Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Le Grenier à Pain: Restaurant Review

"Have you been to that new French place? I've heard it's amazing!"

Well, obviously, I hadn't been, and was dying to go, which is why when I planned to meet friends for brunch Saturday morning two weeks ago, I thought it'd be great to try Le Grenier à Pain.


I got there a little earlier than my friends, and this turned out to be a good and a bad thing. Good because, well, I got to check out the place and get a feel for the vibe - very laid back chic, a place that you could go to for a lot of different things including:


  • A first date
  • A tenth date!
  • Writing
  • Working
  • A (casual) interview
  • Brunch with the girls
  • Well... brunch with the guys too!
And that's just what I came up with in a minute.

Why my getting there early was a bad thing - I got to check out the entire menu, and realised I wanted EVERYTHING. I had gone in having casually scoped the menu online, and I'd decided what I wanted, but after having some time for a thorough perusal, the choice became more and more difficult!


To drink, I decided to go for the chai latte. I liked it a lot, and would say it's probably one of the top three you can get in Nairobi. In fact, by the time my friends came, I'd polished off my first and was ready for another! What I liked - it was spicy, sweet and steamy. What could be improved - the spice was slightly diluted, and a bit of a 'milky' flavour came through. 


I love that before we ordered anything, they gave us some bread. It was yummy, although a little on the tougher side - perhaps because I let it sit for a while!

After what seemed like HOURS of indecisiveness, I finally decided to go with my first choice - the pain perdu pomme-cannelle & sirop d'erable (I'm proud that I actually understood part of that!). For the rest of us, that's apple-cinammon French toast with fresh fruits, creme fraiche and maple syrup.

My friends decided to go with the raisin swirl and the pain au chocolat. The friend who ordered the former said that it was fresh, warm, with a great blend of flavours and it was easily in the top 5 she'd ever had. The pain au chocolat, on the other hand, was nice, but not the best she'd ever had.

On my part, I absolutely LOVED my French toast! 9.5/10 for sure. It was amazing - not too sweet, with the subtlety of flavours coming through perfectly. Even more perfection would have been achieved if there were more strawberries in the fresh fruit to go with it!



Overall verdict? I would highly recommend this place, and I can't wait to go back! In fact, as I sit here writing this, I made the mistake of looking at their menu (we never learn...) and now I'm hungry.

The ambience was great, and the service was amazing! Our server (Faith, I believe) checked in on us enough to be helpful, always had a smile on her face, and seemed like she genuinely loves her job.

For a place that's been around since Jan, with their grand opening 3 or 4 weeks ago - well done!!

Monday, May 29, 2017

12 TKN Wellness Rituals


When you ask someone how they're doing, or how life is going, or how they've been, 9 times out of ten the answer will be 'busy'. The world has gotten faster, and busier - and seemingly, unhappier. Many of us work 8-5 (if not more), to be able to afford to maintain a lifestyle that we don't even have time to enjoy.

Fortunately, there are numerous things we can do, on a regular basis, to ensure that we do invest in ourselves beyond just making sure we're professionally successful. I thought to write about a select few that I try and keep up with, and others that I am starting, and I hope to be able to feature others' at some point too.

1) Writing



No surprises here that I write, often. I write on this blog, I write (real) letters to friend (and yes, I do use a fountain pen similar to the one above), I write to myself. If I'm having a crappy day, or trying to make a difficult decision, it wouldn't be too uncommon to find me grabbing the nearest piece of paper, writing down what I'm thinking, and then more often than not, throwing it away.

Writing is a way to deal with emotions, process your day, get some clarity. In case it wasn't clear enough already, I highly recommend trying it out!

2) Working out


The longer I go without working out, the grumpier I get, on average. It was a little later in life than I should have learnt this, but once I realised that working out regularly keeps me sane, happy and healthy, I've been trying to do it as often as I can.

And no, it's not just me! There are numerous studies out there that have proven the multiple benefits of exercise.

3) Attitude of gratitude


I was listening to a podcast the other day (yes, that's a thing I do nowadays) that talked about the importance of practicing gratitude. The speaker argued that without knowing how to be grateful for what we have, we'll never truly be happy. We'll keep wanting more, but when we get that 'more', we won't know how to appreciate it.

We look at happiness as something that's on the other side of a finish line - but when we get there, the finish line just gets further away. How did we forget that happiness is really found along the way?

