Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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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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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.

“The Me Date”

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I was having a conversation with a friend who is a bit older than me and is a pastor and he was telling me that if you think you cannot date yourself then you’re not that dateable (for lack of a better word). Then he asked me “would you date yourself?” then he quickly added “don’t answer that; just think about it”. Though he didn’t want to hear my answer and I’m pretty sure I said it anyway; the answer was yes! I have often been accused of blowing my own trumpet, so do not mind my saying I am pretty awesome! I would date me in a heartbeat! Funny story though I am still single ha ha ha! A little while back I was having a conversation with a friend and I was saying I was going through a period of dryness. This also translates to a dry spell but I avoid using the phrase because it can mean a whole of things in different contexts. So what I meant by period of dryness is that I hadn’t had a date in a bit of a while (read months-I know right, don’t ask). In the course of the conversation I mentioned a book I had read called “The Thrill of the Chaste” by Dawn Eden. I had to mention the title because it has been so long since I have seen so witty a title. I think this book title still takes the cake though “Humble Pie” an autobiography on Gordon Ramsey’s life comes close. Sadly I did not buy Humble Pie but I digress. The Thrill of the Chaste is about; as the author puts it a sexual revolution of a different kind. The gist of it is: everyone is doing it (sex) so go against the current and don’t do it. At some point the author was talking to single women about putting themselves out there. In a sentence she was saying, “Get out of the house!” She said “if you’re reading this book at home get out of the house and read this book at a coffee shop”. She also advised taking a laptop to a coffee shop and surfing the internet, going to a play alone among other things. The interesting thing is this wasn’t new to me. I have gone to a coffee shop alone and surfed the internet. I have had nice lunches all by myself but what is it that was different about what she wrote? I think for me it was finally! someone who endorses spending time alone.

See when I was in university I would tell my friends that I loved to go out to coffee or lunch to nice restaurants alone and I was sadly called weird most of the time. For most people having meals alone is inconceivable. I know people who say they would go hungry if they did not have company for lunch. I used to find that so amusing but maybe it’s because food always had a special place in my heart. I would pick food over loneliness any day. Anyway as much as I found it amusing that some people cannot enjoy meals alone I cannot say being called weird for eating alone did not affect me. With time I found that I would be out for a meal and I wouldn’t enjoy it as much because loneliness would creep in and I would wish I had company especially male company I must admit. Thank goodness I realized I am the kind of person who sometimes needs her space (maybe a lot of the time but I love company still, I really do). I realize I have been this way for the longest time. I have been a reader of lifestyle columns for ages and I remember reading about the independent woman who could do lots of things for herself. Now I know calling myself an independent women is walking on slippery ground because the term has been demonized in all sorts of ways and sometimes with good reason; but I have to say when Destiny’s Child coined the phrase I was sold. A little later probably in high school I told myself that life offers no guarantees that people will always be there for you constantly so learning to be alone would be a good skill to learn. From then on I relished the thought of having coffees and lunches on mi own.

Like I said spending time alone is not new to me but then something about the book made it take a whole new meaning. It started a new phenomenon I’m calling the “me date”. The essence of it is since I think I am so awesome who better to date me than me? Sounds a bit quirky right? Last I checked quirky is charming and that’s exactly what I’m going forJ. It occurred to me that most of the times I had been out with myself I did not think of it as a date with myself and we all know perception is everything.  Now with a little more perspective I could not wait for the next time I would go for coffee alone. So I planned it and you should have seen me trying to figure the best day of the week to go. My planner is a witness with dates marked out and cancelled. I figured out the date then I had to pick an outfit. Then I organized how I would make sure my hair was done so I would look really dapper. That morning it wasn’t ordinary soap it was shower gel. To top it off a good book to read landed in my hands just days to the date. I admit I secretly (not so secret anymore) hoped the book would be a good hook for conversation with an interesting guy (tongue in cheek) but I tell you that’s not all I hoped for. It really is true what they say, anticipation is half the fun. Thinking and doing the same things I would if I was going on a proper date created such a buzz of excitement that I counted every day until the date. Then I had the date and it was just tea and a brownie but I savoured every bite of that brownie as it melted in my mouth. I also devoured the book and I smiled and winced even chuckled in equal measure depending on the ebb and flow of emotion the book required of me. I have to say it felt good to be me that evening. When I got home I said to myself “that was nice”. Now as I write this, hours later I have to say “it was epic”. The last famous words, “we should do this again sometime”, come to mind.

It has been said that being alone need not be lonely. I now know this to be true. It is so important to appreciate your own company and to treat yourself well while you’re at it because then you realize you are a gem. When you realize you are a gem then you will be able to say,” I would rather be alone than stand rubbish treatment from someone else”. Please don’t be the character in the Evanescence song whose title I cannot recall who sang “anything is better than to be alone”. I think those are the most heart-breakingly desperate words ever and anyone who even remotely thinks that may not have much future left or whatever’s left may be bleak at best. So do you want to feel good to be you? Put on a different thinking cap, dress up, get out of the house and enjoy yourself (like really enjoy, yourself).

