Category Archives: Travel

The Noto Peninsula Trip

This post is long overdue!

I know Japan is a series of islands, but I only got to see the sea the Saturday before last. After landing in Osaka, I took the train to Kanazawa, my current city, and since then I have spent most of my time exploring it and its residents. There is always something interesting, from class parties to snow falling early in December (isn’t it beautiful), to meeting Kenyans and having my hair plaited, to cooking various gourmet meals (as the solo consumer, I can tell you they are delicious), to sampling various wines and finally learning the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Moscato, to going to church for the first time in 5 years (my mother would be so happy) to trips various places. Follow me on Instagram already!

It's cold but beautiful snow is the compensation. This is the path to school, formerly in autumn colours, now all white.
It’s cold but beautiful snow is the compensation. This is the path to school, formerly in autumn colours, now all white.

On Saturday 29th, the International House where I stay organized a trip to Noto Peninsula for its residents. Chartered tour bus with a guide, doesn’t matter the guided tour was in Japanese. We had a translator who did a pretty good job while we dozed in the heated bus. We were served coffee in the bus, and were welcomed into it with juice/water/tea/milk tea.. whatever you wanted. It took about 2 hours by bus from Kanazawa to Peninsula but the view of the ocean was worth it. It was like the last day of autumn, that Saturday. It was rainy in the morning but later in the afternoon, the sun shone and it was quite warm.

Noto peninsula
Noto peninsula

The first stop was Kiriko Lantern Museum. During summer festivals, they (the Japanese) will walk with these lamps through the streets. Inside the museum, the lights are low and the lamps are lit, and it was breath-taking. There were various lamps on display and their history was also explained, mostly in Japanese.

I captured a few bad pictures, so they cannot do the place justice!

Kiriko Lantern Museum
Kiriko Lantern Museum
Kiriko Lantern Museum
Kiriko Lantern Museum
Kiriko Lantern Museum
Kiriko Lantern Museum
Kiriko Lantern Museum
Kiriko Lantern Museum

We then had an early lunch, and for the Japanese (and many other societies), a meal is not just about the taste but the presentation is also important. Observe. Wonder. Proceed to dig in. おいしい。 The beautiful container down-left contains the rice.

Lunch at Noto Peninsula
Lunch at Noto Peninsula
Lunch at Noto Peninsula
Lunch at Noto Peninsula
Lunch at Noto Peninsula
Lunch at Noto Peninsula
Lunch at Noto Peninsula
Lunch at Noto Peninsula

Lunch swiftly dealt with, we went to the rice fields of Noto where they still use traditional cultivation methods as the fields are too small for machine use.  The sea is always beautiful no matter where you look at it from, large, ominous, goes on forever..

The sea goes on forever
The sea goes on forever
The sea goes on forever
The sea goes on forever. The rice fields at Noto Peninsula
The sea goes on forever
The sea goes on forever

The last stop of the day was a traditional tie and dye workshop where we got to make our own handkerchiefs. Once white, now permanently coloured in various patterns.

The white is before, the blue and the rest is what we aspire to make
The white is before, the blue and the rest is what we aspire to make
Boiling the handkerchiefs in the dye
Boiling the handkerchiefs in the dye
Boiling the dye
Boiling the dye
The end result
The end result

As we made our way back, we stopped by Noto Airport, a small airport where we watched a plane land. I have watched planes take off but never the landing, it was exciting! After that, we waved at disembarking passengers, I am sure they were wondering if we were nuts! Well, in our defense we had seen some other Japanese waving too, but probably to their families!

X marks the spot where it will land. Well, not x exactly.
X marks the spot where it will land. Well, not x exactly.

It was a day well spent. I look forward to the lantern festival in the summer.

For now, the focus is on staying warm. And learning Japanese. So don’t worry if you don’t read a post from me in a week, a lot is happening in a relatively quiet city, but there is no time to put it all in writing.

じゃ、またね!

The Kaga Tour

Japan is very welcoming to foreign students. Well, I have never been a foreign student elsewhere, but I am sure in Kenya, we don’t give free passes to our National Parks and Heritage Sites to the foreign students there (or do we?), nor do we offer free tours to visit said places. We currently have student passes to visit parks and museums around Kanazawa City so we don’t have to pay any entrance fee.

This past Saturday, I was among a group of about 30 foreign students from various universities invited by the Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism Strategy Department International Exchange Division (I am not kidding) to visit the Kaga area. The schedule was sent like 2 weeks in advance to our emails, and later a printed schedule was also sent to our mailboxes.

This past Saturday was a beautiful autumn day. The day was warm, the sun shone brightly, the clouds stayed away. Perfect weather.

