Author Archives: misswandia

About misswandia

I am complicated, charming and anything but ordinary.

Eateries Digest: Le Palanka

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Here is one from the archives.

Any Thing But Ordinary Girl

Le Palanka:
Location: 909 James Gichuru Rd
It is dubbed the home of fine African Cuisine. The first time I noticed Le Palanka was on a drive through James Gichuru Rd. It stood out due to the graffiti on the gate, especially since I recognized the late Chinua Achebe’s face. The exterior is well done and the grounds are lovely. The interiors created a sense of warmth which was especially aided by the burgundy walls. Their music selection which featured African artistes coupled with the traditional African masks on the wall gave it an African feel. The main dining area didn’t have too many tables but not to worry there are other dining areas in the inner rooms. A feature that is worth noting is the glass wall in the middle of the room which gives a sneak peek into the kitchen.

My date and I were running late but…

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Eat, Pray, Love

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Some time, within the last year or the one before I wanted to write an article inspired by the movie Eat, Pray, Love. I actually started writing but it lacked flow so I abandoned it. Forgive my powers of recall because I cannot say for a fact what happened to that article because I looked for the title in my archives and could not find it. If I could hazard a guess I would say I modified it and posted it in a different form. Turns out sometimes when you throw some things out (read words) they come back to you. I don’t need to tell you that you should be careful what you throw out.  A friend of mine asked if I felt like I had a slow year and I responded it was a restful year. She thought I was being positive but later when I pondered over it, I realized 2013 for me was Eat, Pray, Love. Fortunately, it was different from the Elizabeth Gilbert version.

Pray tell, what do you do when you think you have met the one and he is missing something that you hold sacred? Answer: you pray. I met a man at the tail end of last year and I thought it was gift from God. I know I know who says such things out loud? Me! As I beheld my gift I wondered why God would give me a gift that I couldn’t grab hold of just yet? Well, simply because He is God and He can. I prayed that God would make it clear if He was giving me this gift and a verse came to mind every good and perfect gift comes from above. What was required of me was to trust God. I trusted that God would remove all doubts that the gift was mine and He confirmed it in his own time. Have you been given a gift and you’re not quite sure if it is yours or you’re not sure what to do with it? Pray! God hears you when you do and if it is within His will to give you something don’t fret He will make it happen. I also prayed for some things and I didn’t quite get them. In between feeling frustrated and sorry for myself, I prayed that God would help me to trust Him. One of those things was a big dream I had. I didn’t get my big dream but my eyes opened to the little dreams I had which came true. Some, I thought were too much to wish for but they came true nonetheless. I also had the privilege of praying for friends and seeing their dreams come true; which is a wonderful blessing. As I go into the New Year I am reminded I should dream and whatever dreams I have I should cast them upon God who loves me and knows which dreams are worth bringing forth and at the right time.

I dreamed a little dream that I would have a cooking club and experiment on exotic dishes I could not even dreamed of. It’s no secret I love to eat but only to the extent that I would like to live to eat another day. I shared my dream with a few friends and together we took some culinary journeys to exotic places. To clarify, exotic in this case means outside of your usual fare. What a fantastic thing it is to share your dream with like minded people. We still haven’t called it cooking club but amongst us we have created food memories to last us a while. From the first All Natural Red Velvet Cake which was alongside the Chocolate Fudge Cake that was unrivalled by anything we had ever had before, to the chicken pasta salad with the amazing Italian dressing, the spinach dip which we couldn’t get enough of, the pineapple carrot cake with the frosting that was too runny and yet so rich and delightful and the sweet and sour chicken that smelled glorious. The beauty of it all was though we used recipes created by others we made our own modifications to suit our different situations.  I learnt that creativity breeds creativity. When you take a step to create something new you might be scared especially if you’re not sure of the outcome but go ahead and create anyway because that’s the only way your creativity will grow. Another highlight for me was also sharing the food we cooked with the people I love. Moreover, I got to experience fine dining and cooking with someone I love which was a dream come true. Of course eating has its hazards when it is over done but my advice is as much as possible if you have to eat (not to live) to really live share it with people you love. Calories shared are calories halved.

