Night Flight

5 Jun

Hands up if you have ever flown with an infant? Hands up if you have flown with an infant alone? Hands up if you are terrified of flying alone with an infant? It is not for the faint hearted, I can assure you.

I was on a plane the other day with my little one. Luckily for me it was a night flight so I expected him to sleep all the journey through seeing as it was his bedtime anyway…Or so I thought.

Hurdle #1: How to travel light with infant

Impossible.

If you’re anything like me, packing is a chore I struggle with. I always end up carrying too much. And then have to go through the indignity of unpacking and offloading at the airport, on the queue while everyone pretends not to be looking at your belongings. Now imagine also packing for an extra person whose every belonging is important and must be included… I did well this time though and managed to stuff all our belongings (well, all our belongings that we were carrying with us) into 2 big suitcases and 1 small suitcase, and felt rather proud of myself for not using up the extra baggage allowance although I was allowed to carry an extra suitcase for him.

 

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Hurdle #2: How to make 3 kgs disappear

Turns out I wasn’t as clever as I thought coz my bags were overweight! The girl at the check-in counter was very unforgiving and would not budge when i begged her to let me get away with one of my suitcases being 26kgs instead of 23kgs. I pointed out that I had not taken advantage of carrying an extra bag of 10kgs that I was allowed to so please could she just overlook my slightly overweight bag? No, she couldn’t. I was all set to argue but my mum very agreeably said ok, we will remove some stuff. So she rearranged my suitcase, took out a couple of things and when we weighed the suitcase again it was 2kgs lighter, and the girl changed her mind and said put them back, no problem. I guess she was looking for some fun on a boring night at work…. And you know how you can’t even get annoyed coz you are getting your own way?

Hurdle #3: How to get KQ to leave on time

This is the 2nd time I have flown KQ and they do not leave on time! Official departure time was 23.50 but come 1.30am we were still grounded, with no explanation! Imagine trying to calm down a fractious baby in a stationary plane. Nightmare.

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Hurdle #4: How to collect 3 suitcases from conveyor belt whilst holding infant

This would have required 3 pairs of hands. Thank God I found said pair of hands in the form of new friendships formed while airborne. Patricia, thank God for you. You saved my life! And my dignity… I would certainly have ended up face down on the conveyor belt.

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Hurdle #5: How to stop feeling homesick

Anybody got a pill I can take so that I stop pining for home?

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Street delicacies of Nairobi

30 May

Roast maize

Slang name: mei

 This has got to be my absolute favourite food to buy on the street. Available in almost every street corner in Nairobi‘s residential areas, it is an absolute must eat. The vendors usually set up shop in the evening, and the maize is roasted over charcoal fire. It is best eaten hot, dusted liberally with pili pili and lemon juice. Yummy. It is the best snack to munch on as you drive/walk home after a hard day’s slog.

 Sugar cane

Swahili name: Miwa

Kisii name: Omosi

 This is a recent phenomenon to hit the street corners of Nairobi. Sprightly young men may be spotted carting wheelbarrow-ful loads of miwa to specific corners. They will adeptly peel off the hard skin and cut the cane into cubes, and package in lots of Ksh 10 and Ksh 20, to cater to their customer’s thirst levels (and level of brokenness). This is best eaten between noon and four o’clock in the afternoon, when the sun is at its hottest.

The best sugarcane is from Kisii, it is absolutely delicious, and is soft enough for chewing. Trust me, even my dear grandma with teeth challenges can manage it. (It is not like the hard variety meant for sugar production, that one can take out your teeth!)

 

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Boiled eggs

Swahili name: mayai boiro

 These have been around for yonks, and used to be quite popular with the long distance bus travelers (think Akamba, Eldoret Express, and the like. You would not miss to find hordes of the boiled egg vendors in Machakos Airport. (I shudder to think of the air quality in those buses, but that’s besides the point).

The egg vendors have now stepped up their game and have expanded their market beyond long distance bus travelers. Now they are also a common feature in the street corners. They no longer just ferry their wares in a big plastic jar and walk form street to street, many now have set up small stalls. And the eggs also have a new twist – they are sold with kachumbari (think salsa). To enjoy this snack, one needs to peel egg, make a hole in the middle, fill up with kachumbari, add salt and pepper to taste and bon appétit! I haven’t had the nerve to try it yet, but is a hot seller, especially with the Somali community in my neighbourhood. These boiled eggs literally fly off the shelves.

