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.


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!


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


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. 

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!


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.


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. 

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.


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!


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.


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!!


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


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.


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.


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."

My love affair with food is no secret - at this restaurant review over Christmas, a friend and I almost ate ourselves silly!!


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.


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?!


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)



(Every time someone chews bananas near me.)

Me on the outside: (Smiles politely and says nothing)


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...


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. 


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


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


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. 


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!


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. 


First date deal breakers?

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


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.


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. 


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. 


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. 


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!


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. 


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. 


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. 


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? 


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


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.


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


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."


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. 


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

Monday, March 13, 2017

How to succeed in your first job

A first job can be pretty terrifying - there's so much to do and learn, and often it can be hard to figure out how exactly to navigate this. Today's post will cover some tips that Brittany Macon, one of my best friends (and bias aside, an incredibly talented and intelligent young woman who will be graduating from Vanderbilt law school this May) and I put together after consulting with others who've had many 'first jobs', and drawing a little bit from our own experiences.

Brittany presented a few of these tips to juniors and seniors at Sewanee during the 2017 Beyond the Gates weekend, and we thought it would be helpful to share these with the rest of you too!

1) Network. Especially during your first few weeks, and even before you join if possible, make sure to network with and talk to the people you'll be working with. It can seem intimidating to reach out initially, but it will be worth it. Building on relationships will help you be more successful at work - and these relationships, be they with mentors, sponsors or peers, can be valuable assets even after you leave the company.

Talk to people who've done what you're doing before. They know what it's like, and can be tremendous resources once you're on the job. You will be helpful to them too! Remember - relationships go both ways, and you need to approach all relationships also keeping in mind how you can help them.

2) Dress the part. Impressions do matter, and sometimes the way you present yourself can help you feel a certain way too! So whether it's a law firm, a hospital, or a construction company, find out whether or not there is a dress code, and plan ahead. 

3) Be aware of your presence. Your gravitas and your body language can go a huge way in how others perceive you and your ability to do your job - and how you perceive yourself! Think of pitching to clients or presenting to the leadership at your office. Someone who seems more confident will automatically demand more attention (even if they actually are not that confident - fake it till you make it!) 

It may seem like there is a lot to learn when it comes to establishing presence, so here are a few simple things to keep in mind - posture, gestures and how you speak. Sometimes, just being aware of how you present yourself can help. There are tonnes of resources available online to help you think about body language and presence. This TED talk by Amy Cuddy is always a good starting point. Do you have any other resources? Please share them in the comments!

4) Reach out for help when you need it. A new job can be intimidating, and you might feel a pressure to succeed and figure out everything by yourself. Don't succumb to this! Remember, there are many resources available to you, and there is no harm in reaching out for help when you need it. You might end up wasting company time and money if you mess something up after spending a lot of time doing something the wrong way, when a simple question could have guided you in the right direction. 

5) Underpromise and overdeliver. This was great advice given to me by someone when I was about to start, and it makes a lot of sense! Managing expectations is something that you will pick up along the way, and these two simple actions will definitely help.

6) Plan ahead. Use the end of the week (or day) to plan for what you want to achieve the next week (or day). You'll thank yourself for it - and so will those you work with!

7) Plan your time. Emails, phone calls and meetings are an unavoidable part of our work day, but can be huge distractions that cause us to lose productivity. Here is a great article on Forbes that talks about the cost of these distractions. The earlier you figure out a system for dealing with these, the more productive you will be. Here are a few tips that others have used:

-Block a specific time in your calendar that is solely for work. During this time, avoid scheduling meetings, do not check emails, and turn your phone notifications off.

-Set a maximum amount of time for meetings.

-Pick specific times during the day for checking and answering emails.

-Use clear subject lines and succinct communication when emailing.

8) Understand your company. Yes, you know what your job entails, and how your department works - but how much do you know about the company? Understand exactly how and why your company works, how the different departments work in sync, and how your work helps the machine run.

Not only will this help you realise how much value your work has, but it will also help you in terms of growth opportunities. Silos do not work, and companies will be more likely to advance employees who understand the larger context of the company and can look toward the future of the company itself.

9) Take initiative. Yes, volunteering to plan the next office retreat can mean hours that you could have been sleeping instead, but participating in office and team building initiatives will help show that you are more than just your job - you are a member of the company. So take the chance to participate in office initiatives and trainings - take on new projects, and never turn down an opportunity to learn.

