Last week, we had a class trip to see the UNESCO Heritage Site of Shirakawago Villages. On the way there, we stopped at Takayama (I hope I remember this correctly) for a taste of what was ahead. Takayama is a smaller village of fewer houses, but no less magnificent.
The journey from Kanazawa to Shirakawago took about 3 hours by bus. The journey itself was quite interesting. Driving through the Japanese countryside in autumn is really breathtaking. The trees in the mountain forests are in an array of colours, the mountains themselves are magnificent even on a cloudy day, and we drove through on roads that seemed on the very edge of the mountains, imagine looking out of the window only to see a deep valley below! If you have driven through the Mai Mahiu range on the way to Naivasha or Narok, you know what I am talking about. And that drive lasts about 30 minutes to an hour, but picture it lasting 3 hours. The beauty of the landscape would be every photographer’s dream, Mutua Matheka, are you reading this? I cannot do it justice in my photos.
What is more, the changing seasons means that you can photograph the place all year round. In winter when everything is covered in white (snow); in the spring as the cherry blossoms bloom all over Japan; in the summer as the sun shines bright and in autumn, the current season, when trees are in golden colours. I would love to visit these traditional villages in winter and if my budget allows it, maybe stay for the night.
One thing about Japan is its strictness when it comes to garbage. At the villages, if you have plastic garbage, you have to go back with it. They can take recyclable garbage like cans or bottles, and combustible garbage like paper, but if you have plastic and metal junk, you have to carry it back with you. The whole of Japan is anal about garbage disposal anyway, consequently, it is a very clean country.
The air in the villages is refreshingly cool, clean and crisp. There are some people still living in these villages and you can only envy their simple life, save for the hordes of visitors poking their vehicles into their village every day.
So I have a few pictures of the trip to show to you. My current class consists of fellow foreign students who are also studying Japanese. The pictures are in no way touched up, I have no time or patience to edit pictures, the only thing I did was reduce their size (MB) because they were like 5MB. This greatly reduced their quality, but hope you will still enjoy. View the slide show by clicking on one image.
I landed in Japan on 1st of October and on 1st of November I was having a late lunch with my new friends at the nearby AEON foodcourt when we realized a month had passed already! In that one month, I have become so tired of the school cafeteria meals. So I went shopping for utensils and food to cook.
Generally, I am not a fan of cooking, although I love eating very much. I cook out of necessity and not the mere pleasure in the art of preparing the meal, but for this one time, I was totally excited and couldn’t wait to make my first meal in Japan. I got all my food (rice, fish, onions, tomatoes, etc..) from AEON (very big supermarket), as the fresh fish (food) market is 20 minutes by bus away.
How to prepare the fish? I wondered. I Googled some recipes but some were suggesting I broil it. I had to Google broiling but unfortunately I have neither an oven nor a broiler. That was when I remembered LeoTunapika run by my good friend, at least I could understand the ingredients and methods she uses, and could ask her for clarification if need be. So I decided to stew it, it looked quite simple, stewing fish in coconut milk. However, I did not have coconut milk but you will see how I solved this problem (and ended up ruining the stew) later. As for vegetables, my plan was to sprinkle some of them into the stew so they cook together, save energy, time and at the same time enhancing the stew flavour. Genius! So here is my recipe.
Recipe: Fish in No-Coconot Milk (Serves 2)
Ingredients: fish cut into pieces, onions, tomatoes, carrots, assorted veges, any other thing you want to include.
Defrost the fish, and while it is defrosting..
Cut up the onions, tomatoes, etc..
First, fry the onions in low (or is it medium, do whatever feels right) heat
Next, cut up the tomatoes and carrots and add them when the onions have cooked.
Detour: Do you guys know how hard it is to take pictures while cooking? I nearly dropped my phone into the stew, into the sink or onto the electric cooking pan!
Next, add the chopped stuff into the onions and let them cook for a few minutes.
Do you remember the assorted vegetables? So I got this pack of already chopped veges.. cabbages, carrots, mushrooms and some sea weed that’s a popular vegetable here. I picked a few and added to the pot.
Time to add them in:
Now, the next step is very critical.
Whatever you do, DO NOT substitute cow milk for coconut milk! I got this idea from home, because from time to time we add milk to fish stew and it is delicious. However, when I added the milk, it went sour immediately, sticking to the sides of the pot. I had come too far so I wanted to know how the end result will taste like.