I've been working on cultivating this attitude - and I'll admit, it's not as easy as I thought it would be! Two things have helped - meditation, and my '+ jar'. The latter is a glass jar that I've had for many months. When I remember to, I write down positive things that have happened to me, things I'm grateful for, and put them into the jar. These have ranged from 'I got the new job!' to 'I just had a great pizza!'. No surprises at the last one, I'm sure.

Anyone else tried other ways to cultivate this attitude? Please do share! And for those of you who're interested in starting +jars of your own, I'm happy to be an accountability partner.

4) Treating yourself


You know what? If no one's told you this before, I'm happy to be the first. It's okay to treat yourself every so often. Another podcast I was listening to talked about how we motivate ourselves. Sometimes, we tell ourselves 'I'll buy myself this and that once I've achieved this or the other' - a reward system. Sometimes, we say we'll buy ourselves what we want just because!

The speaker argues (and I agree) that it's okay to treat yourself once in a while without having the pressure of having to 'earn it'. 

Personally, massages are an indulgence I like to partake in regularly. In fact, I went for one just yesterday, just because - and it was great.

5) Time alone


I forget how many times I've preached about the benefits of time alone. Whether you're always working around people, you live with your family, you're married, you have kids - whoever you are, being able to spend meaningful time alone, and doing so, are beneficial to your growth, your happiness, and your independence. Whatever form this takes (see 12 below), I encourage you to try it.

6) Time with friends and family 


That being said, don't forget to spend time with friends and family too! Saturday night, my mum, my sister and I curled up in a room to watch a movie together - that same day, I'd spent some quality time with my pups. And tonight, I'm planning on having a wine date with my best friend.

Personally, after working a crazy week, I find it all too easy to spend the weekend in and around my bed, so getting time with my loved ones like this is always nice.

7) Time outdoors


Sunlight, fresh air, blah blah blah - turns out that all those things are actually good for you! I've made no secret of my frustration with how quickly Nairobi is developing upward, so I try and find at least a few minutes a day to step outside, away from the concrete (or as away as I can get...), and just breathe. Weird how just those few minutes can leave me feeling refreshed!

8) Drinking plenty of water


I'm not quite sure what it is about this one that makes me feel better - but I have noticed a marked difference in myself from the days I drink plenty of water to the days I don't. Anyone else?

9) Reading


Being able to be present where I am and appreciate all around me is great - but sometimes, so is being able to immerse myself in others' experiences and learn from them. 

The 'J' in me (MBTI for those of you who're wondering) has actually made two spreadsheets (fiction and non fiction) to keep up with books I've read and want to read. I recently finished all the Harry Potters again, and really enjoyed them!

10) Laughter


Funny YouTube videos. Friends being funny. Pets being silly. Little moments of joy. Laughter is such an important, yet underrated, part of our lives! Try it for yourself and see just how laughing (or smiling more) can do wonders.

11) A well deserved glass of wine


'Wait, doesn't this count as treating yourself?' I can almost hear some of you asking. Those of you who know me will know exactly why, for me, wine is in a category of its own!

There's nothing like sitting down at the end of a long week with a glass (or more) of wine that really signals to my brain that it's time to unwind.

I'm also always on the lookout for new wines to try - you can follow along on my personal Instagram account

12) Vacations


Sometimes, you just need to get away! Last year, my sister and I went to Diani in July. In December, I went to visit family in the U.S. 

Not sure what I'm planning before that, but this December, I decided it's finally time to visit my best friends after three years away! You can bet that I'm looking forward to that one desperately!


What are some wellness rituals you follow? I'd love to hear more!


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Meet the Mentor: Frazer Buntin (part 3)

We hope you’ve been enjoying the feature on Frazer so far! If you haven’t read the previous parts yet, you can catch them here and here. Today, Frazer will be answering some questions I threw his way.



What are three principles that leaders should live by?
1.      Intense personal reflection
2.      Don’t give a shit
3.      Facilitate radical candor

What three words would you use to describe yourself?
1.      Intuitive
2.      Active
3.      Controlling (see, not all roses and rainbows!)

What’s the best advice that someone has ever given you?
“Use your head”

If there’s an aspect of your journey that has surprised you so far, what would you say it is?
How quickly we can adapt to change

Now-Frazer meets early-20’s-Frazer. What advice would you give him?
If I could give my early-20’s “me” some advice, it would be to not listen to my 42-year old self if I ever show up from the future with advice. Our paths need to happen. Our paths need to unfold. The unfolding is our life.

My incredibly wise words to college seniors when I go back to Sewanee to speak are:

“Do something! As that something will lead to something else.”

