the dish she remembered had been his favourite years earlier – pork ribs and mashed potatoes. She said he appeared distracted, unable to finish sentences.

“I gave him my mobile telephone number and told him to call me if he needed anything,” Wanja says.

Over the next couple of days, Hinga borrowed phones and would regularly call his childhood friend, often just to hear her voice for a chat. He told her that he was committed to getting clean from drugs.

“I decided then, that something needed to be done to help him,” Wanja says.

Wanja and Hinga sit on a desk indoors as she teaches him from a book. Hinga is smiling.Image copyrightWANJA MWAURA

Taking to social media, Wanja appealed to her friends to see if she could raise funds for drug rehabilitation.

“Rehab here is very expensive and I had no ways of raising funds on my own,” she says.

“We set up a crowdfunding page, but we only managed to raise around 41,000 Kenyan shillings (£300) initially. However the cost of nine days rehabilitation at Chiromo Lane Medical Center in Nairobi was more than 100,000 KES.

“I wasn’t sure how we would be able to cover this.”

But Wanja had promised to help Hinga, so she took him to the centre anyway, unsure how they would cover the cost.

Wanja and Hinga hug. Hinga has completed his 9 day detox and looks healthier.Image copyrightWANJA MWAURA

A spokesperson for the rehab programme says Hinga was a dedicated patient, who committed fully to the nine-day detox.

Within days Hinga had gained weight and his concentration improved. Wanja took to Facebook to speak about her pride at her friend’s transformation in such a short period of time.

“A week ago Hinga and I couldn’t hold a normal conversation without me trying to hold his head up with my hand in order for him to concentrate. Today we can have a normal conversation with him confidently looking at me,” she wrote.

Mombasa businessman Fauz Khalid spotted Wanja’s public post on Facebook and said he wanted to share the story on a wider platform. He posted the photos on Twitter and his post has now been shared more than 50,000 times.

After that, the Kenyan media began to cover the story and Chiromo Lane Medical Center agreed to waive the entire fee for Hinga’s treatment.

Wanja says this was “a blessing”, but she was keen for her friend to undergo a more sustained recovery, and is now raising funds for him to follow a 90-day programme at The Retreat Rehabilitation Centre, where he is currently staying.


Heroin in Kenya

  • It is estimated that between 20,000 and 55,000 Kenyans inject heroin but Kenya does not have a government-funded rehabilitation facility
  • According to the International Drugs Policy Consortium, heroin was used first in cities which were transit points (such as Mombasa) before spreading to Nairobi and other parts of the country
  • The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse, a Kenyan government research body, says it is monitoring 25,000 intravenous drug users around the country – the number of people who snort heroin could be even higher, according to the Anti-Narcotics Unit officials
  • Most of the world’s heroin is produced in Afghanistan, and reaches markets in Europe and North America via Central Asia and the Balkans – but the quantity of heroin seized off the coast of Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania has increased exponentially in the last eight years, leading the UN to conclude that the “Southern Route” is growing in importance

Wanja and Hinga, who is giving thumbs up sign and looking happy sitting on chairs at rehab centre.Image copyrightWANJA MWAURA

“Unfortunately, there is still great stigma around drug abuse in Kenya,” Wanja says. This may be one reason why the government doesn’t provide free drug rehab treatment.

“Rehabs are expensive and out of reach for many people, not only in Kenya but also the greater part of Africa. I am committed to crowdsourcing so I can support my friend at this time,” says Wanja.

“Wanja is an angel sent from God. I owe her my life. She has stuck with me more closely than a brother or a sister,” Hinga tells the BBC.

On Twitter several users echoed this sentiment. Abraham Wilbourne‏, a financial analyst from Nairobi, told Wanja “You have a seat in heaven!” Many called her a “mashujaa”, which means “hero” in Swahili.

“People say I changed Hinga’s life, but he changed mine too.” says Wanja. “I realise now that a small act can change a person’s life.”