Salt the fish lightly, then add the pieces into the stew. Let it simmer for a while.
Next, cook the rice. No recipe here! Just boil the rice, add some salt and a little oil.
I cannot multitask, generally speaking. I am the exception that proves the rule that all women can multitask. So I prepared the fish first, then the rice. However, it’s better to start with the rice, then as it requires no intervention while cooking, stew the fish so it all cooks around the same time.
After I set the rice to boil, I remembered then that I had some pilau masala I ought to have added to the stew. I added it to the rice instead to add some flavour: Japanese rice is sticky and tasteless, I miss pishori rice.
Now it was time to wait for the rice to be ready. I decided to set the table with my new crockery and cutlery. The wine can also be sipped as you wait for the rice to cook.
Fruits are really expensive in Japan. One apple costs like 250 Ksh. The cheapest are bananas at Ksh 150 for 3 bananas! This is bananas!
Finally, bring in the food for that final picture. Serve half, if you are alone, and save the rest for lunch/dinner the following day. Don’t forget to say the grace. In Japan, they say, itadakimas(u). Also, don’t forget to post on Instagram.
Verdict: It was average. The milk ruined the sauce, but the fish was tasty. The rice with some masala was OK. All washed down with wine, it was the perfect first meal!
Sometime last year, I learned that I was one of the four recipients of a scholarship by the Japanese government, to go to Japan and study whatever I wanted, in whichever institution I preferred. I have always wanted to travel and this was one chance I couldn’t let go, so here we are now. My travel date is 30th September (see countdown on top right).
After getting the scholarship, and of course during the interview process, I tried to familiarize myself with Japan, gathering as much information as I could over the internet. My geography lessons from high school were a bit hazy, only thing I could remember (like most of you) is that Japan is made up of a series of islands. Fact: Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands.
Here is a few facts:
Japan is the third richest country by GDP (nominal – don’t ask me what this means). The USA has the largest GDP, by far (it’s really a sub-continent), followed by China, then Japan.
Even if both countries, China and Japan, are rich by GDP, there is a fundamental difference between China and Japan. China is a third world (or second world if you look at its industralization) country; there are people living in extremely poor conditions in that country. Japan on the other hand, has very high standards of living for all her citizens, which makes her a first world country. I hear Japanese citizens who go to work in the USA demand a hardship allowance. They don’t have automated toilets in the US of A like in Japan.
Japan is also known as the land of the rising sun. That’s what the red dot on the white flag means.
Japanese is the main language used in Japan (obviously). Speaking it should be easy for a Kiswahili speaker like me. However, writing is another matter. The language uses 3 sets of characters, Kanji being one of them, as well as 2 sets of kana (hiragana & katakana). Kanji (Chinese characters) is mostly used for nouns (places & names). It is quite complex as a Kanji character could mean a whole concept. Hiragana is simpler as there are symbols to represent basic sounds, so you just combine these to make up the word, just like you do in Katakana. However, Katakana is mostly used to translate words from other languages. If I had to write my name, Savvy Kenya, I would write it in Katakana as なケニア or something close to that. (Confession: I used Google translate!)
The Japanese prime minister is Shinzō Abe. He is 59, tough and conservative. Read more about him in this guardian article
Japan’s population is decreasing. There is an increase in older people and a decrease in the younger people. The country is purported to have the highest proportion of elderly citizens; more than 24% are aged 65 or above, as of 2012. Japan has the lowest birth rate. The Economist set to find out why the Japanese are having so few babies.
Japan is still a conservative nation. For example, to quote the Economist: Only around 2% of babies are born outside marriage (compared with 30-50% in most of the rich world). On a related note, they have a strict sense of timing, I hear. I definitely need to up my game, when it comes to keeping time. However, they are very friendly and hardworking people, and I look forward to enjoying the hospitality
The car in front is always a Toyota, and it’s made in Japan. Okay, its owned by Japanese but manufacturing has probably been outsourced to China. You probably know this already.
Tokyo is the capital city – this you already know. To be honest I ran out of facts you didn’t know and got tired of googling hehe.. so bear with me, I will write more about the country while I am there. I will probably change the title of this blog to “Adventures From the East” or “Tales From the Land of the Rising Sun”. Which do you like better?