There is no defined path for us. There is no single right answer. However, if forced, I would tell myself to take more chances, live interesting places, do more cool shit that I haven’t done before, keep cultivating friends, let love happen, reflect intensely, don’t give such a shit.

Congratulations! You just won a million dollars. What are you going to do with it?
If I won a million dollars, I would perhaps start one micro-foundation of something for each of my kids, for something that are passionate about. I would use it as a way to help them create and cultivate something worthy over their lives. I think this could be a really cool experience for my kids to participate in running a micro-foundation. This perhaps could be the most valuable education they could receive and a really fun way for me to spend time with them.

If you were invited to give a TED talk, what would you speak about?
I would absolutely give a TED talk on the intersection of intense personal reflection and not giving a shit.

What’s your favourite book, and recommended reading for others?
Favorite book:
Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom.  It’s not my favorite book from a content standpoint but it was the book that really got me connected into reading at a young age so for that reason, it is my favorite book.

Recommended reading:
A New Earth by Ekhart Tolle
Reflections of a Ghost by Andrew Lytle
Working Days by John Steinbeck

Your biggest source of strength is…
…consciousness.

Do you know what your goals and ambitions are going forward?
My goals and ambitions going forward are to live a full life, moment by moment. That’s as specific as I am right now.

If you could host a dinner party and invite any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
I would invite my wife, my son, and my daughter. We would dress up in formal wear and listen to hip hop music.

Many people have different success rituals. Which are yours?
For success rituals, we also would need dozens of pages to cover this topic. I am a very ritualistic person, and I have many rituals that I constantly refine and use to extreme degrees. These rituals include morning routines, workload and schedule management, parenting, nutrition, exercise, sleep. Perhaps we can do a follow-up on these and get into more detail (editor’s note: keep an eye out for this!).

In my first post, I mentioned that Frazer is working on an exciting new project – he’s working to add a new title under his belt – that of ‘author’. Back to Frazer…

Yes, I am working on a book project right now, which includes some of the topics covered in these posts. It is a book about feelings. Specifically, the way we feel throughout our professional careers during points of intensity. Typically, behind any extreme period within our careers (highs, lows, frustrations, fears), there are a set of common feelings. “I feel like I am drowning in work.” “I feel like I am stuck.” “I feel like no one cares about my career.” “I feel like a monkey can do my job.”

I explore why we have these feelings, with deep context of the underlying causes. I also use my experiences throughout my career of having these same feelings to explain tactics to cope through the friction that these feelings create. I have had some crazy-ass experiences in my career, and they have given me some deep points of context. A rare few get context in our professional careers, so the value of the book will hopefully be both understanding that context and taking action from it. The output of this context is this same professional acceleration.

I was inspired to write this book over a long period of time but especially after doing a mentoring session with a large group of professionals at Evolent. One of the participants sent me an email afterward that tipped me over the edge into action.

Similar to mentoring, my ability to share wisdom through context creates efficiency out of inefficiency. The audience for the book is likely primarily individuals who are earlier in their career. However, the spectrum of feelings can span across a broad scope of levels and points of time, so there is value in the material for most folks. I hope to help others understand these periods of intense feelings and equip them with some tools to deal with these periods. At the same time, I hope to make them laugh, as some of the stuff that has happened to me is damn funny.

If anyone is interested further in learning more about the project, you can reach me at fbuntin@contactliving.com.

Thanks much for inviting me to contribute!
  


Monday, May 22, 2017

Meet the Mentor: Frazer Buntin (part 2)


In part 1 last week, we met my mentor, Frazer Buntin, and learnt about his early life and education background. Today, he'll talk to us about his career so far.

Work background

Right after school, I worked for my father’s company for about a year. I wanted to see if the business clicked with me and additionally, my older brother, with whom I am very close, was there as well. My plan was to work and live at home and eat Ramen noodles to save as much money as possible for an epic adventure.

I absolutely love adventure. I love adventure more and more throughout my life and also regret not adventuring more along the way. This particular adventure was about 3 months of tramping around New Zealand and Australia with a back pack and a $500 car that I bought off a cork board advertisement in the first hostel I came to in NZ. I hiked and camped and climbed mountains and fly fished and sat in silence for long periods during the middle of the day.

One rainy afternoon, I simply started writing while lying in a bunk bed in a $5 a night hostel. I wrote about what kind of person I wanted to be. I wrote about the values I wanted to hold true to in my life. Many of these values had always been present but had been dulled by the norms of college. Some of these values were new. That day – and the entire trip – ended up being a bit of a personal reset button for me. I came away from that experience with clarity on how I wanted to “show up” to life at my most fundamental level. I cherish that time still today and feel that it set me on a course personally that I still benefit from today.