10) Avoid office gossip. In some sectors more than others, there can be a tendency for groups of people within an organisation to actually implicitly work against each other as office politics and egos come into play. Avoid the inclination to participate in office gossip - your reputation will thank you for it eventually.

11) Learn to say no. This can be hard to do, especially when you're the newbie, but understand that there is a difference in turning something down because you just cannot be bothered, and turning something down because you don't have the capacity to do it, and if you said yes, you wouldn't be able to give it your 101%. In line with number 5 above, people will respect the fact that you will not take on something that you cannot fully devote yourself to, and they will appreciate your work on the projects that you do take on. 

12) Manage your energy. It can seem attractive to put in fifteen hours of work a day, seven days a week, but the fact is that you will probably be less productive in those hours than someone who spent less time but more energy on their work. Learn to manage your energy, both at and outside of work - and this includes getting enough sleep and exercise. Don't neglect your hobbies, and make sure that you are also keeping up with your network outside of work.

Are there any other tips that you have used in your careers? Please do share with us in the comments below!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Nothing in Nairobi

The warm Saturday sunlight is certainly doing a poor job of motivating me to run later in the day. Hanging out in one of my favourite cafes with friends and sangria, I stop and marvel at just how awesome my life is. Stepping back from my thoughts, I tune back into what one of my friends is saying. 

"Yeah, I've been living in Kenya about two months, but I really haven't done much or visited many places!" 

The rest of us all nod in agreement as we chime in with talk of how fast time is passing, how little there is to do, how difficult it is to find (and motivate ourselves to participate in) things to do outside of dancing/drinking/eating/working. Blah blah blah... you know the drill. 

Slowly, we trail off as we realise our friend is still speaking about how much she hasn't been able to do since she got to Kenya. 

"I mean, one weekend we travelled to Uganda, and did some rafting there. Another weekend, I went camping to Naivasha, and then we did skydiving in Diani the week after. Went biking in Hells Gate last weekend... but yeah, other than that, really haven't been anywhere!"

She pauses expectantly, waiting for us to agree. It takes us a while to articulate the fact that the "little" she has done in two months is more than many Kenyans do in a year!

Does this sound familiar to any of you? 

While the above situation may be a little embellished, it's definitely got elements of conversations that I've had with friends and coworkers, and I'm pretty sure that my situation is not unique.

Is it true that there is 'nothing to do' if you live in Nairobi? Not at all, as is shown to us time and again by foreigners living here. Rather, we tend to take all that this city (/country/region) has to offer for granted, and we settle in to our comfort zones. Laziness definitely adds to the equation.

However, I don't think that this is a uniquely Kenyan thing. Many people I know who live in other cities/ countries don't fully take advantage of them until they really get to see things from the perspective of tourists.

What am I getting at? Personally, I'm trying to stop being lazy and take advantage of all that Kenya has to offer: from little things like weekly Zumba to going to fun events within the city skydiving in Diani. And of course, I'll write about them!

What do I want from you? Let me know about activities you've tried out or would love to try out in Nairobi (or in Kenya), places you've visited or are planning to, and I'll do my best to get them on here!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

About Thyme Review: Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017

How could Nairobi Restaurant Week have come and gone without my traditional About Thyme visit? Thankfully, my current team also loves the place, and we decided to grab dinner there on Wednesday night. 

I was a little surprised (and some coworkers a little disappointed) the restaurant didn't do their regular menu during NRW - don't quite remember how it happened last year - but I think at the end we all agreed it was worth it! 

I will apologise in advance for the pictures, as it was a little dark and I'm a little hesitant using flash photography at dinner time. I also forgot to take a picture of the menu, so this screenshot will have to do. 

All the restaurants who did dinner for NRW2017 had the same complimentary cocktails, so this time around, I decided to go for the Absolut Mule - and it was great!! I wish I'd chosen this earlier too. With vodka, ginger beer and fresh lime juice, it was perfectly light and refreshing - exactly the drink that the summer night inspired. 

My choices this dinner shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone - for starters, I chose the sweet potato, butternut and ginger soup. And yes, it was even more delicious than it sounds! The only thing I didn't like about this was that the salt was on the lower side. What may come as a surprise to those of you who know me is that I tried a bite of the tuna tartar that my coworker ordered - and I really liked it!! I like sushi, but for some reason the thought of tartar (and especially tuna) has always terrified me. However, the avocado, lime and soy sauce made it seem more bearable, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste. It was smooth and creamy and a perfect, melt in your mouth blend of flavours. 