The Art of Pain

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Earlier on this year I kept hearing this song by Adele which I later discovered was named “Rolling in the Deep”. It starts with the lyrics “there’s a fire starting in my heart….” It continues into the chorus which says “We could have had it all, now you gonna wish you never had met me, rolling in the deep, tears are gonna fall rolling in the deep, you held my heart inside your hand, now you gonna wish you never had met me and you played, you played it to the beat yes you played it” (the italicised words are the echo). When I heard this song I was really curious because it has this brutal honesty which is so refreshing. After hearing the song for weeks without knowing its origin I was introduced to Adele.. I was introduced to Adele when Mnet Series sampled her album. She sang this song among many others in her Album 21. The interesting thing about the album 21 is that it is really sad and angry. Most of the songs talk about getting your heart broken and getting past it or just being plain depressed about it. Other songs are nostalgic of a love that is done and dusted while others cling to hope like it is a life line. What can I say, I loved it! The album reinforced what I knew all along; I love sad songs, angry songs, recovering from a bad situation songs because those songs are works of art. Don’t get me wrong I am not cynical. I believe in love and the beauty that comes with it; I really, really do. On the other hand, I believe that life brings with it painful situations and there is no need to gloss over pain. Glossing over pain does not make it go away; the same way bandaging an open wound does not make the wound disappear.
The lesson for today is the art of pain. I will describe situations and give illustrations of songs that best bring out these situations. We sometimes find ourselves in situations where we have been in a relationship and towards the end we realize that the person we were with is not who we thought they were. We feel deceived and it makes us want to set fire to the rain.
Bridge: But there’s a side to you, that I never knew, never knew
All the things you’d say they were never true, never true
All of the games you played, you would always win, always win
Chorus: I set fire to the rain, I watched it pour as I touched your face
Let it burn while I cried
Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name….
(Adele-Set fire to the rain, off the album 21)
This is a terrible situation to be in. Deception is never easy to deal with. The best thing is to learn your lessons and ran with them. The old adage goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.
Then there is that time when you have been seeing someone, you have gone on a couple of dates but there is nothing concrete and you are not quite sure where you stand (pun intended). You feel like you are chasing something you can’t catch like you are chasing pavements. The chorus goes:
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements,
Even if they lead nowhere,
Would it be a waste even if I knew my place, should I keep it there…
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements,
Even if they lead nowhere
(Adele-Chasing pavements, off the album 21)
In such a situation my advice is don’t get ahead of yourself. If you know your place is friendship keep it there. Accountants will tell you “when in doubt, assume the worst”. A non-cynical way of looking at it is lower your expectations.
Have you been in a situation where the person you fancy is emotionally unavailable? The person could be emotionally unavailable because they are reeling from a past hurt. On the other hand you have been in this situation before where you spent your emotions on someone who was hurting and your heart was broken in the process. This time around you are gun shy and so you think:
Chorus: I won’t let you close enough to hurt me,
I won’t rescue you to just desert me,
I can’t give you the heart you think you’ve given me
So I’m saying goodbye to turning tables….
(Adele-Turning Tables, off the album 21)
What do you do when you’re in a situation where your heart has been battered, your self esteem bruised and your spirit broken? You take your heart and you get out!
Chorus: So I’m taking my heart and getting me out
And love’s something that I wouldn’t want to live without
So I’m taking my heart and I’m getting me out of
My own, my own, my own
I am taking my heart and I’m setting me free
And baby you are just another song to me
And the edge of your sword isn’t sharp enough for me to bleed
(Anna Nalick-Bleed, off the album Wreck of the day)
In the song she says she realised love wasn’t a good enough reason for her to stay. Sometimes people put up with a lot of things in the name of love. They endure physical and psychological abuse among other things but sometimes love isn’t reason enough and the only person who can set you free is yourself.
You might be wondering why the interest in sad, angry songs. In psychology class we learnt that when someone experiences trauma, the first course of therapy is called debriefing. Debriefing involves telling the story of the traumatic experience. Debriefing is one of the ways of processing the pain because as you tell the story of your trauma you re-experience the pain. With every subsequent re-experiencing the pain dissipates. Other ways of processing the pain include: journaling, singing, painting, letter writing etc. Given that not everyone is blessed with the ability to put their pain into words sad, angry songs come in handy. When you hear the words and you identify with them you get to re-experience the pain. With every subsequent re-experiencing the pain lessens and the bitterness dissipates and you heal with time.
Sometimes the pain of losing in love is insurmountable and you feel like you are driving away from the wreck of the day, but there’s someone you can turn to:
Driving away from the wreck of the day,
I am thinking of calling on Jesus,
Love doesn’t hurt so I cannot be falling in love
I am falling to pieces…
(Anna Nalick-Wreck of the day, off the album Wreck of the day)
At the end of the day when you have experienced more pain than you can handle, the one person you can really turn to is Jesus Christ. He is the God of all comfort, he is the friend who sticks closer than a brother and when your esteem has taken a beating he is the lifter up of your head.