My professional career has spanned some incredible and crazy-ass experiences. I have worked for huge companies and started companies and have been CEO twice and have travelled all over the US. I have had unbelievable successes and epic failures. My path has been so winding that it would take dozens of pages to describe the way my career has unfolded.

Today, I am president of a large division of a high-growth healthcare company called Evolent Health. Evolent has gone from having 3 employees to over 2,600 in 5 years. We have gone from an idea to a $1 billion IPO in 5 years. Someone once said:

 When you have a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask which seat is yours, just sit down.

That is how I feel about Evolent. We have smart people, great culture, and most importantly, our work is meaningful and interesting to me. Those last two items are the ticket-to-the-dance requirements for me. My main job functions are to hire good people, set the strategy, monitor their behaviors, and measure our results. On a “Monday morning”, that means I am usually on the phone or in a meeting or working on a task that involves making decisions on improving our business. Leading people and solving problems consume most of my time. I have essentially no recurring work and nearly every task, every day is unique.

My successes will have little context for you unless you have worked in the fields or industries that I have, so it’s difficult to make those come alive for you. It is similar with the low points. Just know that I have knocked some home runs out of the park and I have absolutely fallen on my face in parts of my career as well.

All of these stories are long and usually funny, so perhaps, we’ll run into each other sometime and I’ll tell some of them. I will share that when you have the highs and the successes, you should absolutely cherish them. Marinate in them (there’s that word again). Feel like those days never want to end. Let yourself get goosebumps on how well you succeeded. During the lows and the failures, make them right beyond your own expectations. Take something away from them that you learned. Remember careers are a long-game. And then let that shit go.

I can attribute my success to hitting the parent lottery, growing up on a farm, great education, eye-opening experiences, mental wiring for problem-solving, and a knack for motivating people. Deeper than that, I attribute my success over time (not as individual) to intense personal reflection. I have always, throughout my career, taken time to think about what is working and what isn’t working for me – and then to do something about it. That process of reflection has accelerated my pathway down the career “funnel”. This reflection has also allowed me always to be learning. Always to be finding new tactics, methods, and strategies I can apply for all kinds of different scenarios throughout my career. I think I have a knack for surfacing and using tactics very well.

As for key role models, I have covered my parents already. Beyond that, I see anyone as a role model who has found the intersection of doing actual work they are good at doing, in an industry of which they are passionate, and have found a way to be well-compensated. This is the sweet spot of a work career when work doesn’t feel like work. Many of us only get one, a few two, and a very rare few get all three. These are the role models for me.

Regarding work-life balance, I have totally blown this one in my past and had to earn my way back into a balance. I never expected my career to involve as much travel as it has but here I am, 20 years into it, and I have logged A LOT of miles. More so than that, for a long time, I carried work with me as a thinking obsession. Maybe even a thinking addiction.

We would need more pages to give this topic the time it deserves but I am in my own personal “recovery”. Some of you will get this instantly and some might get it 10 years from now.

However, I have found the other side of the Venn diagram. I mentioned the concept of “intense personal reflection” previously as a driver of success. As our biggest strengths are also our biggest weaknesses, I needed another side of the coin to balance me. The other side of my Venn diagram that gives me work-life balance is not to give a shit.

I don’t mean that I don’t care, as I care – intensely. What I mean is that I do intense personal reflection, I make some decisions, I take some action – and then I don’t give a shit after that. I let go of control or expectation or wanting or needing some outcome to happen. I let go of the desire for some future event or thing to bring me happiness. Our brains are tools we use for survival but we must put them down when we are done. If we don’t put them down, we aren’t not actually living our lives, we are living our future lives. This is hard as crap to do for me so it is a practice. There are a whole series of tactics below the level of not giving a shit that we also would need more pages to cover adequately. I am putting a lot of effort into this though and it is working. I can feel myself living a few feet above myself.

Mentors are rare. Good mentors are unicorns. The best type of mentors are when you get lucky and have a direct manager who is also a good mentor. These people are like unicorns, riding a unicorn. I have had a few people who have helped me along the way including one or two unicorns riding unicorns. In hindsight, I am deeply appreciative of these people. Their wisdom was a huge accelerant for me personally and professionally.