I composed this blog post in my head while I sat in traffic, contemplating my life. The radio was tuned into 1FM, it’s the only radio station that has a clear reception, since I am still using the Japanese frequencies that came with the car radio. The music is local and urban hits: basically modern African hits – Mafikizolo, Davido, Sauti Sol, Elani, Diamond Platinumz, Ali Kiba (mapenzi yana run dunia comes to mind) etc. But my thoughts drift…
Of course, he’s always on mind, especially if I am idle. I think about how he will start crying for me from the moment I drive through the gate, rushing towards me so I can pick him up then he smiles and tries to remove my spectacles. He’s already widened them beyond belief and now they hang limp and loose on my face. This means I have to remove them and then there is the delicate balancing act of my son, spectacles, keys, handbag, laptop bag and any groceries I may have bought. Usually, I make sure I drop anything else except Jeremy.
When in traffic, I think about what kind of life I want to give my son. Will I bring him up to be a kind, responsible man? Will I help him achieve his dreams and ambitions? Will I be the kind of mother he would be proud of? Can I set a good example for him to follow? How will I afford his school feels? What kind of schools will I take him to? In fact, where in the world will I bring him up? (This will be relevant when you read later thoughts).
I’m grateful everyday for the support of my parents, I’m still living with them and in a way they are parenting both of us. Will I make it when I move out and start on my own? How tough is this single parenthood journey?
Then I relax and decide it will be a journey, one day at a time, and things will always work out, they always do for me, in the end.
Which leads to finances. I have been working in formal employment for almost 2 years now, but I have little to no savings. Start saving now, they say, while you are still young, no matter how much you earn. It is not easy, I must admit. I live a subsistence kind of life; my salary only sustains me as far as the next salary. I need a side hustle that brings in good money. Or a better job, which will of course mean I increase my expenses and we are back to subsistence. How can I make more money? I ask myself.
I am not the type of person who would depend on another for money & security, I always know I will make my own money. And when we speak with friends, we tell ourselves, can we really make enough in formal employment? Business is the way to go, we agree. Entrepreneurship. Some of my friends are already running their own businesses. Some are working, like me. Not many have the courage to be entrepreneurs, not many were meant to be entrepreneurs.
Which leads me to ask myself, do I like what I am doing? Is it leading me to the path of riches and accomplishments (vain thoughts?)
Do I want to continue working in Ernst & Young in IT audit and consultancy? Is there a future for me here, right now?
Then I remember the decision was already made for me. I have already tendered my resignation letter but will be here for the next 2 months, then have my last working day in early September. I am leaving EY to go back to school. See next train of thought.
Did the time I invested in learning at Strathmore, courtesy of the Safaricom Academy worth it? Definitely. I learned not only mobile programming in all platforms (USSD, Android etc), but also project management, business skills, entrepreneurship, leadership and management. I know I will apply them not only now but also in the future, especially when I set up my own business to make more money so I can better take care of my son (all thoughts center around the same issues, as you can see!)
Japan, October 2014
As you wonder why I am resigning from my job with a reputable, international firm, I will tell you to stop wondering.. here’s why.
I got a Japanese Ministry of Culture and Education (MEXT) scholarship to go and study in Japan, at a university of my choice. I decided to go because I have always wanted to travel, and I’m going to the East first, conquer the world one country at a time. So I am going to the School of Information Science at JAIST to major in Artificial Intelligence. Another MSc. For like 2 years. But I’m young enough, with 2 years of work experience.. and I like studying, and will probably end up in (industry) research. Every tech company worth its salt has invested in research. (Edit: I found out I can do PhD directly, no need for a second PhD. This blogger will be staying in Japan for at least 4 years, including the months she will spend learning some basic Japanese before embarking on her research!)
So I’m leaving in early October, hopefully, fingers crossed. I’ll leave Jeremy and Bella in my mother’s loving arms, then when I’m settled, I’ll send for J. For the next 2.5 years that I will be in Japan, I couldn’t possibly leave my son behind that long! I will have to do everything possible to reunite us.
My friend Pitz tells me a woman is her most attractive at 26. He says there was research carried out, apparently. Or is it a survey? So as you see me today, I am at the height of my attractiveness hehe.. so where are those serious men? How will my ambitions to travel and see and work anywhere the world, to study etc.. how will these ambitions converge with another? Is there someone out there whose path will cross mine? Is it okay if I am not even contemplating marriage? Is it okay if I decide I don’t have to “settle down” and can live the rest of my life in single motherhood?
