Book Review: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

I got this book from BooksFirst at Nakumatt, for about 400 Kshs. I had finished reading another Wilkie Collins classic, The Woman in White (read the review here) and I waited for a while for the characters and the essence of the book to leave my mind so I don’t get prejudiced when reading the Moonstone.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone is a large, yellow diamond originally stolen in India and now in England. On the 21st birthday of Miss (Rachel) Verrinder, she is gifted the diamond. When the house wakes up on the following day, the diamond is missing.

There, the story starts to unravel the mystery of whoever took the diamond. The story is told through character narration and letters, as well as entry journals, told by the characters who were central to the story at the time. The writing style is similar to The Woman in White (WIW) one, but the characters are very different. This book is also funnier and I actually liked it better than WIW. If had to choose a book to re-read, it would be this one.

This book is hailed as the birth of the detective story, because a detective is hired (Sergent Cuff) to help trace the diamond. You are kept guessing the motives of the diamond thief because everyone who was in the house has a solid alibi on the night the diamond was stolen. Rachel knows something about the diamond, but she won’t tell. The person you suspect most, and who seems to suffer the most anguish, isn’t really the thief. At some point, suspense can be so drawn out that you lose your readers, but Wilkie Collins doesn’ do that. There is just enough suspense while shedding more light on the mystery, until the story comes together beautifully in the end.

The characters who tell the story (Franklin Blake ,  Gabriel Betteredge , Miss Drusilla)  are vain, self-important and offer various perspectives on the circumstances. “An influence of character on circumstance” as Wilkie Collins would say. In WIW, what’s at play is “an influence of circumstance on character”. You will mostly have an emotional connection and remember WIW characters fondly while in The Moonstone, you will remember the adventures (story) more than the emotional character connection. Hope I have not confused anyone.

Let me know if you enjoyed reading it!

What It’s Like To Work in a Big 4

I had the privilege of working for Ernst & Young for almost two years in Kenya. If you asked me whether I enjoyed the experience, I would tell you I did. Here’s what it’s like to work in one of the big four professional firms worldwide. (Don’t worry, I am not going to reveal confidential information here, lest I get sued)

The big 4 accounting firms in the world
The big 4 accounting firms in the world

Brilliant Minds

It’s no secret that the big four recruit the sharpest minds from campus or when they hire at higher levels, they get those with a proven performance record in the industry. So it was a pleasure working with some smart people in EY. People for whom the common goal is to finish an assignment with efficiency. People to whom you explain something only once, or no explanation is needed. No pettiness (mostly), no sweating the small stuff (depending on your team).

Dynamic Environment & Great Experience


I worked on various assignments dealing with clients in different industries: manufacturing, hospitality, banking, insurance etc. In the jobs you get to learn about the clients’ needs and understand how various industries operate. I worked in IT Risk & Advisory, which is a very dynamic field. Well, although EY is known as an accounting firm, and where balance sheets remain the same year in year out; I was in a different service line which is Advisory (Consultancy). In IT, things change all the time and we needed to stay on top of the game in order to win jobs and perform on assignments.

Consultancy

Being a consultant means I hardly spent time in the office. I would report to the office only to get a new assignment, then I go to the client’s premises to ‘advise’ them and stay there for the period of the assignment. When it was done, back to the office for the next assignment; or just straight from one client to the next. At the very least, there is no dread at the thought of going to the same desk over and over again, each day every day, several months and years gone by.. although some client’s working environments were not the most desirable, at least change was guaranteed from time to time.

When you strut into the offices of a new client, and they’ll introduce you like, “This is the consultant from EY” and you stand taller haha.. consultants are generally selfimportant. And you get respect and tea served on time, and since the tag “auditor” hangs over you, and everyone wants to be in your good books.

The Name
So I’m in Japan and I am meeting people from the world over. I tell them I worked in EY and they nod in understanding. Everyone knows EY. Everyone assumes that you must be smart, I mean the big 4 are known for recruiting the smartest of the lot. So the name on your CV will already put in you in favourable light. Of course now you have to prove yourself. And back home you state you work in EY and you pause for people to take it in, as if you own shares in the company, when all you really are is a KYM (Kazi ya Mkono).

