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Moving Out? OLX is Your Friend

It’s one thing to pack for a week away from home, or perhaps for a month. What do you take when you are relocating altogether? And you have a 30Kg luggage limit! How do you pack your entire life into 30Kgs of luggage? If I don’t get a nervous breakdown this current week, I shall get through any other period. I am even yet to buy a suitcase, and I don’t want one of those generic ones found in supermarkets that break apart after a single journey. Then I decided to try online, went to olx and oh gosh, people are posting weird, dark and blurry pictures of suitcases with no descriptions. And only one picture to give you an idea of the suitcase. I think I have no option but to go back to the supermarket and hope for a good find within my budget.

Anyway, in my packing and sorting out my stuff, I have come across several items I need to get rid of, things I don’t need any more but I could make some money if I put them up on olx. There is this set of baby cots, a bigger cot and a Moses-like smaller cot. Note: if you have a baby, don’t be in a hurry to buy those Chinese-made metal baby cots no matter how cute they may look. The baby outgrows them really fast, so if you buy them, just know it’s for a short period. It’s better to get a good wooden cot made for you that the baby can use till they are 2 or 3 years old, and can then transfer to those smaller beds. Anyway, I shall be selling the set below on olx, any takers?

Baby cot set that Jeremy has outgrown
Baby cot set that Jeremy has outgrown. Click to see larger image.

There are many more items I would love to give away, or sell and not just shoes or clothes. If you’re moving places, this could be a chance to upgrade your furniture, electronics etc. Get some cash to start afresh. If you are selling something online, please for the love of the Internet and all that is holy, take pictures in good lighting (take them outside if you live in one of those flats that never receive natural light), take many of those pictures, and write a good description. It doesn’t have to be long, make it like a mini skirt. Long enough to cover the essentials, short enough to entice. People like me who are looking for deals online are relying on sellers to put up a good & comprehensive database of affordable items in all categories. If you’re moving out and there’s stuff you don’t want to leave behind for your nasty caretaker, neighbours or landlord, sell it on olx.

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?

 

Inside Nakumatt Select

I think I first noticed Nakumatt products in the bed & fabrics section at Nakumatt Junction like a year ago. Made in Kenya and branded by Nakumatt :) So I grabbed a set of white towels: 2 large towels, 2 medium-sized towels, 2 face towels. Something similar to below:

A set of towels from Nakumatt Select
A set of towels from Nakumatt Select

Now Nakumatt has branded its products as Nakumatt Select  available across all their stores. The products include towels, table, kitchen linens, bed linens, duvets,blankets, throws, pillows and more.

On a cold and rain evening, picture yourself on the couch with the blankets below:

Nakumatt Select Blankets

What I love about the products is their quality, and they are quite affordable. They are all manufacture locally. The set below of throws (Just google it already) would be a perfect gift for someone.

Couch blankets/throws from Nakumatt Select
Couch blankets/throws from Nakumatt Select

From here onwards, I will just let you feast your eyes on some of the products:

Beach towels:

Beach towels from Nakumatt Select
Beach towels from Nakumatt Select

Towels of all colours:

Another set of towels from Nakumatt Select
Another set of towels from Nakumatt Select

Bed linen: sateen bedding. Yes, sateen. Here’s the difference between satin & sateen:

Sateen: luxury cotton bed sheets so smooth & cottony soft #NakumattSelect Satin: smooth,shiny fabric usually made from rayon,nylon, or silk

Sateen Bedding from Nakumatt Select

Sateen Bedding from Nakumatt Select

So if you have been wondering where to shop for towels, bedding, pillows, blankets.. try the Nakumatt Select brand and waiting to hear your feedback!

Meeting Spots along Mombasa Road

Living off Mombasa Road and working in Upperhill means I rarely go to town (CBD). The traffic jams from Upperhill into town on a weekday evening are epic, it can take you two hours to drive into town, a 10-15 minutes walk. Anyway, if the friend or business acquaintance that you are meeting lives/works along/off  Mombasa road, and you have been looking for a place to meet for a cup of coffee in the evening, consider these places:

Savanna Coffee House at Sameer Business Park

Sameer Business Park
Sameer Business Park
Image from sameerbusinesspark.com

Situated at the expansive, open aired (in the sense that the buildings don’t tower to block out the sun) Sameer Business Park, is another branch of Savanna coffee houses. The location is great, especially if it’s really sunny, you can sit outdoors and enjoy the open space and gazing onto Mombasa road traffic.