Kutani Ceramics Center

Kutani ceramics center
At the Kutani ceramics center

After assembling and beginning the journey from the station, the first stop was the Kutani ceramics center. Here, ceramic dishes and other objects are beautifully decorated/painted, after which they are fired up in modern kilns (although we were shown a traditional wooden kilns where temperatures could reach as high as 900deg Celcius). You will remember in the previous post, the artwork engraved into the tea bowls? We were given our own dishes to decorate, some brushes and some water paints. Yours truly was gifted many things, but art was never one of them. Un-originally, I painted our Kenyan flag colours.

The back of my dish
On the back of the dish is my current university name (Kanazawa University) and my name in Katakana, and the date. They will send us the dishes when they have been fired.

Here is the front of the dishes. No marks for guessing which one is mine!

The painted dishes
The painted dishes. I can even see Sponge Bob somewhere there!

And some guys are real artists:

Given a chance, would you have been this good?
Given a chance, would you have been this good?

From the ceramics center, we headed for an early lunch and the menu had been sent to us beforehand. I had a set of udon, and rice with pork cutlets and what-else on top. Nevertheless, it was totally delicious and despite it being 11:30am, I did not have a problem finishing it all.

Lunch was delicious
Lunch was delicious

Natadera Temple

This is an ancient (Indian-Buddhist?) temple built long ago and currently restored. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and we had a chance to wander around. It was a beautiful day (I know I am repeating myself but it’s true) and although I couldn’t walk as much as I wanted (I injured my ankles exercising but that is a story for another day), I sat down on a park bench and enjoyed the autumn colours and the feel of the sun on my face. I was happy.

Below are some pictures from Natadera Temple and gardens.

We stand and stare in awe at the temple
We stand and stare in awe at the temple
The gardens surrounding the temple. Breathtaking.
The gardens surrounding the temple. Breathtaking.
Can you see the caves? I couldn't make my way up there due to the pain in both ankles but I was content with the view!
Can you see the caves? I couldn’t make my way up there due to the pain in both ankles but I was content with the view!
Serenity
Serenity

After about an hour at Natadera, we again got into the bus and drove to Yamanaka-bushi. This area is famed for its onsen but unfortunately we did not have time for even a quick dip. Which reminds, I recently went to an onsen (less of the hotspring variety, more of a public bath) and that is also a tale for another day.

Yamanaka-bushi and Kakusenkei Gorge

We walked the length of the beautiful gorge, about 800 meters, crossed it and walked along the other side until we could cross another bridge and complete the loop. The colours were so brilliant. The gorge, was gorgeous.

Tall trees with colour foliage dominated the landscape, and a beautiful river ran at the bottom of the gorge
Tall trees with colour foliage dominated the landscape, and a beautiful river ran at the bottom of the gorge
Tall trees with colour foliage dominated the landscape, and a beautiful river ran at the bottom of the gorge
Tall trees with colour foliage dominated the landscape, and a beautiful river ran at the bottom of the gorge
The beautiful river
The beautiful river
A beautiful street
A beautiful street
The beautiful bridge that signified the end of the walk
The beautiful bridge that signified the end of the walk
The view from the bridge down to the gorge below.
The view from the bridge down to the gorge below.

Back to Yamanaka-bushi. There was a folk dance and we were given free tickets to by performances by Yamanaka geishas.

Japanese dancing is not in the least like African dancing, I can surely confirm that. While we move to the rhythm of the drums, the Geisha dancing was more to the rhythm of the shamisen. The thumping of a West African drum would induce me to jump in and shake my body, the melancholic tune from the shamisen, coupled with a long day of walking, soothed me into an uncomfortable nap while upright in my chair. The graceful hand movements of the geishas and careful shuffling of feet added to this effect. The lights in the hall were of course, turned down low. Who can resist? The fight went out of me, and my eyelids drooped.

A geisha plays the shamisen
A geisha plays the shamisen. Image from wikipedia

The last act, was that of a mask dance. There was a tiger’s head and body, and this time I was awake throughout as it went through the motions of the dance. When it was done, I was surprised to find the masked ladies doing all the acrobatics were not as young as I thought. I am truly impressed and hope to be as flexible and fit when I am their age!

We couldn’t take photos during the performances, but we did take photos with the performers after. A beautiful evening and a good time was had by all.

The geishas take photos with the international students
The geishas take photos with the international students

At around 5:30 p.m., it was dusk and we got into the bus to start the short ride back to Kanazawa City.  I had a wonderful time.

There are many more pictures that I took, and other people took, but no time to share them all. There are a few more or less on my Instagram account.

This coming Saturday, I have yet another trip to make. Don’t miss out on the next post :) Watch this space

On the way to Shirakawago Village. Photo courtsey.

Japan’s Traditional Villages: Shirakawago and Takayama

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.

The magnificent village of Shirakawago in Japan
The magnificent village of Shirakawago in Japan

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.

The river at Shirakawage Village
The river at Shirakawage Village

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.

One of the houses in Takayama Village on the way there..
One of the houses in Takayama Village on the way there..

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 Cooked!

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.