Tuna tartar with avocado

Next up? The pepper steak, of course. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting the amaretti tortellini, but after some deliberation (coughpeerpressurecough), decided to go for some steak instead - and it was an excellent choice. 

As I've undoubtedly mentioned before, I'm a steak heathen. When asked how I like my steak, my answer will always be something along the lines of "so well done it's almost burnt. Make sure it's all the way dead, please." And yes, it's always a source of disappointment to those around me. When most people envision steak well-done, they think of tough, chewy leather. Absolutely not the case here. About Thyme's pepper steak, even well done, was perfectly soft and juicy, and all the flavours blended together really well! The dish didn't even need the potatoes on the side. The onion rings on top and the vegetables on the side (which were fresh and crispy and perfect) complemented it beautifully. The pepper sauce was rich and creamy, with the subtlety of thyme really hitting it home. Definitely a ten out of ten on this one - even better than steak I've had in some of Nairobi's famous restaurants who're famed for it! My coworker, who was initially apprehensive about ordering the steak, pretty much had love hearts erupting out of his eyes every time he took a bite of his.  

 What I also liked is that this portion of steak was a LOT more manageable than their regular portions, which I quite appreciated.

The picture absolutely doesn't do the steak justice!
The sticky date pudding sounded too good to pass up, so despite how full I already was by this stage, I managed to do a good job with it. It was really good, and the toffee sauce/ ice cream mixture was DIVINE. The pudding was a little sweeter than I expected, but not sickeningly so. 

My coworkers tried the peanut butter ice cream pie (verdict? GOOD!) and the crème brûlée. From what they told me, the latter could have been a little more brûlée and a little less crème. Perhaps a shallower dish would've helped!

Peanut butter ice cream pie

Sticky date pudding

Crème brûlée

Overall verdict? I think About Thyme was my favourite out of the restaurants I visited this NRW! Which one did you like best?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Arbor Review: Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017

Yes, I know, I did just review the Arbor in December. However, I find that it's always helpful to revisit a restaurant and see how the standards are across time - and I also think that sometimes it's a good idea to review the restaurant without warning them in advance!

As the Young Women Social Entrepreneurs (Nairobi) board, we decided to grab a Saturday lunch at the Arbor. Two birds, one stone and all that. Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017's lunches went for 950 Ksh. for two courses.

Those of you who read my previous review will remember how much I loved their mulled wine. This time around, I ordered sangria (regular menu) - but not before I begged them to add mulled wine to their regular menu. Valentine's Day specials, anyone? I did like the sangria - it was fresh and fruity, but I think it could've done better with a spicier red wine. (Or maybe I was pining over the mulled wine... #notsosubtlehint)

The next time I go, I'd love to try the chilli mango juice. Doesn't it look (and sound) amazing? On another note, I feel incredibly fortunate to live in Kenya where amazing fruit is in season pretty much the whole year. I remember speaking to someone back in Sewanee who mentioned that they'd never had a real mango before. I was flabbergasted!! 

For my two courses, I decided to do the crispy herbed wedges with a chicken Arbor wrap. Others around the table chose other items, like the pie tee and chicken pad thai, the Arbor salad and lamb Arbor wrap, the Arbor salad and siciliana pasta, and the Arbor salad with teriyaki pasta. 

Can we take a moment to appreciate the beauty of those wedges? They were delicious!! The seasoning was perfect, they were fresh and crisp, and went perfectly with the dipping sauce they came with. Definitely something I'll order again, and it also reinforces something I learnt back in December - the Arbor is one of those rare Nairobi restaurants that actually makes potatoes exciting. 

The chicken wrap was also really good - fresh, and I loved how well it went with the aioli! Personally I'd have preferred less onions, but I was able to yank them out as I wished. My friend who ordered the lamb wrap really liked it too. The lamb was soft, and the sauce, gherkins, cheese and olives complemented it well. I didn't try the side salad, but she did, and didn't like it too much. 

Pie tee - nice and crunchy, and went very well with the sauces.

The Arbor salad (huge portion for an appetiser!!) with garlic bread. I gave the salad a miss but tried the garlic bread and it was to DIE for. Can they have that as a standalone item on the menu please?