The thing about relationships is that it’s not your decision alone to make. So until someone else comes along whose decisions I want to be a part of, and vice versa, I shall reserve my stall my train of thought here….
By the time, traffic has started to move, but oh wait, it was just a teaser. The cop halts the flow of traffic after 2 or 3 cars. We sit and wait.. and I finally decide it’s time I solved the Rubik’s cube that I’ve been learning to these past few weeks, in between reading books (I am currently reading the Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and I am yet to write the review for Den of Inequities by Kinyanjui Kombani), blogging, meeting friends for coffee, and squeezing in some hours of work between commuting to work in the morning and commuting home in the evening..
The cube is just about solved when traffic finally moves and I zoom home to my family, hooting at bad drivers, cursing at those who cut me off in traffic, and nodding to Elani’s kookoo.. I’m going kookookoo so kookoo coz I…aiaiai love you…… turning up the volume of my Japanese radio.
WordCamp is an informal gathering of WordPress enthusiasts, bloggers, podcasters, developers and designers. The event will bring all these people together, under one roof, for 2 days. November 10th and 11th at Maanzoni Lodge, Mombasa Road. As Kenya gets close to the first general elections after the 2008 violence, the online community needs more than ever to embrace positive and responsible engagement. This will be the theme for this year’s WordCamp Kenya 2012.
For those who did not attend WordCamp last year, I can tell you you missed a lot of fun and learning. It was held at Fisherman’s Camp in Naivasha around the same time.
With time, I will blog about the topics, the speakers, and the interactive sessions that will definitely characterize this year’s WordCamp. I can’t wait.
Each WordCamp Kenya 2012 ticket admits one person and covers the following:
Meals for 2 days during the conference
Soft drinks during the conference
WordCamp Kenya T-Shirt
2 day Conference
Lodge accommodation (Each room has 2 beds, 2 persons per room)
Return transport from Nairobi city center to Maanzoni Lodge
Last weekend (the one before the most recent one), I was on the road to Mombasa, imagining how AFC Leopards was going to extend the unbeaten run to 24 matches after beating Tusker FC at Mbaraki Stadium. I rallied my friends in Nairobi to travel with me, and called up my friend Veeh in Mombasa for her first stadium experience!
Needless to say, Tusker beat us 2-0, ending our unbeaten match run. However, we still remained on top of the league, and we’re the team to watch for the Kenya Premier League title in 2012.
My advice? Do not emotionally over-invest in a team. It can break your heart. Possibly your phone in the process.
The loss humbled us Ingwe Fans, possibly bringing some sanity into our heady and lofty expectations!
Karuturi Sports vs AFC Leopards: Moving On.. to a Draw in Naivasha
Yesterday, Sunday 29th April, we Leopards took the fight to Naivasha. We played Karuturi Sports at their grounds in Naivasha. In spite of an early lead that they had, we equalized in the second half via a header from Erique Masika (the defender we got from Gor Mahia for a KPL record of Kshs. 450,000)
Unfortunately I was not able to attend the Naivasha match, meaning out of the 12 games we have played this season, I have attended 10 and missed 2. Which is sad because I wanted a perfect attendance record.
The Nokia C1
If I had money right now, I would head to the nearest Samsung shop and get myself another S II. It was a fantastic phone. Even now, if you press the power button hard enough, you can feel the response, and the menu&back buttons light up. I may take it to the Samsung shops to see if the can revive it but I’m not having high hopes.
In the meanwhile, I have replaced Calypso with Baby-C, a Nokia C1-01, whose review will be coming soon!
This year, one of my plans is to watch all of AFC’s Leopards matches. Out of 9 matches I have watched 8. I felt bad when I missed the match against Western Stima in Mumias two weeks ago, but I had to visit a former classmate who had lost her sister. Sometimes your friends come first.
This time, AFC Leopards (Ingwe) was playing against Rangers FC in Mumias on Sunday at 3pm. I was not going to miss it. I sent my money to the person who was organizing the trip; Kshs. 1500 return. A real bargain. I was in town early so I could buy red canvas shoes.. these go well with the red & black uniform of Ingwelets (female Ingwe fans), which we planned to wear. And we rocked it!