Once an EYer, always an EYer
Once an EYer, always an EYer

 

Work Structure

At entry-level, you are a KYM. Then you get to be a senior, after some years, when you have enough work experience to lead an assignment and have also acquired some managerial skills. And then depending on your ability to bring in business, you can make manager. To make director, partner.. it’s not so much about your technical skills now but your ability to sell the business, to bring in accounts and retain clients. You’re a salesman. Just ask Harvey Specter in Suits how he made partner. And it’s a pyramid, so some people have to fall of off along the way. It’s competitive, it is the so-called corporate ladder. Will I go back to the corporate world? Hmmm.. I am now in Japan to get leverage, if I come back it will not be at the base of the pyramid, that’s for sure. In any case, that pyramid base is fed by fresh-eyed and eager smart graduates churned out by our universities, year after year. I am coming for the very top. (GG do you read this? ;-) )

Pay

Haha, what pay? You guys are joking. I think it’s case of the grass is greener on the other side. Guys who are out think we earn more than them, and us who are in know we don’t. After all, we do look at your payroll cough cough. Anyway, money has never been and will never be enough. And if it’s your chief motivation then EY is not the place for you.

Work Environment

There is no workplace without its politics and all. Some companies have it better, some have it worse. Also, as a young mother, I was able to work and deliver on my assignments, thanks to a fairly understanding team.  All you can do is embrace the positive and soldier on. The company is quite fair, on paper at least. EY was voted top employer in Africa by some survey. All in all, the work at EY was a necessary corporate experience that I’m grateful for.

 

Flying to Japan

I am in the Kanazawa University library typing this. There is something familiar about all libraries.. the silent shuffle of feet, the queitness broken by the turning of pages of paper, the rows upon rows of beautifully arranged books, the students at the tables all trying to absorb the knowledge. It is a long way from home, and yet it is home for me. I think back to Tuesday afternoon, when I began the actual journey.

The steps to the Kanazawa University Library. Click for larger image
The steps to the Kanazawa University Library

My father wouldn’t let me be late; by 1pm he was revving the car and hooting for us to get out of house. I arrived at the airport at 1:30 for a flight that was departing at 4:40pm. My luggage passed through the safety scan, I had been afraid they wouldn’t let my lotions and hair stuff through(relaxer, treatment – there are no salons for black hair in Japan, I was told). I thought I might have carried stuff over the luggage limit for Emirates Economy class, but fortunately this too was a breeze. My luggage was checked in, and I would get it at the airport in Japan. I wasn’t going to have access to checked-in luggage at Dubai, the stopover.

I said goodbye to my family. My dad, mum, brother and my son, and my friends Veeh & Njeri had come to see me off. I managed not to cry. But later, on the flight to Osaka from Dubai, I let them fall and I pretended I was watching The Fault in Our Stars. Anyway, the flight to Dubai was not long, but it wore me out. It was 5 hours to Dubai. The Captain was American, “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… this is your captain blah blah” The hostesses were fair and graceful. The meals were okay but the cramped space in Economy makes you understand why people with money opt for Business class or First Class. I could not catch any sleep and my neighbour was chatty. He was giving me advice about taking care of my hand luggage. Don’t let it leave your sight. He was going to Dubai to manage some warehouses. I wished him the best. He gave me some pens as a gift. (I have become a pen collector.) His wife works at a pen company.

Dubai. Nothing is done in half; no expense is spared. From the air, it gives off an aura of organization. Rows and rows of lights, illuminating shiny highways and complicated road designs. From where we landed at the airport, we took a shuttle for almost 30 minutes to arrive at the terminal. Dubai is grand. No, wait, Dubai is grandiose. Towering terminals. There are 3 terminals, A, B & C, and you take a train between the terminals. The terminals are on 3 floors, and you can ride the elevator or escalators. We had about 4 hours to spend at the airport. After marking our gate for the next flight, we went round checking out the terminal.

Inside the elevator at Dubai Airport. Can you see the water flowing down the black wall? This stuff is better seen not told!
Inside the elevator at Dubai Airport. Can you see the water flowing down the black wall? This stuff is better seen not told!

There were so many shops, mostly selling designer perfume. I was sprayed liberally by a salesman; Givenchy I believe. Smelled heavenly but I couldn’t afford it at the time. The few dollars I had with me were for surviving the first month in Japan. Givenchy will have to wait. But it was definitely cheaper there than if you had to buy it in a shop in Nairobi. I bought some water, and a Starbucks coffee. Not as tasty as Java’s latte.

Starbucks Coffee at Terminal B of Dubai airport
Starbucks Coffee at Terminal B of Dubai airport

So I was hanging out with two Zambian dudes who spoke Kiswahili; they were also headed to Osaka with us, they’re in the vehicle importation business. There was another guy who was Kenyan, but lives in Washington DC, and he was also connecting via Dubai. And 3 of us scholars, heading to Osaka. We left the importers with our hand luggage (except for passports & money, duh) and escorted the Washington Guy to his terminal. That was when we took the train to terminal A and back. And thus, the 4 hours at the airport passed away.