What can I say of love? It’s a beautiful thing. It is not hard to see God’s penmanship in some love stories. Is God writing your love story or are you writing it yourself? The difference is God can see the end from the beginning while humans can only see so far. Even so when God is writing you have a role to play. What is your role you ask? Your role is to make choices. You choose to communicate in love when things are great and especially when they are not great, to give without expecting in return, to forgive when you have been hurt, to apologize when you’re on the wrong and even when you’re not sure if you were entirely on the wrong just to bring peace, to make sacrifices to preserve the values you hold dear, to accept the other person as they are and to bring a smile to the other person’s face by doing thoughtful things. You also choose to allow God into your relationship, to ask Him to refill your love supply when it is diminishing and to help you to take the high road, to be the bigger person and all those other things that are not pleasant for your ego but have good returns in the long run. In my year of love I have learnt that love is its own reward. I have also learnt love is more than a feeling, it is a commitment.

Finally, after we eat, pray and love let us not forget to laugh because life would be dull otherwise. I know it sounds simplistic but “a life lived without joy (mirth) is a life less well lived”. Feel free to quote me. Happy 2014 to you!

Screen Talk First Edition: Julie and Julia

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My latest Screen Talk post. Enjoy

Any Thing But Ordinary Girl

I recently watched a movie called Julie and Julia for the second time in years and I found it as interesting as the first time. I must confess they had me at the intro line “Based on two true stories”. It was the story of Julia Child played by Meryl Streep a diplomat’s wife who lived in the 19th Century and Julie Powell played by Amy Adams, a writer who lived in the 21st Century. Julia and her husband moved to France and she was looking for something to occupy her. She tried different things and with her husband’s help she figured out she loved to eat and consequently she chose to learn how to cook. She decided to take a course at the famous Cordon Bleu but they were teaching women how to boil potatoes. She told the director of the school that she wanted something more…

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A Beautiful Word-No

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If you find that you say the word “No” a lot, would you qualify to be labelled as mean? I reckon my ability to say no unflinchingly is the reason why one of my students asked me why I am so mean. If you went through the 844 system you must be wondering in what universe are, students allowed to tell their teachers what they really think about them. My answer would be in the same universe that a child decides they don’t want to go to school in the morning and the parent actually let’s them stay at home. As a special needs teacher in a non conventional education system, I have lots of stories to tell but I will spare you and focus on a beautiful word we all know as “no”.

One of the reasons I love the word “no” is that it is ironically so simple. It is monosyllabic, so brief that it costs merely a breathe to say it and yet requires so much strength to be spoken. As far as words go it might be an underdog. I mean they did not make a movie titled “The No Man”. It would be confusing right? It would be difficult to get one’s head around it. A movie about saying “yes” to everything, that’s more like it. It sounds interesting; it even has the potential to be hilarious. After all is that not what “freedom” is about? Who is more free, liberated if you will: the person who says no to a lot of things or the person who says “yes” “yes”, “yes”! I leave that to you to decide.

Freedom and liberty are wonderful things no doubt but when I think of the word no, revolutionary comes to mind. I confess my grasp of all the major world revolutions is scanty at best but I imagine it all starts with a simple word: no. When Marie Antoinette said the infamous words “if they cannot have bread let them have cake”, I imagine (which saves me from reading volumes of history) someone heard this and his mind was screaming NO!!! How dare she be so inconsiderate? Things cannot go on like this. Like I said I am operating from almost ignorance but I do hope anyone out there who is more history savvy will fill in the blanks. The point is for the most part revolutions seldom start with agreement with the status quo. It starts with a No! Then, it continues with I will not stand for this then, revolt!