In the evening, the lighting is great and ambiance will match the mood; however, mosquitoes invade! In the fading sunlight, they attack your legs under the table, so don’t wear  a short skirt. On the other hand, the cafe closes early, by 7:30 p.m. waiters come to your table to chase you away! So really, it’s a daytime meeting kind of place.

Service is okay, mostly because you will find one or two waiters. The place is rarely crowded. The food is alright, depending on what you want. The usual coffees and teas, the burgers, fries, rice, chicken.. it’s like a  parallel Java menu.

Panari Sky Center & Hotel

Panari Sky Center and Hotel has the only solar ice skating rink in Nairobi. However, I doubt you will want to meet anyone at the skating rink!

Panari Sky Center & Hotel

Panari Sky Center & Hotel

On the ground floor of the hotel, there is Black Gold Cafe, and Shooters & Dips bar. While their latte may be average (as compared to the specialized Java & Savannah), the ambiance is great! It’s warm inside (no mosquitoes), staff are warm and friendly, lighting is good, music is good, food is really good. And closing time is midnight. Their prices are also fair, beer is Ksh. 250.

Panari also has a number of restaurants on the second floor, notable is Pampas Brazilian restaurant for (a lot) meat. I think there is also a bar on the 2nd floor, haven’t explored it. The waiter informed me of a rooftop bar, but it’s only for hotel guests. As a walk-in however, the ground floor should be sufficient for conversation to catch up with old friends, or seal a business deal.

Every so often you’ll probably find me there having coffee in the evening on my way home, but no stalkers please! I just like its convenient location on Mombasa road, a pause as I wait for traffic congestion to ease.

For more info, check out their site

Other Places

On the other side of Mombasa road, there is also Ole Sereni, but I have only been there once for a conference. There’s also Eka Hotel, of which I have heard nothing but good things. If I do go there sometime, I will write about them.

Closer to town, there is Capital Center, with a number of restaurants on the ground floor, including Java. The food-court also houses Chicken Inn & Galitos (I think). There’s a Chinese restaurant on 1st floor as well as a pub. However, I find Capital Center to be rather crowded, if noisy; and I rarely meet anyone here.

Know any other places along Mombasa road, please share!

Added later: 

More places to meet along Mombasa road thanks to a contributor, Patrick:

  •  Bellevue petrol station (there’s a Pizza inn there)
  • Motor sport club south
  • The Boma in South C.
  • Choma Zone just ahead of Imara Daima junction at the Total Petrol Station

OLX App Offers a Faster Way to Browse/Sell

Despite friends’ misgivings about olx (so many cons there, you have to be careful), I have actually used for some two great deals: a laptop and a baby car seat. The thing about olx that you have to realize is that it’s a platform to connect buyers and sellers, and cons have always been there even offline.

I recently downloaded the OLX app and was surprised at the ease of navigation and fast loading of the pages (yes I was on Safaricom internet!).

The user interface is really simple and neat.

OLX App loading screen
OLX App loading screen

It instantly picked the location nearest to me so that when I search for deals, I get the most relevant and most accessible deals.

Oh wait, this is yet another welcoming screen.

Oh wait, another welcoming screen on the OLX App.
Oh wait, another welcoming screen on the OLX App.

Ok here’s the screen that has already picked location. Loading was really quite fast. Maybe it was the timing, so the internet was a bit faster as more people were asleep!

OLX app showing Komarock as my nearest location!
OLX app showing Komarock as my nearest location!

From here, I randomly browsed by category (Cars) just to see what I would get and how the app works. I instantly got the cars being listed near/around Komarock.

olx app 4

I wondered if it’s possible to change location, I mean, if you are looking for something as big as a car, your location shouldn’t be limited to just your constituency or something!

Just tapping on the location, I was able to zoom out to the larger location of Nairobi. You can also choose to list all cars listed in Kenya;  and so on..

Cars listed in Nairobi using olx app
Cars listed in Nairobi using olx app

 

I tried to navigate to other categories as well, the transition was just as smooth and fast. I think if you have a reliable internet connection,, you’re likely to enjoy browsing for deals using the app. As you can see, my location chosen now is the larger geographical area “Kenya”, and you can narrow or widen your search area as much as you like.

Searching for a different category on olx app
Searching for a different category on olx app

Narrowing down location to Komarock, I get jobs and services in my area.

testing
Narrowing down location to Komarock on the olx app

You can also apply various filters to your search, such as prices, make of cars etc.

You can also save your search for future reference.

If you’re selling something, it’s easier to upload pics directly from the phone as opposed to first transferring them to the computer then uploading on the olx site, or relying on the stability of your browser to maintain the connection as you try to upload the pics.