For me, I enjoy helping others find their way. I enjoy helping others “be okay” with where they are and where they are going. I enjoy helping others take my tactics and experiences and wisdom and do something even better with them than I have. I think I would have been, and perhaps may be at some point in the future, a decent teacher. Part of my enjoyment of passing on wisdom or guidance or experiences is creating efficiency out of inefficiency. Wisdom should be scaled. Knowledge gained from experiences should be scaled. Again, I was taught to care about things and this is one I care about. If I can get scale on the things I have learned with several other people throughout my life, then I am potentially putting a massive accelerant underneath those people. Perhaps then, their experiences and wisdom and knowledge over time far exceeds mine. If they are inclined, they do the same and we are accelerating the advancement of the human state of mind. That is pretty rad.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Meet the Mentor: Frazer Buntin (part 1)

We’ve all heard stories about ‘self-made men or women’ and marvelled at their stories, and wished we were them. The truth, however, is that very few (if any) people are truly ‘self-made’. Be they negative influences or positive ones, the people in our lives, from birth to old age, have a large part in dictating who we are. The people who surround you are the people who also influence who you will be. It is always a good idea to be selective about the people you choose to let into your inner circles!

Among the people who can have massive influences on our lives are mentors and role models – I’d like to introduce you to one of mine.

I first met Frazer Buntin when I attended my first Beyond the Gates weekend at Sewanee. Frazer is a Sewanee alumnus who was assigned to be my mentor for the weekend. While we were unable to connect over the weekend itself, as he had to return home due to a family commitment, we found some time to connect shortly afterward, and I was impressed by what I learnt about him.

Often enough, ‘formal’ mentorships end up not working as well as mentorships that develop over time, but I’m lucky enough that in my case, with Frazer, the first naturally led to the second. We stayed in touch, and throughout the years, he has guided me, advised me, believed in me, and been an invaluable sounding board for when I’ve needed someone to bounce ideas off of. Most, if not all of the career related decisions I’ve taken after graduation were taken after consulting Frazer.

Over the four years that I’ve known him, I’ve always felt that I should share his story with more people, so that they could also get inspired as I have – and now, I have the chance! Over the next few posts, I’ll be featuring Frazer as he tells us a little bit more about his life, his work, and an exciting project that he’s working on!

Sewanee the Light by Stephen Alvarez


Early childhood and Education

I would describe my early childhood as “a silver spoon and a brown shovel”. I grew up on a family farm just outside of Nashville, as the 5th generation of our family to live on this land. Uniquely, my father was not a farmer but the farm was an active agricultural farm as opposed to many “hobby farms” that exist today. As such, the brown shovel side was parts of every summer and weekend that were spent doing hard, physical labor.

For those who haven’t been exposed to a farm, don’t think milking a cow but rather, works such as using a heavy gas-powered weed eater for 8 hours to keep fence rows clear or loading several hundred bales of hay up into a hot, dusty barn in late August. These experiences taught me to be tough, to have confidence in my physical abilities, to want to contribute as an individual, and to “pull my own weight”. As part of this experience, I interacted with all sorts of people associated with farm life. Many had minimal education, were poor by today’s economical standards, and lived simple lives. However, all were kind, interesting, dedicated, and full of ingenuity. All of them wanted more for their kids than they had for themselves. This exposure helped me learn that appearances and education and clothes and houses don’t define a person. I like to think spending time with Albert, Ron, Tinnie, Ernest, and Lolla to name a few, helped me be more open to others throughout my life. It took me a while to come around to that realization – but I see it clearly now.

As for the silver spoon, the other half of my life consisted of the best private school education from kindergarten through to business school. My father owned his own advertising agency in Nashville so we drove to “town” everyday – 45 minutes each way where he traded overalls for a suit and led national accounts for 45+ years as the CEO of a very successful agency. My siblings and I were lucky enough to attend fantastic schools and be friends with others in that environment.

One Saturday might have been shoveling shit on the farm and the next Saturday was a tennis clinic at a country club. It was very schizophrenic, but it kept me grounded as well as allowed me to succeed culturally. All my academic and social life was in Nashville and all my family life was at the farm. It was almost a 50-50 split though. We travelled extensively as a family and covered much of the globe. My parents firmly believed in investing in experiences and culture and education.

I never have driven a new car in my life however, so we were not the “new BMW with a bow on top for our 16th birthday” type of family. We were more of “hand me down cars with 100,000 miles on them but then a trip to Africa for Spring Break” type of family. My father is a bit of a renaissance man and my mother an absolute rock of a person. Values were part of our lives from an early age. We were taught to care about things, to make good decisions, and simply – to be good people.