Ingredients for Fish Stew
Ingredients for Fish Stew

Method

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

Frying onions
Frying onions in low heat

Next, cut up the tomatoes and carrots and add them when the onions have cooked.

Tomatoes and carrots on a chopping board
Tomatoes and carrots on a chopping board
Trying to do this like a pro.. so here is a close up of chopped carrots haha
Trying to do this like a pro.. so here is a close up of chopped carrots haha

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.

Cooking
Looks nice, huh?

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.

Vegetables
Vegetables

Time to add them in:

Vegetable stew
Vegetable stew

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.

Letting the whole mixture stew
Letting the whole mixture stew for a while until the fish is cooked

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.

Pilau masala
Pilau masala

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!

Setting the table
Setting the table. I included the chopsticks, they are quite an art in themselves.

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.

Dinner is served
Dinner is served

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!

Some 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Japan

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.

Regions and prefectures of Japan
Regions and prefectures of Japan. Image from wikipedia

Here is a few facts:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

    A Japanese toilet
    A Japanese toilet
  3. Japan is also known as the land of the rising sun. That’s what the red dot on the white flag means.

    Japan Flag
    Japan Flag
  4. 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!)

    Kanji words
    Kanji words
  5. The Japanese prime minister is Shinzō Abe.  He is 59, tough and conservative. Read more about him in this guardian article

    Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe
    Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe
  6. 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.
  7. 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 ;-)
  8. Japan experiences the four seasons: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring. The country is beautiful, stunningly so, in all the seasons.

    Springtime in Japan
    Springtime in Japan
  9. 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.
  10. 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?

 

What Goes Through the Mind of a 26 Year Old Woman?

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…

nairobi traffic
These are the traffic jams I have to go through in the evenings. Plenty of time to think. Image from http://monicahnjeri.files.wordpress.com/

My Son

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.

Finances

cash-kenya-shillings
Money, money, money… money (know that song?)

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.

Career

This could be me and Jeremy..
This could be me and Jeremy.. or is it Jeremy and I?

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.

Academics

I recently graduated from Strathmore University with an MSc in Mobile Telecommunication and Innovation. Here is a graduation selfie to prove it :- ) (FYI I graduated three years ago with a first class BSc in Computer Science from JKUAT)

graduation selfie
I am serious looking I know but I was contemplating my accomplishments :)

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.

Relationships

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..

Solving Rubik's Cube
I’ve been using a numbered cube to make mastering the moves faster

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 Kenya 2012 is Here!

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.

WordCampKenya 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.

Grab your tickets online here.

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

AFC Leopards, Champions For Life

AFC Leopards Vs Tusker FC: Heartbreak in Mombasa

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.

AFC Leopards Coast Branch fans match through the streets to the venue of the match on that fateful Saturday!

My advice? Do not emotionally over-invest in a team. It can break your heart. Possibly your phone in the process.

The remains of Calypso, my former galaxy S II. Taken by Baby-C, my new phone, a Nokia C1 which I shall review later! RIP!

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)

Eric Masika is the one with the blue hamstring guard(?). He plays defence, number 40 is his jersey and he spots a blonde mohawk! This picture was taken during Thika Utd's match when we defeated them 2-1!

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!

The Nokia C1-01, my new swag. Nicknamed Baby-C. Image from paperpk.com

Bloggers’ Awards: Vote for My Blog

Meanwhile, you can vote for my blog in the bloggers’ awards coming up on Saturday. Click here to vote for my blog in the General Category.

Survey: Help a Sister Out

There is this lady doing her masters degree at the University of Nairobi, and if you have time, please fill these questionnaires. She needs the info for her thesis!

Questionnaire for Citizens – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dHF2THZncmNyX3FuREs1V2hMZ1JLa3c6MQ

Questionnaire for Open Source Software Developers - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dERNcTMtQWotckdPSUlnMTFkaXVfTlE6MQ

Questionnaire for Content Creators – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFQ2ZmY1dTRMMzV5emhSbkFBOFlDLVE6MQ

The Mighty Leopard Claws Rangers 6-2: From Mumias With Love

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!

Ingwelets in the red and black uniform at a past match, note the red Bata canvas shoes! Image from facebook.

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.

Dock Beer. Two cans for me. Tasted bleugh! But beer is an acquired taste, no?

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!

Chilling under the tree waiting for the match to begin.

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!

Some fans dancing in the rain. Image from fb

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!

Players draining water from the pitch so the match could resume. Image from fb

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.

To Mombasa and Back: Connected Kenya Summit!

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.

People and human traffic at the ferry crossing in Likoni, Mombasa. Image from tripadvisor.de

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.

The swimming pool at Indian Ocean beach club. Image from safarivo.com

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.

A woman sips wine and watches the sun set over the ocean. Image from 123rf.com

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!

Saturday night found me on my way to Mumias to watch AFC Leopards play Rangers, but that is a story for the next post!