Oscar, fellow MEXT scholar on the left, with the Washington guy on the right as we said bye to him
Oscar, fellow MEXT scholar on the left, with the Washington guy on the right as we said bye to him

Finally, we boarded a Boeing 777 Emirates plane to Osaka. That was one grandiose plane. I had never flown international before, so the jambojet, KQ & Jetlink small planes had left me with a bad impression of take off, landing, changing direction and turbulence. In a huge plane, you don’t feel any of this stuff, at least not on the same level as on a smaller plane. It was 9 hours from Dubai to Osaka. I slept half of the time, watched 2 movies (About a Boy starring Hugh Grant), ate two full meals and enjoyed the flight somewhat. We landed in Osaka at around 6pm local time, finally touchdown in Japan! (Cue for this song)

From Kanazawa airport, it took a while to clear from immigration. Fortunately we are Japanese government scholars, so not many questions were asked. They printed for us residence cards at the airport, we went and claimed our luggage, and went our separate ways. After changing my money into the local currency, yen, I asked for the JR Train ticketing office. It was around 8:10pm when I finally got a ticket to Kanazawa, changing trains at a place called Maibara. The train was departing at 8:16pm so it was a mad dash there. The Japanese are very friendly people, so far everyone I had met on the way had been very helpful.The train ride was very comfortable, and I dozed on and off. The signs were in Japanese as well as English, and the train announced every oncoming stop. Maibara was like the last stop, and it was just me and two Japanese girls who were also going to Kanazawa.

The countryside fly past us, with not much to see in the dark. At every station, we’d meet other trains and you would see students in uniform getting on or off, working class people boarding the train, weary shoulders drooping, and the people got fewer and fewer as it got later and later. We arrived at Kanazawa at 12:39am! I tried to get a taxi to Kanazawa Castle Inn, where I was to spend the night. I was willing to pay as much as it took, but no one would take me, they just pointed the direction. Turns out, it was just 3 minutes away from Kanazawa Station and no one was going to take advantage of me. If it were in a Kenya, I am sure someone would have drove me round in circles and charged me like 2,000 Kenyan shillings for it!

At the hotel, I finally got free wifi (which I couldn’t get at Dubai or Kansai) and let my family know I had arrived safely. After a warm soak in the tub, I asked for an adapter (they use narrow sockets) from the hotel reception using gestures & pointing. The man at the desk just opened a drawer full of adapters and I picked one that fit, with a promise to return (in gestures). At the airport, most Japanese speak fairly good English. However, Kanazawa is a bit farther in, so there are fewer speakers with less fluency. (Except at the universities, lots of people speak English here). I charged my phone and fell asleep.

On Thursday morning, I took a taxi to Morinosato Kaikan (Kanazawa International House) where I was going to spend 6 months. It’s a 20 minutes scenic walk to the university. There was the opening ceremony to attend after that, and later orientation and an introduction lesson to Japanese on Friday. There will be many other tales to tell.

The food in Japan
The food in Japan
More Japanese food
More Japanese food
Even more Japanese food
Even more Japanese food
Some pizza too
Some pizza too
Tamar from Georgia, ken from Malaysia, myself and Akiko, who's Japanese
Tamar from Georgia, ken from Malaysia, myself and Akiko, who’s Japanese

In the meantime, I am getting used to the local food. Sushi. Sashimi. Miso soup. Rice (hehe, yeah also needs getting used to, trust me) And others I can’t pronounce well.

Yesterday evening, being a Friday, we went to a local restaurant with a Japanese student who’s very nice and is helping us around. Below is what we had.. beer, sake, pizza, sushi, sashimi, dessert, and many other local dishes. By us, I mean myself with other foreign students. There are many other foreign students around. They come from Malaysia, Georgia, Solomon Islands, Argentina, Tanzania, Indonesia, Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia .. over 25 countries. There are only 3 of us who are black, as far as I can tell. Myself, another lady from Solomon Islands (she speaks with such a lovely accent) and the guy from Tanzania. But I don’t feel it, I think because I am in a university and you know, a campus is the same everywhere. Cool people!

Although I miss home, and my son more than anything, I know I made the right decision. The next countdown on the blog is to the day my son will come to join me in Japan!

Do I Have a Dream?

If there’s one person who is a dreamer, then that person is me. Since I was young, up to now, I have never stopped dreaming. Reality sometimes pours cold water on some of my dreams, but I will go to sleep and dream again.