Join the conversation – find us on FacebookInstagramSnapchat and Twitter.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41715839

RAZOR GIRL book review by Claire Minns

Posted on November 24th, 2017
Categories: News

 RAZOR GIRL by Carl Hiaasen

The author, Carl Hiaasen, was first recommended to me by Dudley, one of my more erudite London friends – the sort that have at least four books on the go. He told me that he first read one of Hiaasen’s books while on a flight to somewhere. He nearly fell out of his seat with laughther and consequently upset his gin and tonic, which we all know, is not a laughing matter.

I’m not usually drawn to comic fiction but Carl Hiaasen is a master story teller, albeit quirky with crazy plots, crazier characters and anti-heroes. They are crime novels but “not as we know it”.

Razor Girl is set in Florida. In fact all Hiaasen screwball adventures are based in the Sunshine State where the author was born and raised. Another Hiassen trait is his dramatic openings. They “hit you like the first blast of hot sticky air on a Florida morning” as far as the New York Times book reviewer, T Rafferty is concerned.

Razor Girl doesn’t disappoint.

This hilarious tale kicks off with a redhead who rams her car onto an unsuspecting motorist whilst simultaneously shaving, what polite society would describe, her bikini line!

Notwithstanding this madness, Hiaasen further includes characters such as a personal injury lawyer hooked on deodorant with Viagra properties, a guy who steals sand to replenish beaches, plus various mobsters and dubious Hollywood agents.

Razor Girl may not be to everyone’s taste but it will certainly put a smile on your face.

If you are having trouble finding books for your children, Carl Hiaasen also writes children’s fiction. Do not fear, however, the plots are not quite as risqué as his adult versions! One such book that had my 12 year old thoroughly engaged was Chomp.

The Art of Self-Exploration by Tazim Elkington

Posted on November 2nd, 2017
Categories: News

As we discuss exploration and its myriad faces in all and every aspect of life, discovering and learning are the direct outcomes of any new encounter we choose. Suffice to say that we have evolved to a place where the need/want and requirement to go within is now becoming a big part of our culture. What does it really mean to begin the journey inward to the self? It is an Art that begs demystifying as there are so many forms and methods that offer the possibility of self-exploration.

What is the necessity for doing this? Why is it no longer acceptable to exist on auto-pilot? The responses to these questions are simple; we cannot afford to live a mediocre, conditioned, imposed life anymore. As the world evolves at an exponential rate through technology, art, business, globalization and beyond; we must take responsibility of where we each operate from to accelerate the momentum and evolve consciously. These are not just words on a page and a woo-woo way of thinking. This is a reality that requires individual commitment towards the higher and collective good for humanity at its most primordial and advanced levels.

Each one of us is made from the same stuff and what differentiate us are the realities we create in our mind. These are translated through our five sensory perceptions added to the sixth most important sense – the mind. This beautiful place in our brain that is the storage converter of all our experiences and input endeavors to seek its own truth continuously. How incredible is it that we now understand that being conscious can boomerang and multiply the process?

As we seek a better understanding of the sixth and infinitely most important sense, the mind, we create a pathway down the road less traveled. Our five senses, as important as they are, unbridled can cause absolute distraction and in many cases destruction. They keep us engaged in everything outside of us. The needs to taste, smell, hear, see and touch are pleasure centers that keep us wanting more and more. There is rarely an ‘enough’ or a ‘stop’ sign as we perfect the external input that temporarily satisfy our beings. We ‘feed’ each of the senses with all that we possibly can to avoid disillusions and dissatisfaction internally.