There were never career path expectations for me. There was never a push to define a college major and march toward that field. I was encouraged to find things that interested me and then bust my ass at them.

University

I attended college at The University of the South, commonly referred to as Sewanee. I was drawn to it, as it was a small school with a lot of physical space. Additionally, the culture and feeling of the school fit me. Probably most importantly and embarrassingly though, I applied early admission and got in and I have always chosen completion over accuracy, so I chose the first school I applied to. I liked the small class size, the formality of the interaction between student and teacher, the traditions, and yet the ability to be creative.

I actually struggled with both finding my interest and busting my ass considerably though in college, primarily because of the interest side. I am a super practical person and liberal arts educations don’t match with that type of wiring. I majored in Natural Resource Management as naively, I thought it would be nice to be outside during the labs. I know. I am shaking my own head at that decision-making as well. That is some brilliant freshman year logic!

My favorite class ended up being Industrial Psychology as it clicked with the practical side of my brain. Sewanee prepared me for the real world, not in an academic way, but rather how to analyze a situation, be accountable for my actions, speak my mind with logic and preparation, interact with different types of people, and build a network. These skills are much more ambiguous but are more easily carried throughout a career.

I wish I had a do-over at Sewanee though. I don’t regret much in my life but I do regret not marinating (yes, that’s the right word) in the opportunities at Sewanee. I missed out on things because I thought I would miss out on other things. As such, I often chose the wrong things. This regret is part of growing up though and helps me reflect now to consider what I might be missing out on because I think I might miss out on something else. What will I see in 20 years from now when looking back?

After 5 years of career experience after graduating from Sewanee, I found my academic groove at business school at Vanderbilt when the practical side of my wiring and the content of the program married nicely. Correspondingly, I learned a lot more applicable academic content and my GPA reflected it. Although, by business school, I cared not about the grade but rather the absorption of information.  

Keep an eye out for our next post, where we find out more about Frazer and his career so far!   



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Five years of The Kenyan Nomad: Looking back

How time does fly! I can't believe that my little blog is five - what a journey it has been! I thought it would be fun to look back on a few posts I've done over the years.

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My first post was an attempt to restart a blog that I had started writing four years ago - back then, it was more of an extended, and public mailing list. This was a week after I turned 20, and I think the 'new decade' brought me some inspiration to write that I'm still going on!

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A few months later, I shared some pictures from a trip to the Masai Mara.


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During the spring semester that year, I did a few posts from a series I had posted on Cowbird for a photography project. Always fun to look back on, and wonder what I was thinking at the time! Here's an excerpt:

There's a graduate student in the corner from Eritrea. He's working on a paper, but comes over to join us. We talk about running and soccer and being together and alone and philosophy and coffee. Always coffee. 
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The first time I had a post with more than 500 views was not until June 2013 - and it was a post talking about a visit I had done to the Rift Valley Academy in Kenya.  Fun fact - the cornerstone for the school was laid by Teddy Roosevelt!


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My first unofficial restaurant review was not even intended to be a restaurant review! However, Epice in Nashville was amazing, and started my love affair with Lebanese food. My mouth is watering as I write this.



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One of my first posts that dealt with feminism spoke about the 'Indian culture' and respect women get in marriages. My sentiment from the paragraph below still stands...

I remain perpetually shocked by the fact that I STILL live in a society where wives and daughters-in-law don't have anywhere near the respect and freedom that husbands and sons do. Am I talking about Kenya, or Indians in Kenya, or Indians in general? I haven't quite figured that out yet. However, I am talking about a problem that is extremely real, extremely relevant, and happening even today. 
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A post I really enjoyed doing was one about a red jeep and the love that three different men have for it. This was one of the first times I did a post that told a story about people.


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I've always loved doing guest posts, and for those of you who didn't read this one about personal space by Billie Rihal, you definitely should!

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My love affair with Sewanee most certainly did not end with graduation, or my return to Kenya. One of my best friends, Catherine Clifton, has a wonderful way with words, and so I had her do a guest post about Sewanee.


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Despite the fact that I regularly update my Instagram with pictures of new wines - I think that this one may actually be the only post that I wrote about a wine tasting I attended!!

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A popular post I did last year covered some tips that have been incredibly helpful to me on personal financial management.

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Another that I loved writing was one where I let loose with my frustrations about constantly being measured against what I, as a 24 year old woman at the time, was 'supposed to have' achieved.

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It still surprises me that I so spontaneously decided to go skydiving in Diani - but I loved the experience, and writing about it was so much fun!! I definitely intend to do more of these kinds of posts in the near future.