When Crown Paints asked me to talk about my dream, I was at a loss of where to begin. Because I don’t have a dream, my friends. I have DREAMS! At the moment, I have a to-do list of 30 things to do before 30, which is 3.5 years away. I am not sure I will achieve those 30 things (okay, 29, I have already crossed 1 off my list), but I am already on my way. I haven’t shared my list with you guys (the readers of this blog who keep it alive, I love you guys, excuse the emotions, I am in a strange land and yet to make new emotional connections). Anyway, I was saying I haven’t shared the list with you guys because I have changed my style of writing. I no longer share about everything I see, feel, eat, drink or experience. Perhaps I shall open up again and share that 30-things-to-do-before-30 list, I have a feeling it will shape the future of this blog.

In the meantime, I geared up to talk about my dreams to the Crown Paints team. I am nervous in front of the camera. I hate the sound of my recorded voice. But I braved myself to talk about my dreams, which would have taken over an hour. Fortunately, the required length was only 40 seconds!

So enjoy my 40 seconds of fame below! I shall be blogging about Japan soon, and other experiences.

A New Beginning: The Journey East

There are no direct flights to Narita International Aiport, Tokyo or to any other major international airport like Kansai in Osaka or Komatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture. To fly to Japan, the best airlines to use are those with the home country in the Middle East, where they make a stopover (for five hours or so) before flying to Japan. You can also fly to Europe, then start the journey East, if you pick a European airline. I will be flying Emirates.

The other airlines popular for flights to Japan from Kenya are Qatar airways with a stopover in Doha, and Etihad which I think also stops over at Dubai. It takes 5 hours to Dubai, and then 9 hours from Dubai to Kansai Aiport in Japan. If you fly KLM for example, you will have a stopover in Amsterdam, then fly for like 19 hours to Japan. Turkish Airlines will take you to Instanbul, before taking a journey just as long as if you flew KLM. So Etihad/Emirates are your most efficient flights. Return tickets from Nairobi cost anywhere between 100-150 thousand shillings.

On Tuesday afternoon, my luggage checked in and my backpack containing my most precious documents and some money (in American dollars), I shall board an Emirates flight heading to Dubai. It will take about 5 hours to Dubai. ETA 9:30pm Kenyan time, which will be 10:30PM in Dubai. The stopover is just 5 hours, meaning we will not leave the airport. I will alight with my fellow scholars, there are 3 of us sharing the same itinerary. I will get out dazed, ready to search for wifi signal, to check up on my family via whatsapp. My son will probably have gone to bed, these days his bedtime is at 9PM.

After confirming our next flight and the boarding gate, I will probably persuade my colleagues that we ought to try out Starbucks at the airport. Coffee & croissants. Paid for in strange green bills. Most bureaus in Kenya are just like banks, only dealing with major currencies: the American dollar, British Pound or Euro. So you find yourself changing your shillings to dollars, then changing the dollars to the Japanese Yen on arrival.

Starbucks Coffee in Dubai. Mambo ya Artcaffe tumewacha
Starbucks Coffee in Dubai. Mambo ya Artcaffe tumewacha

And so we will while our time at the Dubai airport, sipping coffee, walking around and waiting for the next flight. I hope I will find some sleep in the long flight to Japan. Arrival time at Kansai Airport will be 5:30PM local time, which will be 11:30AM back here.

From Kansai I need to make my way to Kanazawa City, some 4 hours away by train or 5 hours by bus. Sure, there was a chartered bus for the foreigners by the university, but it leaves the airport at 11:30AM, some six hours before I land. I will need to take a Japan Railway (JR) train, transferring at Shin-Osaka. I have all these detailed directions printed out in both English and Japanese, so I am not anxious about getting on the wrong train.

On arrival at Kanazawa Station, I will probably hail a taxi to the hotel where I will spend the night before checking into the university hostel the following day. I have already booked the hotel online. I have printed out the address in both English & Japanese. Hailing a taxi is easy, taxi in Japanese is “takushi”. I hope not to oversleep.

The following day (Thursday) 9am I will report at the Kanazawa International House (Morinosato), to get my assigned room. From there, I will attend the international students opening ceremony. We are to wear appropriate clothing, but I am not sure what that is. In case they mean national dress for each student’s country, I am armed with a couple of kitenge dresses. In the afternoon, I am to register as a foreign resident and get a resident card with which I will use to open a bank account (for the monthly scholarship stipend :D ), and also obtain my student ID. I have already sent the picture they will use. When they asked for a picture, I sent one of my better looking ones, the only one I have makeup on ;-)

For once, I will look good in an identification card
For once, I will look good in an identification card

Just when you think I can now relax, I have my first class on Friday at 9:30AM, Introduction to Japanese. And on Friday evening, I will attend the orientation for International Students. I will probably spend all of Saturday sleeping! And thus my Adventures from the Land of the Rising Sun will begin.

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!