Fans travelling by whatever means: hired school buses, tour vans, personal cars etc, assembled at Kencom Stage in downtown Nairobi for some noise (if you were near you heard the vuvuzelas &whistles around 9pm) before prayers and departure. We sped on through the night, singing various songs and getting high on drinks that are carried specifically for the journey. Drinks & miraa were shared generously. Songs were sung throughout the night.. it was morning when I realized just how much I had been talking and was losing my voice, so I decided to shut up for a while.
The journey from Nairobi to Mumias took us through Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Bungoma.. then Mumias. Near Bungoma, at around 6am, we came to a scene where a trailer had overturned, spilling its precious cargo that had already been looted: Dock Beer. I am sure you have never heard of this brand! Neither have I!
This must be one of those for-export-only brand! So next time you feel fancy about taking some foreign beer know that manufacturing is probably local. Some looters were trying to hawk it to us, big mistake. When you are in bus full of a group of people who know each other, and you are trying to sell beer you just looted… to cut the story short, no one paid for no beer. I got myself two cans. Breakfast you see.
One of AFC’s veteran fans, Doc Walela, had a welcome breakfast for all traveling fans in his home, and we passed by. I tried eating a mandazi but by this time I realized my mild cold had turned into a throat infection. The only thing I could swallow was liquids so I turned to Dock. I’m liking this name, Dock. Our bus then left for another fan’s place, who hosted us for lunch. Meanwhile, after showering, I slept peacefully under a tree all morning. Nothing beats sleeping under a tree on a sunny day!
I was woken up at lunch time for a meal of brown ugali, chicken and traditional vegetables. I had taken some Celestamine (they really work) and was feeling better so I gobbled down my meal. Busaa and chang’aa were provided too Nothing beats eating under a tree on a sunny day after a breakfast of Docks and a morning sista under the same tree!
We made our way to the Mumias Sugar Complex, where the stadium is located. The place was already full even though it was 30 minutes to kick off. The Isikuti and whistles filled the air. the singing and dancing in the stadium was on another level. The players were out warming up. Koops, our coach, waved to us and we acknowledged with whistles and loud cheers. Rangers FC, the team that conceded 6 goals without scoring any against Thika United, was looking to redeem themselves. Oh how wrong they were!
The whistle went off. The game started. It was starting to look like a tough one, like we may not score. However, our Captain Imbalmbala opened up for us with a header from a corner. I didn’t actually see the goal because of the many people who were on their feet in front of me. But I sure heard the celebration! The linesman was disputing the goal but the referee allowed it!
Two minutes later, I saw fans celebrating and knew we had scored again! Allan Wanga made it 2-0. Too bad I didn’t see that goal either.. I’m telling you being in the stadium is not just about the game, it’s about the atmosphere there. The noise, the dancing, the electric wave that engulfs the stadium when a goal is scored, the moment of bonding when all are united in screaming “Ingwe! Ingwe! Ingwe!” as the players come nearer the fans to celebrate a goal!
Bageya and Victor Ochieng’ made it 4-0 and it was almost half-time. Unfortunately, Rangers equalized to make it 4-1. It was half-time.
Time to dance. Everyone who could took to the dance floor: the space between the benches and the field, and shook their shoulders or waists or whatever body parts to whichever tune they were hearing. The fans who sat in front of me had these tall cans of Tusker, and offered some. It’s my rule book that you don’t turn down free beer, it’s just rude
By this time, my cold was starting to take toll and the weather was changing, becoming cloudier. I asked my friend the pharmacist if I could take another pill, and he said it’s ok. I borrowed a bottle of water from someone so I could use it to swallow the pill. I put the pill in my mouth and took a swig of the “water”. It was KC!!!! (Kenya Cane) Burned a hole down my throat. So much for not mixing alcohol and pills.
The second half started. We sat down to enjoy the goals that were yet to come. I was rooting for 4 more goals. It started raining, lightly at first so the referee let the game continue. Bageya and Victor Ochieng added a goal each, making it 6-1!!! I saw these goals, saw how our midfielder Salim Kinje made some clever moves!
The rain got worse, even hail stones at some point. The referee stopped the game for almost an hour, while we sheltered. Some fans though, took advantage of this moment. To dance in the rain, what freedom! They didn’t care about the mud that now covered their clothes, or about skidding and falling in the pools of dirty water!
After the rain stopped, players and some fans helped drain the water from the pitch, clearly the drainage isn’t perfect. They used banners, bottles, anything they could find. The match resumed but the rain had stopped our goal momentum and it was Rangers FC who scored their much needed consolation goal. The match ended 6-2!