The app is available on  iOS, Android, Nokia ad blackberry app stores. Here’s the link to the Android one 

Try it out and give me feedback on its usability!

 

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

First of all, this book is absolutely free on Amazon, the Kindle edition that is.

Woman in white by Wilkie Collins
Woman in white by Wilkie Collins

How does someone review a good book without giving a way the plot? That has always been the trick.

This is one of those classics you will not regret picking up. It’s told from various points of view by the characters involved in the story. Wilkie Collins is really descriptive and you will get to enjoy his style of writing, no matter which character is narrating the story at that particular time.

Central to the tale, is of course, the woman in white. Who is she? What role does she play? The first character to narrate the story is Walter Hartright, a young man of 28 years, whose sense of humour will make you smile at the beginning. He encounters a woman in white in the streets of London, she seems to be in a hurry, is fearful and nervous, but he helps her nevertheless. His good friend, Professor Pesca, has helped get him a good job in the countryside teaching two maidens to draw, he’s an artist himself. Thus he departs from London on the same night he meets the woman in white.

He goes on to the village where he’s to be stationed and meets the two ladies who are sisters: Miss Halcombe and Miss Fairlie, and from there, as the story unfolds, the mystery of the woman in white deepens as she also resurfaces in the same village. Tragic events follow, and Walter Hartright leaves England for the United States, thus other characters take over the story. Most notable is Miss Halcombe (or Marian if you insist on being informal), who writes in her diary the events as they unfold.

Miss Fairlie is engaged to be married to Sir Percival, who has a FAT friend called Count Fosco. However, something is amiss but no one can get to the bottom of it, and in the end she gets married to Sir Percival. However, she’s still in love with Walter Hartright, and he’s also in love with her, and that is why he left because he couldn’t bear that she was betrothed to another.

From there, things take a turn for the worse, with each of the characters involved at the particular time  narrating their side of the story. This works well for character building. The question now is, what tragic events have happened? Who was the woman in white and why does she look exactly like Miss Fairlie? Will Walter Hartright come back? Will he end up Miss Fairlie? How is Count Fosco such a powerful character, yet he’s a fat man of 60 who treads very silently, loves animals, has the sweetest tooth, charming words and drinks sugar water (yuck!). It’s funny how much you hate to admire the count. He’s ruthless, but admirable. Find out why he admires Miss Halcombe so!

Anyway, I hope I have given you enough reason (I could give several more but time limits) to download the free ebook, or to buy the classic for a few hundred shillings.

OLX working to Promote Chamas

OLX recently launched a partnership with Chamas, where they try to promote the groups through:

  • Training them on how to use OLX and leverage it to raise money for any financial need their group may have. Once the Chamas have been introduced to the OLX platform, they are trained as individuals and as a group.
  • Offering them a platform through which to buy any assets they may have as a group: everything is practically listed on OLX
OLX logo
OLX logo

Although the initiative piloted in Nairobi, OLX is now working with chamas across the country. In order to motivate them, the Chama with the highest number of listings on OLX, gets a cash reward from OLX towards achieving their goal as a group. If the women are also involved in business, they are being encouraged to list their items/services for sale on OLX. All manner of items can get listed, save for illegal or inappropriate stuff.

So if you know of any chama that could need an innovation to take them a notch higher, an idea to raise to funds or sell stuff, do encourage them to sign up for online listing on OLX. It’s time to leverage technology for whatever sector of our lives.

Solving the Rubik’s Cube

I recently composed a list of 30 things to do before 30, you know the kind of bucket lists people make that are half goals, half dreams and a whole lot of resolutions we don’t really mean to keep. So I made that list, but I am not putting it up just yet, I have shared enough of my life’s details on this blog!

Anyway, solving the Rubik’s cube is one of them. I can now happily cross it off my list, it’s conquered. In fact, I have just solved one that I’m walking around with, right now, as I blog this.

Rubik's cube
My own Rubik’s cube

I have always been fascinated by the cube but never really took the chance to learn to solve it, till recently when Google made a interactive doodle in honour of the inventor, Professor Rubik. I tried solving it, gave up, but still tweeted about it and someone offered to teach me, I quickly learned and I am now willing to share that knowledge!

So there are 3 ways (in my view) of solving the cube:

1. Take the cube apart. Arrange the pieces then reassemble them. Least challenging way, there’s no point then, in bothering to “solve” the puzzle!