I don’t know about you but I love (looove) me a revolutionary. If you think about it, you do too. Remember when Ché Guevara merchandise was in vogue? If you didn’t buy the t-shirt you probably envied someone who did. I think one of the reasons we love revolutionaries is there is a little revolutionary in every one of us. Deep down, somewhere in there, you disagree with so many things but often courage does not come so easily. Deep down, there are things you wish you could change in your own life, in your community, in your country… but change is not so easy. So when we find that person who is courageous enough to stand up and say no! We applaud. I bet even those who are opposed to some of these changes admire the guy’s guts even though they will publicly portray a different picture. We love a revolutionary because we can live vicariously through them and to be honest it is a lot safer. I mean tying myself in chains to a gate knowing well the police will get me out, keeping in mind that police brutality is very real, is risky business. I would rather wait to see it in the news and say “wow, I wish I had his guts”.

While it is all fine and dandy to live vicariously through other revolutionaries, it is a new year and my challenge to you, to me is to go out and be a revolutionary. I don’t expect us to start another uprising, because the Middle East already took that bus. What I am hoping is we can all learn to say no every once in a while and maybe more often. I would begin with saying no to myself. I read a quote (which I paraphrased): people often want to change the world but no one wants to change himself. Yes it is the prince of clichés but change begins with you. What are some of the things we can say no to in our own lives? We can say no to excesses and things that are just plain harmful. That extra (caffeinated, alcoholic or carbonated) drink, the extra plate of deep fried something or bowl of sugary goodness which will lead you to a doctor sooner rather than later, that extra work you carried home from the office depriving you of rest and engaging with other human beings, that extra hour of pointless internet surfing and TV watching which makes you wonder what happened to the time, that extra illicit relationship that is killing your soul ever so slowly…. I could go on and on but I will not. Truth is you know what you need to say no to and the reasons for saying no are innumerable.

We also need to say no to people especially friends and family. This is a hard one because most of us are wired to please people. For some of us the thought of disappointing someone is harrowing.  Here’s a thought: you can’t please everyone ergo you have to disappoint some people. Now with this mind just say no. An outright no may seem harsh (but it’s more fun to say) but there are subtle ways of doing it like “I am not sure I can do that” or “I can’t do it”. I welcome more ideas on how to say no nicely. It is especially important to learn to say no to children especially if they are trying to get their way using tantrums. Think of it this way, giving a child what they want after throwing a tantrum is like negotiating with a terrorist. In my line of work I have seen tantrums that are monumental at best and I can assure you even when the child cries bullets and you stand your ground the child will respect you and they will not love you any less. It is equally important to give reasons for your answers. Some people will argue with you but that’s an opportunity to practice standing your ground. If children argue with you (politely of course), look at it as negotiation. Let the child develop negotiation skills, we all know negotiation skills go a long way in the real world.

I am sure there’s a whole long list of things we can say no to but I would rather read from you. What have you successfully said no to? What would you add to the no list. Let me know. I look forward to reading from you. Now go on be a little revolutionary, just say no.

 

Chicken rant

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I am a single white female… chicken. I sense its morning because I can see light. The cock of our coop hasn’t crowed yet. Well, actually he did crow at about midnight. Mi thinks he was gotten from Asia so maybe he is not operating on East African time. That’s not very likely though since we all belong to a Kenyan household. I would imagine up to three generations of my ancestors came from Kenya. It’s not likely that someone brought a chicken on an aeroplane or even ship. So yes we are all Kenyan chicken. In Kenya children write compositions in English and Kiswahili and a majority of them start with “I heard the cock crowing early in the morning….” This cock would certainly make it difficult to write a convincing beginning to a composition that starts with an early morning. You don’t expect a child to write “The cock crowed at midnight and so I knew it was morning….” do you? Unless of course, the said child was a writer in the making. Any way back to my morning; I think I am hungry. I cannot wait for the young lady of the house to come by with the food. She always comes round at about seven. The thing about her is that she really takes her time when she is feeding us. She especially does this when she brings kale as well as chicken feed.  She has to tie the kale first before she puts the food into the troughs. The entire time I am thinking, “are you kidding me? Do you know how hungry I am? Do you think the first thing I want to see is green when my tinny tiny stomach is rumbling? Since she carries on with this format of feeding over and over again, I figure that she has no idea what is going through my head. So what do I do? Attack!