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The last story I featured on a person was back in December, and this was the story of Rohan Gandhi. If you need a dose of inspiration, you definitely need to check this one out!

The 12th of February, 2004, was just another day in 16 year old Rohan's life - or so he thought. Who knew that a short span of 20 minutes would end up changing his life forever?
A spinal cord infarction is "a stroke either within the spinal cord or the arteries that supply it. It is caused by arteriosclerosis or a thickening or closing of the major arteries to the spinal cord."

Sounds like a medical definition that we may encounter at a doctor's office and move past - but for Rohan it was a reality that left him paralysed from the waist down in the presence of his peers. As he puts it, "everyone went to school the next day... I didn't."
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My love affair with food is no secret - at this restaurant review over Christmas, a friend and I almost ate ourselves silly!!


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This certainly is NOT an exhaustive list of all the posts I've done (and loved doing) over the past five years, but it definitely was a fun trip down memory lane! Thank you, dear readers, near and far, for being such great supporters of The Kenyan Nomad. 

I would love to hear from you this blogiversary - feel free to shoot me an email, comment below, or reach out on my Facebook page!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A timeless love affair


I can't remember a time when I didn't love words. As much as I loved running around and riding my bike when I was younger, you'd be as likely to find me curled up behind a beloved book - I was probably the first child in the history of ever (okay, maybe not) whose parents actually had to tell the librarians to DISCOURAGE me from borrowing so much.

When I was a child, even before I understood what all the black squiggly lines meant, my mother would read to me. When we'd exhausted all the stories at home, she'd make up new ones - lots and lots of exciting stories, with me (not knowing this) as the protagonist more often than not.

Is it any wonder that I grew up to be such a lover of words? I remember reading Robin Cooks (random, yes), and the Lord of the Rings (now there's another timeless love affair) all before I turned 10, and always being left with this bittersweet feeling whenever the books ended.

It has always fascinated me how I can live many lives, be many people, visit many places, learn many things - all within the span of a few short hours and inches. If anything, everything that I read inspires me to experience life even MORE - pages serve as inspiration more than retreat.

Similarly, I cannot remember a time where writing was not a part of me. Not that I did it very neatly (or very well, much to the dismay of many English teachers who shook their heads at my fantastical ideas more than I'd care to admit). I do remember, in the fifth grade, when I went to a new school, I proudly took with me a book I had written, as much as any fifth grader could write a book - and read out a chapter to the entire grade. Crazy at the time, I know, but I'm glad I did!

I love meeting people who have an elaborate mastery of language, and can twist and turn words to create realities as I sit with them.

Small wonder that I ended up blogging, right?

As my blog turns five today, a huge thank you to ALL of you for being such great supporters of my love of words!





Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Random musings of the Kenyan Nomad

Finally, folks, I crossed that quarter century milestone! Coincidentally, I share my birthday with International Women's Day. It's great that my birthday and my blogiversary are just a week apart, so I have extra reason to celebrate. What did I get up to this year?

Well, Wednesday was pretty busy with work, so it was a low key celebration with family. On Saturday, I had lunch with some girlfriends, then pampered myself at the Angsana Spa - Sankara for three and a half hours (and it was divine! More on this later.) After dinner, I went out for drinks and dancing at one of my favourite spots in Nairobi, J's in Westlands. 

Some of you may know me personally, but many of you only know me through what I write. To celebrate being another year wiser older, I thought I'd give you a (very random) sneak peak into what (sometimes) goes on in my mind.



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Have you ever really thought about the moon? I mean, really thought about it? Here's this floaty orby thingie in the sky that we get to see on an almost-daily basis. This little speck in the sky has influenced mythology and culture for thousands of years (that we know). Now that we finally have the technology to get to the moon - how many of us will actually make it there? GUYS. Will I ever visit the moon?!

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It's almost lunch time, and I'm kind of starving. This would be the PERFECT time to look at Darshani's latest restaurant review, right? 

(5 minutes later)

DAMMIT DARSH 

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(Every time someone chews bananas near me.)

Me on the outside: (Smiles politely and says nothing)
Me on the inside: ARGHHHH RAGEEEE WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY STOPPPP!

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Have you ever thought about the concept of nothingness? What if there was no universe (or universes)? And no life? And no ANYTHING? I mean, there couldn't even really be any nothing, because there would be nothing for that nothing to exist in! There'd be no empty black space. No potential all-powerful being. Nothing. AT ALL. 

Kinda makes my head hurt...