Professor's_Cube_disassembled
Rubik’s Cube disassembled

 

2. Be a genius with visualization. Look long and hard at the cube, turn it around, solve it in your head, then just move the pieces into place. I don’t know how the guys who set records such as 5.5 seconds do it! It’s amazing watching their hands move faster than your brain can think! Of course they use high quality, low friction cubes to minimize efforts in movement, but still, the way they optimize their moves to solve the cube in the shortest time possible? It’s impressive. They are the speed cubers.

3. Learn the steps. Over the years, a number of people have experimented and written down a series of steps/movements (algorithms) that if you follow, you will end up with the solved cube. The algorithms are designed so that as you progressively solve the cube, you don’t spoil the faces you have already solved. So the movements end up being repetitive at some point, but if you muster them, then you can solve the cube in a very short time, such as  under 1 minute, and you can pretend to be a genius! It’s a good feeling.

There are several algorithms out there, you can search them and try them out once you have a cube. However, I wrote down the simple one I learned from my teacher, so to speak.

Before you try out the algorithms, you must first learn the terminology: top face, front face, middle row etc..  but it should all make sense as the terms are descriptive. Here’s the link to the simple algorithm, so if you wish to learn, try it out and holla if you’re stuck!

Good luck!

Book Review: Den of Inequities

I met Kinyanjui Kombani, the author of Den of Inequities, when BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya) had a Daystar training under the Creatives Academy invite, a few months ago. I bought the book and had it autographed, and then it lay around the house for weeks before disappearing into my mother’s handbag for a few more weeks. Finally, I found it and since it’s a small book, I read it in a day, it was a Sunday.

den of inequities
The cover of Den of Inequities by Kinyanjui Kombani

There are three main characters introduced in the book: Omosh, a poor construction worker living in the slums; Gosti, a local thug also living in the slums and Aileen,  beautiful daughter of a rich dad. How do they coexist in the den of inequity that is the city of Nairobi?

The story of each of the characters is written simply and titillatingly,  with the right suspense and description to capture the reader’s attention. I held my breath in some scenes, smiled at others, empathized with the characters, got afraid of some of the cops, sympathized with the thugs, the mungiki (I think it’s called The Chama in the book) and others who were at the mercy of these dirty cops..

The book gives an insight (albeit fictional) into behind the scenes of extra-judicial killings, the announcements you sometimes hear in the news of suspected criminals shot and killed by anonymous people. Take for instance the recent killings of everyone in Maina Njenga’s car; he is the former leader of mungiki. Type into Google Maina Njenga and all you get is dramatic, fatal events surrounding the man. How would you like a look into what’s really going on? Pick the book and it will all make sense!

For Omosh, things go wrong, and he needs a way to make things right; for Gosti he finds himself deeply involved with The Chama, when someone from his past comes calling. Aileen unfortunately tumbles into these events, and now how will it all end?

The one disappointment with this book was the lack of character depth. Maybe because the book was short so there wasn’t enough space to develop the characters. Omosh’s story is especially surprising because he does not seem to be the kind of man who does what the book say he does at the very end. In fact, after the first few pages, he all but disappears only to reappear at the very end. Gosti is the only one whose character is fully developed. I also thought the book would focus on the main characters as introduced by the book description, but they were kind of side stories to the main story: heind the scenes of extra judicial killings.

All in all, it was such an enjoyable book and I would recommend it to everyone I come across. Pick your copy from any bookshop today for only Kshs. 400 (thereabout). My only regret was that the book was too short.

 

OLX to Sponsor the 2014 Social Media Awards

Last year, I was part the panel of judges for the inaugural Olx social media awards in Kenya. Our work was to shortlisted five out of all the the  nominated persons/accounts in each of the categories, and then the public would do the final voting. This year, I am happy to announce that I will also be a judge :) The list has not changed from last year. The awards culminated in a gala dinner at the Laico Regency. OLX is also the sponsor for this year’s Social Media Awards.

OLX to sponsor social media awards
OLX to sponsor social media awards

 

Last year, the OLX Social Media Awards had 25 categories including Social Media News Channel of the Year, Social Media Personality of the Year, Social Media Corporate Award of the Year and Social Media Innovation of the Year.  New categories will be introduced this year to make the Awards more exciting and inclusive.

 

For the full list of nominees and winners of the 2013 Inaugural Social Media awards, click on the link!

I will keep you updated on when the nominations are open so you can nominate your favorite social media influencers, we judges will shortlist them based on criteria that we will share with the public, and finally you will get the chance to vote for the final winner.

The awards create a platform for individuals and organizations to celebrate the contribution of social media in the social, economic and political spheres by recognizing those who have used it positively to impact lives.

Adventures From the Far East