Teriyaki pasta with chicken. I definitely need to order this the next time I go! It had a nice sesame ginger flavour, with soy and honey in the background. 
Overall verdict: Great job by the Arbor! I'm already in love with the space, and their food is proving to be amazing every time I go, so that's a plus. Only two things to complain about this time - the service was a little bit slow (there was a significant wait between appetisers and the main meal), and when we ordered the sorbet for dessert, the raspberry was significantly less than the vanilla ice cream - not the case when I visited in December. 

For those of you who haven't been to the Arbor yet - take advantage of this lovely weather and head over for a weekend lunch!! 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Ventana Review: Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017

The first Friday of Nairobi Restaurant Week 2017 found my mum, my sister and I at Ventana on Lower Kabete Road, celebrating a "Dhawan women's night out". I'd been there before early last year, and I'd enjoyed my experience, so I was eager to try it again. The NRW 2017 three course menu for dinner and a cocktail was 1,950 Ksh. per person, which was a pretty good deal. 

For my cocktail, I chose to have a Chivas Collins - Chivas, lemonade and soda water with apple slices. To be honest, I wasn't the hugest fan of this one. The Chivas taste came through almost harshly, but it did have a pleasant aftertaste. Apple gummy bears, if I'm being honest! The presentation could've been better too - the regular supermarket straw slightly dampened my enthusiasm for the drink.

For my first course, I chose the chicken tortilla soup. Given the name, I was expecting some sort of creamy, Tex-Mex goodness. I was definitely surprised when I got something reminiscent of an Indian curry! There was fenugreek, tomatoes, green onions, corn, avocado and tortilla chips. I quite liked it, although I would have made a slight change - add the tortilla chips later on so that they remained crunchy. 

Yes, all three of us started with the soup. Runs in the family, some might say!
For the main meal, my sister and I settled on the sesame chicken, while our mum went for the tikka chicken. The presentation of both of these was quite lovely. The only weird thing was that the restaurant forgot to give a spoon for the tikka until prompted. 

The sesame chicken had a lovely flavour, although I detected more honey, soy and pepper than sesame. The spice level was perfect too! Unfortunately, I think the chicken was a wee bit overcooked, as it was a little bit tough - as was the rice. 

The tikka chicken was a pleasant surprise. It had a creamy tomato base, and was not overpoweringly spicy. Different than tikka chicken in most Nairobi restaurants, but different in a nice way. 

Tikka chicken with naan and rice

Sesame chicken with rice

For the dessert, we decided to get one of each and share - a sticky toffee pudding, the molten chocolate cake and a sorbet. 

This was EASILY my favourite course of the meal!! The sticky toffee pudding was amazing, and I need to return for it. While the molten chocolate cake wasn't exactly... well, molten... it was still good, and not sickeningly sweet. Perhaps a different name would have served the dish better? The sorbet was delightfully refreshing on the warm January night, and unless I'm very much mistaken, was a mix of strawberry and tree tomato. 

Overall experience? The service was fast and friendly, and the ambience was nice too. The food could've been better overall, though. I'm willing to give it another shot for the food - as I said earlier, I've been to Ventana once before, and loved what I ordered then.

Have any of you been to Ventana yet? If so, what was your experience?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Morning Zumba or, An Hour in the Life of the Kenyan Nomad

If anyone told you that there's nothing to do in Nairobi apart from eat, drink and work - they lied.

Friday: I realise that there's a Sunday morning Zumba class at the Aga Khan Sports Club, and ambitiously decide to go. I invite a friend to go with me, because, duh, accountability + more fun.

Saturday evening: 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning? Am I suuuuure I want to do this? I just jogged for 30 minutes, that's gotta count for something. 

Saturday night: Okay, I just had Hashmi and wine. No excuses. We're doing this!!!

Sunday morning, 9:55 a.m.: Just drove in. An hour of Zumba! YEAH!!!

Sunday morning, 10:05 a.m.: This is awesome! I am going to ROCK this class. Nothing hurts! Jump higher? Sure!!

Sunday morning, 10:10 a.m.: Okay, so maybe I'm a little more out of shape than I'd like to admit. 

Sunday morning, 10:15 a.m.: Holy shit, how is she moving like that?! Is the human body even meant to be able to do that? Maybe I can try!

Sunday morning, 10:16 a.m.: Okay, ow. Dial it down, Roshni...