Love like Sport.

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I wrote this a while back. I hope you will be inspired.

In every sport especially team sports or even individual sports there is always the challenge at the end of the season. There are a series of matches that lead up to a win for a particular team or individual. Every match that leads up to this is characterized by fierce competition amongst the players and the fans are not left behind either. Everyone is rooting for their team and they brag about what an upset their team will cause on the rivals. For the players they have to put in a lot of effort and the coaches work behind the scenes strategizing on how they can win this season. Even though they won last season’s game they still want to win this season. They have to prove that they are really good, that, they were worthy winners. Far be it from anyone to so much as suggest that their win was by some stroke of luck. Yes, some people may argue that luck may occur in a sporting situation, but others will argue luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity. I would like to think the team prepared itself through practice and keeping in form and an opportunity arose during the game and they took it. People may argue a team was lucky last season but the team wants to prove they weren’t lucky but rather they put in their hard work and it paid off and not forgetting that they simply are, the best. What is it about winning in love that makes people so comfortable with their win?

Let’s rewind time to the most coveted job you ever sought after. Remember? The one that you felt was made for you and you couldn’t imagine not getting it. At first you didn’t even believe in yourself enough to think that you could get it. There were all these doubts in your mind, “I’m not good enough”, “There’s someone else who is better qualified than me”, ”What if I don’t impress the panel” among other things. But that did not stop you. You did your research, you prepared for the interview, you prayed and then you got the job. It was the best news ever. But then they put you on probation and there was this implied demand to prove you were worth it. So, yes you won big time but that was just the beginning. The great task is the one that lay ahead. You had to prove yourself. You had to convince the people who hired you that they made the right decision. So you put in your very best effort to work. Punctuality is your middle name, you go the extra mile, you work late and you deliver on time and you are highly self-motivated. And the bosses they take notice. They realize you are a worker worth your salt and they are glad they took the risk and hired you.

Now think about it in the early stages of seeking out a love interest; is it not similar to fighting to excel in a sport and landing a great job? It all starts with interest and liking. You choose to play this sport because you think it’s pretty cool. You want the job because you know you will like it and you will be good at it. You had been observing this guy/girl and liked what you saw, so you make a move. In all scenarios there are no guarantees. When the coach puts the team together, there are no guarantees that everyone will click and form a formidable force to be reckoned with. In the job hunt, you can’t be sure your application will be looked upon with more favour than the next guy despite your great credentials. And with the girl/guy you like there are no guarantees they will like you even after you’ve spent time hanging around them presenting your best self to them. But still you keep at it. You don’t give up easily because an exceptional person such as yourself recognizes a good thing when they see it. Here is the interesting bit, all these take effort, they are costly and might even be painful (occupational hazards) and it is a risk. But still it stops you not. Even when you have been slightly wounded like the interview you went for and you said something you are sure wasn’t clever and you’re sure you blew it. When they call you for the next interview in spite of that you come back fighting. And when you do things that cause the apple of your eye to recoil and you’re sure they will never speak to you again you humble yourself and go back and apologize. You put yourself at their mercy. And in sports it’s the same thing, you lose one of your matches but you believe in yourselves once more and go back for the next game. And all the while there are no guarantees; they hiring manager may not think you are good enough, the object of your affection may decide you are not worth their time and the team you lost to may humiliate you again. But this does not stop you from doing what you have to, get what you want. Now the difference is with good sports men and workers, once they get what they want, they fight harder still to retain it. But for most warriors in love once they get the prize they hang up their spears and get comfortable. What is wrong with this picture?

You saw a good person and you went for them and you got them. Other people did, go for them too but they chose you. You were prepared and you seized the opportunity when it arose. Now why has it not crossed your mind to prove to others and especially to he/she who chose you that they made the right decision? That you weren’t just lucky you earned your place in their life and you deserve to be there. Why don’t you want to prove that you are worth your salt or your weight in gold? What, ever makes the warriors in love think that in winning their mate they have won it all? Whether in sport or a job or love the first win is great but the subsequent wins are what we should aspire to. Because every time I win my love over by my deeds I am increasing my worth in their eyes. I am making for myself a more lasting place in their hearts. Just like in sport with every win the team gains more loyalty from its fans. I would especially like to put this across to married couples or people in relationships; every day is an opportunity to make your partner fall in love with you even more. And in sports people win shiny cups and medals and at work it’s a higher salary, promotions and more perks but in marriage and relationships it is the love and respect of your partner which is priceless. Is it or is it not worth fighting for? What more can I say, if you’re a lover be a champion for your love.