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I've watched the Lord of the Rings movies enough times to know some of the dialogues by heart. Needless to say, they're my favourite series and I try do them at least once a year. However, one part I hated (in the book too) - the ending!! I know that it's kind of the origin story of men and blah blah blah, but why'd they have to leave to the undying lands? Why'd Frodo go? Whyyyy? 

Unpopular opinion, but as far as the movies are concerned, I may just have to stop watching at Aragorn's coronation. 

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On another LOTR note (one can never have too many), Eowyn is a badass. 

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And they totally under-utilised Faramir in the movie!!

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Isn't it weird that people think breastfeeding is strange? Literally, a baby is eating - what's there to be weird about that?! I've always found it so weird how women who want to breastfeed will actually APOLOGISE to everyone else and then find a discreet place to go feed their baby. I don't know if it's as common elsewhere, but I've definitely noticed this in the Indian-Kenyan community. 

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What's your test for books? If within the first 2-3 pages, I can't see the scene I'm reading actually playing out in front of me, I know the book won't be worth it. Granted, my imagination ensures that not many books fail this test, but at least it weeds some out!

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I don't understand what makes people so uncomfortable about the word 'moist'. However, I do respect that it's a valid fear, which is why I refrained from using the word at least three more times in this snippet alone. 

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First date deal breakers?

"I don't like dogs."
"I don't read much."
"Yeah, travelling's not really my thing."

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I wish I could create beautiful art and photos. Since I cannot, I appreciate those who can all the more! I think one of the things I love best about pictures is that they serve as a reminder that we live in a wonderful world indeed, and my corner is oh-so-tiny.

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I think that one of the scariest things that I can imagine would be waking up tomorrow and realising that what I have learnt in my life so far is all that I will EVER learn - that new knowledge will be inaccessible to me and my mind will forever be confined. 

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As someone who thrives on words, I treasure those I receive from others very much. I got a very unexpecte, but lovely message from a friend on my birthday that warmed me and made me feel like maybe, there's something I'm doing right. 

Never underestimate the power of your words. 

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I feel like I've been saying this often enough over the past few weeks that others might just be starting to get sick of it, but I'm amazed at and extremely grateful for everything life has been throwing my way recently. I wish I could go back to my past self at the very hardest of times and tell her - yes, this will mean something one day. Or maybe not... I guess that was part of the learning. 

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We really do not deserve dogs. They are furry little angels who make everything better. I'm going to go cuddle mine right this instant and tell them how lucky I am to have them!

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Sleep is so cool, and yet, so weird! We're literally programmed to put ourselves into an altered state of consciousness on a daily basis where we often have very weird hallucinations that we accept as being real at the time. Apart from when we're lucid dreaming. Which did happen to me every night for a few weeks last year. It was weird. I knew I was dreaming, but I still had no control over anything. 

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Okay, full disclosure over a weird dream I had - I think this one was inspired by an article I read about a 'manel' that was discussing how to close the gender gap at work...

So every time a woman is on her period, all the men in her life come together to send her to this magical land with unicorns and rainbows and candy so that they don't have to deal with her. I woke up and actually had to admire how profound the imagery was for this one. 

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Why do people say 'Happy new year's'? It would make sense if they followed that up with 'day', since it is the day of the new year, but otherwise that extra 's' just doesn't fit. 

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Wouldn't it be weird if men in work places started getting feedback and reviews that were less about their work and more about their personality? 

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My brain is a strange, yet wonderful place. Thanks brain. You do you, buddy.

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Isn't it weird how we talk about love? 'I fell in love.' Sounds kind of violent, if you ask me. And also takes away the whole point about love being a choice, an action, something we have to do.

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If you think about how our ancestors lived their lives, it's actually scary how much we sit nowadays. 

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Watched a scene from a movie about a woman who was sexually harassed by a man, and two other characters are talking about it. "Didn't he realise that she is someone's daughter, or sister, or wife?! Goodness!!"

Wait... WHAT? So you're implying that as a woman, I should be respected because of my relationships with other men. You may mean well, but it's a dangerous way of framing the dialogue - it tells us that our value is derived, not from who we ARE, but from the men we are RELATED to.

Next time you're tempted to say something like that, please try this instead: "She IS someone."

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Isn't it funny how we think that happiness is on the other side of some imaginary finish line? Yet whenever we reach that line, we redraw it to be further away? I don't know about you guys - I'm beginning to realise that it's not about the destination, but the journey. 

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Any reactions? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below, or reach out to me on my Facebook page.

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