Sunday morning, 10:20 a.m.: Good God, I need a drink. Nalgene's here, so water will do!! Let me just step aside for a minute...

Sunday morning, a few seconds later: Wait! No! This song is awesome! And the moves look like so much fun! Rest, schmest.

Sunday morning, 10:25 a.m.: Guys! Guys! Look at me! I can do this! Also, I forgot I could turn this shade of red.

Sunday morning, 10:28 a.m.: Watch out, Shakira. 

Sunday morning, 10:30 a.m.: What even what that muscle I just felt?!

Sunday morning, 10:32 a.m.: I'm grinning like an idiot I know, but this really does feel amazing.

Sunday morning, 10:40 a.m.: WAAAATERRR!

Sunday morning, 10:42 a.m.: Oh, this feels much better. Where were we?

Sunday morning, 10:43 a.m.: YEAH, ENDORPHINS!

Sunday morning, 10:50 a.m.: Isn't it fascinating how this almost seems effortless? Yet, I know if I stop, I'll crash...

Sunday morning, 10:55 a.m.: As much fun as we're having... are we done yet?!

Sunday morning, 10:57 a.m.: HALLELUJAH! Time for cool down.  

Sunday morning, 11:00: Ow and yay pretty much sum it up! I can't wait to go again next week. 

While this wasn't a 'typical' hour in my life, it certainly was a pretty fun hour!! I'm going back next week - anyone interested in joining? 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Quarter Century

No need to panic, dear readers, you haven't missed the big two five. Trust me, you'd have known! However, the truth is that it IS less than 2 months away - and I'm also celebrating 5 years of writing as the Kenyan Nomad this year! Evidently, 2017 looks like it's going to be wicked fun!!

What have I been up to since we last spoke? I spent 2 weeks out of my 3 week vacation in the U.S. with my aunt and uncle, sisters, brothers-in-law, and adorable nieces and nephew. (Yes, my sisters are all grown up and have kids now. When did that happen?!) I had a great time (although it sucked that I wasn't able to see my friends), despite the rocky start that entailed me spending an unplanned night in Atlanta the day I flew in. Winter in flip flops... not as fun as it sounds!

What happens when you take two toddlers and a baby to the tree at Rockefeller

Some of you may remember last year's post where I stated my intentions for 2016. Broadcasting these actually did keep me accountable, and while I may not have achieved them all 100%, I'm pretty pleased with where I got! I definitely intend to build up on them this year - while remaining open to all the surprises that seem to come my way!

1) Health: While I didn't quite get to my goal of running my first half-marathon last year, I did manage to run-walk my first 10K if that counts? (Those of you who know my time are probably doubled over laughing right now, but hey - I can only get better, right?!) Transitioning back into full time employment meant that I was less regular with my schedule than I would have liked, but I'm happy to report that I'm already making progress. I've started a couch to 5K programme that'll take about 8 weeks, while also committing to going for regular Zumba classes. I had my first this morning, and while it absolutely kicked my butt, I loved it!! No huge, lofty goal this year, but I aim to improve on my 10K time by the next Stan Chart marathon. 

2) Comfort zone: I think this is something I always try and do - last year, spontaneous skydiving definitely was an example! I'm excited to see how I can top that this year. Suggestions are always welcome!

3) Professional development: Boy, did this take me absolutely by surprise. At the beginning of 2016, I thought I'd be doing what I had been (marketing consultancy for clients of my own), perhaps with different clients, maybe in a new location. I had absolutely NO idea the change that was coming my way! Transitioning into management consultancy at McKinsey has opened up a whole new set of possibilities for me that I never even knew existed. 

4) Reading: I had planned to read 12 non-fiction books last year. I'll shoot for that again, despite the fact that I only managed 8 this year! Which ones? 

Thrive, by Ariana Huffington
Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office, by Lois Frankel
David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
Bossypants, by Tina Fey

I've started off 2017 with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson. I've been reading his blog for some time, and when I heard he wrote a book, I had to have it. The topic is just an added bonus! 

5) Savings: Did I manage to save up at least 20% of my 2016 income? Absolutely!! I practiced what I preached in this post about personal finance, and the tips actually did work. I think it's a good goal to keep for 2017 too - but maybe this time, invest in addition to just saving.