Smack! Ouch! She’s a feisty one this one. She just hit me with the plate. I guess I deserve it for biting the hand that feeds me. The person who came up with that expression must have had my species in mind. We more often than not bite the hands that feed us and we still get fed! It’s not so bad being a chicken after all. Oh wait it’s not that great either especially when you are you in a coop and you have to contend with other hens. When my mistress decided I was old enough to leave the little league to join the big league things took a turn for the thorny. There were these two older females who terrorized me every single day. They obviously perceived me as a threat to their affections from the cock of our coop who I will now refer to as the king of our coop. Have you seen the guy? He is a bit too old for me. I am still young and hot. I think I can do well for myself. Oh wait it doesn’t really work that way around here because we aren’t exactly free range in the free range sense of the word. I mean that question that humans keep asking in jest about why the chicken crossed the road, it does not apply to me at all. I may never cross a road in my entire life. In spite of being bullied every day I am still here. It’s true what the human’s say; what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. I might have developed thicker skin by now but that’s not very likely except for maybe my neck area which has thick skin by default.

I forgot to tell you my age but then again humans say a lady never tells. What I can say is I’m old enough to have my biological clock ticking. I want to have me some chicks. Like I said before we are cooped up and that means I have never seen a chick in my entire life. Did I mention that I was the only one who survived my mother’s hatching? Yes I was an only child though that wasn’t the plan. I know the mistress took it harder than my mother did. So yes the last time I saw a chick was the last time I was a chick. I remember I was very cute back then and if that is what they look like then I want some of my own. I want them so bad that every day I lie in a corner hoping my mistress will take a hint and get me some eggs to hatch. I heard her saying that none of my eggs have been fertilized. So you see I have been faithful!  I never messed around with the king of the coop. Be that as it may I want to have chicks and the sooner I get on with it the better. I don’t care if we have to adopt eggs I just want babies!

My hints seem not to be working. What is wrong with this woman? Does she not understand the internal pressure I am feeling right now. I feel like I’m going to explode! Ok, calm down, calm down. We need to think. There must be some kind of leverage I can use against her.  Oh yes! I got it! I know she likes my eggs so I will stop eating and lie in my little corner until she finally gets it. She obviously can’t let me die just to show me whose boss around these parts. Two days later…. What’s that I see? Everything is so hazy then there are those busy patterns like circles and spirals. Whoa! This must be the definition of feeling faint, must hold on for dear life, dear life is slipping away…. At this rate I hope they make a meal out of me already. If they are going to deny me the opportunity to live out my purpose which is to bring little ones into the world to ensure an endless supply of eggs then at the very least, they should let me feed a family. When my life comes to an untimely end I hope I will be delicious. I hope I will sit in a marinade for hours with lemon and garlic and a couple of spices until I am all embellished and I’ve lost that not so great chicken smell. Now I wish I lived in an Indian household then I would end up in a tandoori or just stewing in a curry for hours. Is it weird that I’m getting hungry right now? It is. Let’s change the subject. Let me ponder one of life’s greatest questions, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Oh that’s easy, I remember stumbling out of an egg and my mother wasn’t there.