I bet the gate collection was close to Kshs. 1,000,000. Since it is a home game, it’s our club’s for the taking. Rangers FC has been having some financial problems and I’m sure they could do with the milli.
After the game, some fans went to Kakamega, Kisumu, Bungoma, or their rural homes for the night, and to celebrate in their own ways. Most of us traveled to Nairobi on Monday morning.
This was my first time in Western Province and though I didn’t do much sightseeing, I had a wonderful time. I look forward to the next game in Mumias.
AFC Leopards is on top of the KPL table with 23 points from 9 matches. We are unbeaten this season.
This past week has seen me shuttle between Mombasa, Nairobi, Mumias and back again to Nairobi. I went to Mombasa for the connected Kenya 2012 summit, big tings agwan! I think what I’m trying to say is the connected summit is Kenya’s biggest ICT conference. The top (and everyone) industry players were there. Kenya ICT board, Ministry of ICT, Safaricom, Orange, Google, SAP, Microsoft etc. The event took place in South Coast at a 5 start hotel. Conference delegates were spread out among beach resorts near Leisure Lodge because we all could not fit in one hotel.
Together with some delegates, I flew on Monday from JKIA in Nairobi to Moi Airport in Mombasa. Since I live near the airport in Nairobi, I did not have to worry about traffic to the airport. From the airport in Mombasa to South Coast, we took a bus and had one of my scariest rides: the ferry. There is always traffic around the ferry area so it took us 2 hours to get to our hotel in South Coast! However, if you can afford it, you should fly to Ukunda Airstrip in South Coast, just 5 KM away from the major resorts. Then you don’t have to go through Moi Mombasa Airport and the mess that is the ferry crossing.
Every day of the conference ended with cocktails and dinner, sponsored by one company or the other. We all know what happens when you place free food and drink before a Kenyan; restraint is thrown out of the window. Moderation ceases to exist. And when the hotel finally closed down, like all people chasing after a fast life, most people went to the only club that kicks it in South Coast: Shark Attack. I hope that’s how it is spelt. The bad thing about staying out so late is that you end up missing the whole morning sessions of the following day.
I made it a point to swim every morning before breakfast at the Indian Ocean Beach Resort swimming pool, where I was staying. You couldn’t really swim in the ocean in the mornings because you’d find the water had retreated but you could take a walk and watch the sun rise over the ocean if you are the type to admire sunrise. Which I am.
Wednesday night was the last night of the conference and Safaricom/ICT Board held the party of parties. We were welcomed to dinner on the beach by beauties handing out branded kangas/kikoys. I located a seat and ordered my drink on the rocks, except the ice cubes melted so fast in the Mombasa temperatures. The atmosphere was great, people were in great spirits and I remember at one point I had a glass of one in one hand, knee-deep in the shallow beach water and staring at the expansive ocean as the waves came crashing in. I remember thinking that right there, is life.
Eric Omondi on a camel with some funny jokes, some repeated, some fresh. Wyre the Love Child on Stage, electric! Some dancing competition and someone winning phones/laptops/tablets. Wyre with that guy who sings in Kikuyu (just remembered JB Maina.) More wine, but this time the waiter decided to leave the bottle on the table so I could refill at leisure. At the dance floor again. Giving out phone to a trusted friend so I don’t lose it. Talking to people, everyone starts pouring out their hearts. Is that a dare I hear? Off to the ocean then.. I win my dare. Kshs. 500. But the sucker refuses to pay! Getting pissed and taking off. Oh, my bottle is still there. Meeting some new people, accepting business cards with a promise to get in touch. I should leave before someone does something they might regret. A good friend gets me a cab to the hotel. I get up at 8am on Thursday morning, one hour later than I had hoped. That is how I missed my return flight.
Thursday morning was a frantic rush to pack and check out of the hotel and rush to the airport. We arrived there at noon, one hour after scheduled take-off. Lucky for those of us who missed our flights, KQ sometimes operates like a matatu. We got seats in the next flight with no extra charges.
I took time on Friday to catch up on work and stuff. Since it was Easter, I’m still ignoring school work until Tuesday evening when I attend my first class a week after we opened school!
It’s already the second week of 2012! I still haven’t done a post reviewing the past year – where this blog got 110,000 page views- and I don’t think I will do it. Let me just contend myself with living this year to the fullest (sorry for the cliche).