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Roast chicken

Swahili name: Kuku choma

Another new phenomenon…..This chicken is an un-natural orange colour, but despite this or maybe even because of this, it is quite popular too. As soon as the passing folks see the smoke rising, they start streaming in.

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Bon appetit all!

Probox Forever!!

23 May

A Probox was stolen in my neighbourhood last night. Why did the thieves target such an ordinary car? I am trying, and failing to understand why the Probox is such a beloved car in Kenya.

 The car is loved by farmers, transporters (think miraa traders), public service vehicle operators especially up-country, security detail (you must have seen the Probox that is always behind the Group4 Securicor van ferrying millions from point A to B). It is also a particular favourite of our friends from Somalia.

 I even saw a review online that the Probox is “an asset most Kenyans yearn to acquire… ” www.automavericks.com/forum/threads/toyotaprobox. Interesting….

 Why so popular? Surely it can’t be its looks…. The car is not the most aesthetically pleasing vehicle I have ever seen…. Even after it has been pimped to within an inch of its life…

 Maybe it’s because it is manufactured by Toyota. We surely adore anything from Toyota because they are affordable, and so suitable for our African roads.

 The Probox is said to be very durable. Rumour has it that if the Probox hits your car, it doesn’t get as much a dent while your car is a write-off.

 Capacity – This car is so spacious it can miraculously accommodate more than 10 passengers. 4 passengers in front, 5 in the back seat, and another 5 in the boot. If I was a PSV operator, I would most certainly consider using this car instead of a Nissan or bus which only consumes more fuel and attracts bigger insurance premiums.

 Any ideas people? Answers welcome, particularly from Probox owners….

DRIVING RULES IN KENYA

23 May

For those of you like me, who may have forgotten what driving on our Kenyan roads is like, I thought it would be a good idea to list down a few guidelines…..

  • Use the car horn liberally. Hoot as many times as you can especially when driving in residential areas. The best time to hoot is when you arrive home at 3 am from the club and you need them to open the gate for you. Since the whole estate is asleep, your car horn will sound loud and clear and is guaranteed to wake up your house help. (And the neighbour’s baby… but that is not your problem).
  • Same applies to music. Have your car stereo blasting away at full volume while you wait for your people to open the gate. In fact, open your car windows and sing along loudly to your favorite jam. Who cares if you can’t sing. It is 3am, nobody can see you.
  • When on the highway. do not under any circumstances let that driver in the lane next to you change lanes. This is your opportunity to hit the accelerator and speed up. So what if he has his indicator light on? So what if you can guess that he wants to take the exit coming up? Or join the main road from a feeder road? (Again, that is not your problem).
  • If on the other hand you want to change lanes, then do not waste your energy or car battery flicking on your indicators. Just force your way into the traffic. The other car has brakes doesn’t it?
  • If the other driver that you have just cut off shows signs of annoyance at your move above, hoot.
  • Expect the matatu, or other public transport vehicle in front of you to change lanes a hundred times, with no warning. Everyone knows matatus don’t have indicator lights.
  • The lights that you may see at the roundabout or junction are just for decoration. They are meant to amuse and entertain you as you sit in traffic. See how many times you can count the way the lights change from red to amber to green. You will hardly notice that you have been sitting in the same spot for the last 40 minutes.
  • If you see a pedestrian trying to cross the road in front of you, by all means increase your speed. Make them dash across the road. Hooting is a must. Hurl insults at them too if you are in the mood. Everyone knows the road is for cars, not people on foot. It’s not your problem why they don’t drive, like you.
  • Always use your full-beam lights when driving at night. The dim light function is not meant for Kenyan roads. Everyone knows that.
  • If the traffic on your side of the road is moving too slowly for your liking, then by all means drive on the opposite side of the road. Make sure you full lights are on for this manouvre . This way any on-coming traffic can see you coming so they can get out of your way and drive on the pavement. Another option is to quickly get back into the correct lane, cutting the other vehicles and without indicating and causing them to jump on the emergency brake. As soon as the traffic on the opposite lane is clear, repeat this move. Why should you wait patiently in your lane like all the other drivers… they are clearly not using their brain like you.
  • Call and text while driving. This will demonstrate how good you are at multi-tasking. Unless you spot the police, in which case you hurl your phone under the seat and wear your most innocent face.
  • It is the duty of the Kenyan motorists to ensure that the traffic policeman/woman has an alternative, steady source of income. If the police “wrongly” accuse you of some traffic offense (e.g. using mobile phone while driving as above), do not trouble yourself about proving your innocence. The policeman will jump into your car, and everyone knows this is code-speak for “hurry up and give me 500 bob without anyone else seeing’.
  • If you are truly innocent of any traffic offense, the police will likely create one on your behalf. Changing lanes, tinted windows, having the car radio on…. It may be better to commit an offense than have one given to you.
  • Which may explain why we Kenyans drive the way we do…!