About a Book

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A little while after I graduated from university I found that I was averse to reading. Ok, averse sounds a little extreme because I would still read newspapers and magazines whenever I got my hands on them. In fact I have cat like curiosity as far as written materials are concerned. I read matatu stickers, bumper stickers on vehicles, bill boards, labels on products especially food items like chocolate and biscuits. I even read labels on spices specifically to find out what kinds of foods go with those spices and last but not least I am one of those creepy people who reads a newspaper over my fellow matatu passenger’s shoulder. I have even read pages of books though I have trouble keeping pace with the original reader so I only get bits and pieces but it doesn’t matter because I got to read something any way. It’s therefore not surprising that I like to read books too. As much as I like to read books I feel that education, strike that, schooling ruined book reading for me. When I was in the university I had such a hunger for books that I would borrow as many as my library cards would allow but I would end up returning them almost unread. At the time I really wanted to read widely so my book choices were not restricted to course work. I would have a pile of books sitting on my desk and not enough time to read. The poor books had to compete with an active social life, my course work assignments, series and movies. Considering the number of books I returned to the library barely read I am surprised that I think I was averse to reading after finishing my studies. The reason I thought that was because I had such trouble finishing books whenever I picked them up, now I know the problem was there all along. There is a book I read for more than a year and I gave up and decided finishing it would not contribute to world peace. I am happy to report that, that has somewhat changed. However, I cannot say I now inhale books as quickly as someone would when they get out of a stuffy room but I can say I have revisited my love for reading for pleasure. Way before I graduated I chanced upon an article that highlighted a speech read to graduates of Havard University on things they never teach you in university which you should know. Reading for pleasure was one of those things that we should do. I could go on and on about reading books but then I would miss out on telling you about a most phenomenal book I read.

A little background information on how I got the book: I got my current job through a colleague whom I went to university with. When we were in university I knew he liked poetry but I had no idea he loved books. Turns out, he loves books like the Vatican loves the Pope. As far as my revisiting my love for reading for pleasure, he was the ghost of reading past to my Ebenezer Scrooge.  He got a copy of a book by Binyavanga Wanaina called “One Day I Will Write About This Place”. I had already read some titbits about it from a previous book he wrote which I read for a literature class I took, and I knew it was going to be interesting. I also read that the book was selected as an Oprah book club read and that is amazing. The feeling derived from knowing that the book would land on my laps was not as much kid in a candy store as it was; shoe addict receiving an anonymous cheque of a generous value in the mail and finding herself in a street with Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Salvatore Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo stores. When the book did get to me, I read it slowly and I would even go days without reading the book. This is not because the book was a cold egg. Far from it, it was so good I wanted to delay the inevitable: the end.

I will try not to give too much detail so as not to ruin the surprise and now you will have no choice but to get the book for yourself. The book was a memoir. He told stories of his childhood, a bit about his time in high school, his time in the university and how he ended up winning a Caine Orange Prize for writing. So unique is his style of writing that I found myself having conversations in my head (before you say aaiihh! who doesn’t have mental conversations with him/herself) and the sentences were structured the way he structured his. So short were his sentences that bits of his book read like poetry. The way he structures his sentences and the way I structure mine would make for an opposite attracts affair because my sentences tend to snake like a TGV minus the speed. He is also super talented at talking about nothing and for pages and pages and I have to say I came so short of exclaiming brilliant out loud on my many bus/matatu rides with my book companion.

Finally the reason the book won me over: the story of his life in university. I know I promised not to go into details but please forgive me if I do. At some point during his university tenure Binyavanga went through what I can only call a depression. His relationship with class was strained to say the least; he wanted a divorce. He came back to Kenya at a time when his mother’s family was going to have a reunion in Uganda and told his parents as much. When they came back from the reunion he stayed in Kenya for a bit and he felt a little better and decided to try and work things out with class. When he went back he said his new confidence lasted all but a week. He went back to hibernating in his room though unlike hibernating insects he had not gathered his food for the summer. At this point I desist from going into further details but all in all his story was appalling especially for those who stick to the straight and narrow as far as going to school and putting in some effort if for nothing else’ sake, to please your parents. A majority of Kenyan parents would have labelled their child useless. His own dad came close to calling him that but his mum shot him a warning look.

He had no idea what he wanted to do with his life but what he knew was he liked to read and he liked to write. He read all day and wrote most of the night. He shared his writing with other people he met online.  Then one day he got a letter informing him that his story had been short-listed for a Caine Orange Prize and he was invited to the House of Lords for dinner. One minute he was Turkana District, semi-arid and no water despite having a lake and the next minute he was Turkana district with oil deposits. The rest as they say is history. That was his story but what’s your story? Have you been dismissed? Do you constantly feel like you’re a disappointment and your life will not amount to much? Well, figure out what you like and direct your energies into it, whatever it is, work on it consistently and it will pay off. Now go get the book and let me know if it’s something to write home about.