Taking into account that the mind is the hardware, how and what do we feed our minds? Do we take stock of what it has been fed? An alternative perspective would be to consider the parallels of the mind with the digestive system. When we eat, there is the digestion process and the body takes what it needs for the various components for physical growth and wellbeing. Then it eliminates what it does not need.
With our minds we keep eating everything and how do we eliminate that which does not contribute to our personal growth and evolution?
The process of self-exploration is therefore not only a necessity but a dire need to create a ground of wellbeing within ourselves. There are various ways in which to begin the process. Questioning what you believe is a great space to start. Everything that we have ever experienced has emotions tied to each experience. We either want more of that which makes us happy so we keep trying to recreate those experiences and do our best to avoid the emotions that cause distress. Why is then that we have more of what we don’t want and less of what we want? It’s the emotional entanglement that keeps us suspicious and entrenched in our pasts and creates the war between what we want and what we don’t.

Meditation, a secular non-religious practice of going inwards in silence, creates the space for us to unwind and de-stress. This gives the mind the possibility to go within and start eliminating daily stresses as well as de-layering the cognitive way we operate. This is one of the key elements to creating a quiet and restful space in the mind. In the complexity of 14 hour days and instant 24/7 downloads as well as constant activity where do you find the space for the mind to be mindful?

Tazim Elkington – The Indian Black Butterfly!

Paradigm Shifter, Trainer, Writer, Speaker, Hypnotherapist, Poet and Qreator of the ‘Q Factor’

Checkout my website: www.tazim.net – Video: A proud Kenyan woman

Mobile: +254-714-434-574

Truth is when what people think, say and do are in harmony!

 

The Book Club   –   Claire Minns

Posted on October 24th, 2017
Categories: News

So many books, so little time”. Frank Zappa.

One of the first recorded book clubs or societies, as they were referred to then, was formed in 1868 called Sorosis – not to be confused with cirrhosis, an affliction that could be quite apposite after attending too many modern day book clubs! However, I digress.

Sorosis was founded by a female columnist, Jane Cunningham when she and some of her colleagues were barred from a New York press event honouring Charles Dickens. Consequently, inspired by Sorosis, women across America began to form similar literary societies.

Jump to the Nineties, 1996 to be precise and we witness the advent of the Television Book club famously started by Oprah Winfrey where she selected on air, a book each month for viewers to read.

Following on in her footsteps, at the beginning of the Noughties, well known daytime presenters Richard and Judy in the UK also started a book club – the rest, as they say is history.

Today, women are no longer barred from many events or places except gentlemen’s clubs such as Whites of London and Kenya Fly Fishers Club’s annual bread chucking competition, sorry, dinner at the Muthaiga Club.

Instead we meet because of a sense of comradeship, love of reading and yes, if we’re honest, a spot of imbibing.

My husband still mistakes our book club for a wine club. As one male jokester quipped “My wife joined a book club. They primarily read wine labels”.

Nevertheless, aside from indulging in a glass or two and convivial bonding, one of the principal advantages of the book club is being introduced to a book you wouldn’t have ever dreamed of choosing.

One such book was recently foisted on us. It was about North Korea which didn’t sound too enticing. But it was. An engrossing, albeit harrowing read that has stuck with me. It’s called The Orphan Masters Son by Adam Johnson and incidentally, won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2013. I would never have found this gem without my book club.

There are various modus operandi for book clubs. The most common usually involves around six to eight members who try to meet once a month. Each member takes turns to choose a book to be read and discussed at the next mutually agreed date. If the book choice was a success we discuss it for at least 20 minutes or so before turning our attention to other vital issues such as whose child got into the first team, or which Ottolenghi recipe is most favoured! If the book choice has bombed then it might just command a few minutes maximum of our deserving deliberations – cruel, but fair. Whoever chooses the book buys them for their group.

Receiving a pristine new book each month is a real treat. To feel that wonderful anticipation of a riveting read, after glancing the glowing reviews on the back cover.

Usually I rely on a Kindle to satisfy my reading addiction, mainly due to the ease with which you can acquire any book when there isn’t a Waterstones nearby! In contrast, it’s a pleasure to have a physical book that once read, you can then put proudly on your bookshelf.

I leave you with a quotation from the late, great Groucho Marx:

Outside of the dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read!”