Blogger’s block

19 Nov

I have decided to take the plunge and write a post after a few months of non-activity. Why haven’t I blogged in so long? It hasn’t been because of lack of time. So was it writer’s block?  Laziness? Blog apathy? Heaven only knows.

I guess I will dip my toe in the sea, so to speak by writing about a little bit of my day today.

Was woken up by phone ringing, and a quick look at the caller ID revealed a strange number starting with +390. It was a friend calling from Darfur, Sudan.  Apparently they are experiencing “winter” in Darfur too.  Temperatures have fallen massively and it’s now only 30 degrees. Centigrade.

Talk about rubbing my face in it… Did we even hit 30 degrees here in London on the hottest day of summer?

However, after taking a quick look at some news items about Darfur, I immediately realized that I have nothing to complain about. The region has been embroiled in conflict since 2003, with many lives lost and others destroyed by violence and displacement. Am so glad my friend is out there doing his bit to help.

One task that I had to deal with pronto upon getting up was to change the password to my email account. Over the weekend I became a victim of a Trojan horse type email. I apparently emailed everyone in my contact list with a “check this out…” type email, asking them to click on a link about some money-making scheme. I have had to change my password and if you have received such an email from me, please note that I did not send it. Do not open the link.

The good thing to come out of this is that some people that I haven’t spoken to in months, years even, are now getting in touch, and some were even enquiring whether I was sending the email from the Maldives as I enjoyed my new-found wealth, and how generous I was to want to share, blah blah blah…. Oh, how I wish.

As lunchtime approached, had a fierce internal debate on whether to cook something or go out and buy something. It took me two hours to make a decision on this simple matter.  Yes, I know, and I am worried too…. Not a good sign at all.

Then tried watching ‘Murder She Wrote’ but Ms. Fletcher has lost her appeal somehow. Oh but I used to love that show! I guess I have had my fill of murder cases. Now I have to discover something else to watch on afternoon TV.

At least I have my zumba class to look forward too….

AA

18 Jun

That’s “Ab attack”…
My friend marathon gal came up with this brilliant idea to dedicate 20 minutes 3 times a week to get rid of the mid-riff flab.
The target is the acqisition of a washboard stomach. Yes, we can

It’s not just for vanity either. It’s a really good way to strengthen the core muscles.

I am happy to say that I have succeded in doing the ab exercises set out by marathon gal about 4 times a week.  My game plan has been roll out of bed and hit the floor and start crunching. This helps me to wake up and it helps clear the cob-webs I can tell you! And I am most definitely noticing a difference in my strength and endurance. When I started, I found the plank really hard and could not hold it for a count of 20, but today I managed 45 and I didnt feel like I was going to collapse and die.

Now…if only the six-pack would hurry up and come.

 

 

Dance fever

13 Jun

I have gone and decided to participate in the “Big Dance“, a local dancing event taking place in the beginning of July. This is part of the London 2012 festival, culmination of the cultural Olympiad.Woo hoo! Move over Beyonce…!

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I will be dancing with other members from my local Zumba class at Southwark park on the weekend of July 7/8. I can tell you this is totally out of character for me. I am more of blend-in-with-the-crowd kinda gal, and this is the first time in my life that I will be getting up on a stage to dance! In full view of everybody!

I am excited and petrified in equal measure. What if I fall off the stage? What if I forget my moves? What if I enjoy it too much? What if I get spotted by a talent scout from Hollywood?