Woo by Email

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There is this facebook photo which is good fodder for amusement. The picture has a statement which says “there should be a relationship status for I don’t even know what’s going on”. The first time I saw this after my friend had tagged me I was thoroughly amused. To be honest it is a bitter-sweet kind of amusement because I totally identify with it. I’ve been in a similar situation before. Why bring this up? Well it’s because I remember a time when I was seeing this guy and after we stopped seeing each + many more months after, he said he didn’t want to say we were seeing each other because I hadn’t officially agreed to date him though he had asked already (God bless him because not everyone asks these days, they expect you will do the math). This is how it ended though, we met up, had a meal together and when he was walking me to the matatu/bus (I forget) he asked me “Is it ok, if we see other people”? It was kind of shocking because the date we had the week before was exciting and there was so much hope for the future especially on his part. I also thought” hey, I’m afraid to get my feet in but this looks hopeful I can do this”. It was the proverbial “ready, steady, go before you leap through the air to the other side. Except in my case I didn’t know the other side was planning to move before I leapt. How things go from we’re engaged to be engaged to let’s see other people in one week is testament to clearly “I didn’t know what was going on”. Fast forward to happier times and I remember one of the cool things about that period of time when he was pursuing me was the exchange of emails between us.

It’s common knowledge that personal letters by post are in their death bed and it is a terrible shame. I however have had the rare treat of receiving letters in the mail from someone in the last two years but that’s a story for a book another day. You would think that email would naturally replace the letter but has it really? We are so caught up in this instant results web (pun intended) that the idea of waiting a few days to receive a reply is exasperating to say the least. The sad thing is, apparently the more we use all this smart devices the more dumb we are becoming. Are we going to stop using these devices? I can hear a resounding, “Of course not”! And that is perfectly fine. The advent of smart phones cannot be said to have completely diminished the human’s mental capacity. I mean the people who come up with these things are still creative right? Now as for the consumers I cannot really say but I trust that wherever we are we are creating in some way or other.

I know I seem to have lost the plot as far as email is concerned but let me try to get it back. What I am advocating for is bring email into the relating process especially for those of you who are creative. Like I said when I was having the thing with the guy (since I didn’t know what was going on might as well be ambiguous), I loved the emails. At the time I was doing French class during the university holidays and internet access wasn’t that much of a breeze. I couldn’t afford to go to the cyber every day, therefore those days when I did go and there was an email from said guy oh the excitement! My temperature would literally rise up a notch and the contents of those emails could not have passed for steamy (I promise). What would get me even more excited was the process of replying. For me writing back was a challenge to be interesting, witty and even a little coy. It was so much fun. I think it was a bit of a treat for the reader too. I could go on and on about it but that would kill the mystery of finding out for yourself. There is nothing quite like putting your thoughts into words and going the extra mile and putting feelings into words is amazing. Now add witticisms, intelligent jokes and charm and it is a recipe for grinning from ear to ear. Who doesn’t want to grin from ear to ear at the office sometime during the day? It is the tea masala on an otherwise dull cup of chai. Like I said I don’t expect people to go back to mail by post but I think email meets us half way between modernity and the golden age of the love letter. The thing to do with email is to add a brief waiting period in between emails. If you receive a romantic email at lunch time please do not feel the pressure to get the reply in by end of day. Leave it until the next day or two but at the same time don’t wait light years. Of course for two people in the same time zone it’s kind of silly to write about things you can easily talk about when you meet physically. So I suggest keep it interesting, bring out your most charming self and enjoy. If unfortunately things don’t work between you and your significant other, you will have a keep-sake in your inbox to put a smile on your face on a day you want to take a trip down nostalgia lane. If things do get really bad, you can hit the delete button. So hey, woo by email and feel free to share any e-woo stories.