I have decided to ditch the formal blogging voice and go with one that’s more of me.. more of Savvy. That’s my 2012 resolution. Anyway, we recently moved from a hood on Thika Road, Kahawa Wendani, to a new one near Utawala. There is a big difference between these two places.
1. Building Style
Houses in Kahawa Wendani, as in most estates in Nairobi, are built to make maximum use of available space. Apartments can have up to 8 floors, and no self-respecting average Nairobi apartment block will have a lift! Also, there is rarely any piped water flowing and you have to buy water and carry it up the 8 flights of stairs!
Houses in the general Utawala area are restricted to a maximum of two storeys, I hear because of the proximity to the airport. The place is more like an upcoming suburb and people move there after years of saving, buying plots and building their own houses. Some of the houses are not yet complete, ours included. But there is this Kenyan spirit of doing things; the house will be completed while you live in it. At least you are not paying rent.. rent is just money down the drain!
2. Type of Neighbours
In Kahawa Wendani, we hardly knew our neighbours looked like, let alone their names. The only time we knocked on their houses was when you had to ask them to move their vehicle which was blocking yours in the limited space that served as the parking lot.
Most of the people living in Kahawa Wendani are young; students who study at Kenyatta University (KU)
In our new neighbourhood, we are starting to know our neighbours… On the day we moved, which was a Sunday, the people passing by stopped to say hello and welcome us to the hood. One of our new neighbours then went to her farm and picked sukuma wiki for us to use during the week. The scarcity of water in Nairobi in general also affects the area and for like the first two days, we borrowed water from the Probox neighbour (duh, he drives a Probox). The only son of the neighbour on right hangs out in our house most of the time. The neighbour yonder (equally no taste in cars, you see Funcargos, Noahs, Proboxes etc) has a kid who comes to our kitchen demanding chapos because she’s hungry. It’s like we’re back in the village!
Most people living here are families, hardly any single/young people unless they are waiting to move out (points at self)
3. Transport To and From Town
From Kahawa Wendani to town, we had various matatus, from old to pimped new ones. There was also the option of theGithurai buses (they make you so religious, you have to pray before and after the journey because of the reckless driving). The pimped matatus carried equally pimped crew and passengers, mostly KU students. The buses were cheap off peak times, 10bob to town! They have fancy names like Maranatha, Paradiso etc
Now the buses that service the Utawala route are the boring but reliable KBS, City Shuttle etc. They charge a constant fare of Kshs. 80 bob, even if you’re the only passenger to town and it’s 6pm! The passengers are equally boring, usually reading newspapers, eating snacks and fries as if we’re traveling upcountry.
Because there are no tall apartments built closely together till they receive no sunshine, Kahawa Wendani is fast becoming another Githurai. There are many people there, try driving along the busy narrow road to the supermarket.
Utawala has fewer people, better houses, polite neighbours, and the house we live in is bathed in sunlight from sunrise to sunset. The setting feels village-like save for the lack of farms. No doubt less exciting to live in than Kahawa but I prefer it here.
Thika Road Vs Mombasa Road Traffic
To be honest, this is a tough one! Traffic on both roads is horrible especially during rush hours. To Kahawa Wendani, Thika road is busy in the morning when people are going to work, and in the evening when going home. The superhighway was not yet complete when we were moving, so the traffic load had not lessened.
From Utawala, we use the bypass (I think the Eastern bypass) to Mombasa Road, where traffic usually starts at Capital Center and stretches all the way to Uhuru Highway. I prefer it though because I’m currently a student/tutor at Strathmore and hence I don’t have to sit in the crawling traffic all the way to town! I get off at Nyayo and find a matatu going to Madaraka at the stage.
WordCamp Kenya 2011 was definitely worth it! The second day had presentations from the likes of Anthony Mwangi on the use of WordPress as a CMS, not just a blogging platform. Boniface Mwangi, one of Kenya’s best photographers, showed us some thought-provoking (raw images) of post election violence scenes. His aim is to inspire discussion around good leadership and getting us to get online talk into real life action.
Wamathai and KenyanPoet then talked about poetry and their experiences. In the next POWO (POets and Writers Online) meeting on November 19th at iHub, the blogger Wanjohi wa Kigogoine will be there. I shall turn up if only to see how he looks like
There was a lot of discussion on bloggers and ethics, politicians and social media etc. All good things come to an end and I’ll just leave you with some pictures from Crayfish Camp in Naivasha.