6) Writing: Remember how pleased I was at the end of 2015 when my blog readership had grown beyond anything I had projected? Well, 2016 was that and even more! I went to events and met new people who didn't know me - but knew my blog. To say that it was heartwarming would be an understatement. 2016 also brought an unexpected surprise, when I realised I wasn't the only blogger using the name 'The Kenyan Nomad'. Thankfully, those who I met actually were talking about my blog! I started to cover more events, restaurants and people in 2016, and I want to continue that in 2017 - with a bit more travel thrown in if time allows!

7) Personal growth: I think this is quite multi dimensional, so I'm planning to continue with meditation and various forms of learning (like TED talks) this year.

8) Languages: Could 2017 FINALLY be the year I become fluent in French? I certainly hope so!

I can't start a new year of blogging without thanking all of you for your love, support and kind words. Your readership has helped catapult the Kenyan Nomad into a new stage of growth that I would've never even dared dream of! Onward and upward, most definitely. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Restaurant Review: Christmas at the Arbor

Happy holidays, everyone! As I write this, I'm sitting in the U.S., having travelled here to spend time with family (and see friends if I get lucky).

Saturday the 17th of December, however, found me in a food coma after a delicious Christmas meal with Darshani (of Cupcakes to Curry) at the Arbor in Lavington, Nairobi. The Arbor has a very laid-back, chic outdoor ambiance, well-suited to Saturday brunch or a dinner out with friends. Darshani and I were there to do a review for a podcast, and thus ended up having a multi-course meal at 10 am on a Saturday morning (accompanied by various cocktails, of course, much to the envy of the other diners)! The weather was perfect December weather - warm and sunny, forbidding any sort of indoor seating at all. For my non-Southern hemisphere readers, you'll just have to visit Kenya to know what I mean when I say 'perfect December weather' and 'warm' in the same sentence.

It was started about two years ago by Shamini, originally from Malaysia. She moved to Kenya after getting married to a Kenyan, and the Arbor was born out of a desire to do something with her time, and to efficiently use the space of a property that's being rented by her sister-in-law to make skincare products. At the moment, the Arbor has about 20 tables and can seat around 60 people, and this growth has been entirely due to word-of-mouth.

To start us off, Darshani and I had some eggnog. Now, I'll be absolutely honest with you all - the thought of eggnog was always weird to me, and I couldn't quite fathom why anyone would willingly drink a raw egg. However, after encouragement from Shamini we both decided to give it a go and... Oh. My. Goodness. It was amazing!! Easily my favourite cocktail of the day. It was smooth and creamy, with lovely flavours of Amarula, vanilla and nutmeg coming through. If I was given the eggnog to drink without being told what it was, I'd have had no idea that it had any egg in it at all. I do hope they add it to the regular menu! I could easily see it becoming something I order often.

The first thing we ate was the potato pancakes with eggs, bacon and hollandaise sauce. These were really good, and a combination that I'd actually never had before! I'm one of those weird eaters who likes eggs, but can't have them without toast, so this was a welcome change in my usual breakfast fare. The potato pancakes were lovely and crispy, and the eggs perfectly poached and slightly runny. The crispy bacon accented the flavour of the eggs, and we both decided that we would definitely order it again.

Next up on our list of things to try was the spicy calamari salad - marinated and grilled calamari on a bed of lettuce, avocado, onions, peppers and cherry tomatoes with homemade vinaigrette. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I am NOT a salad person by any means (unless it's from Stirling's). If salad is there, I'll eat it, but not as a meal on its own, and probably not as something that would be my first choice. If Darshani hadn't chosen this to try, I may never have ordered it at all!

To my surprise, I actually really liked it! The calamari was lovely and spicy, and was perfectly accompanied by the cool creaminess of the avocado. Avocado, again, is another thing that's not on the top of my list of favourites (unless it's guac), but I really loved the combination! Plus, it didn't hurt that the presentation was amazing - the salad looked like a work of art and I was almost afraid to touch it.

After this came cocktail number two (as you can tell, it was a very productive morning!) - the Arbor Christmas Punch. It had some (well, more than some...) Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, honey, lemon juice, orange juice, and a fizzy drink (couldn't tell which one, sorry!) To be perfectly honest, this wasn't one of my favourites, although I can see why others would like it. Darshani hit the nail on the head when she likened the punch to a cold hot-toddy - something you'd have as a comfort drink rather than as a party punch. 

Next up was the bowl of Laksa noodles - my first time having these, and I was hooked! Laksa noodles are a dish of Malaysian origin, and it's my understanding that the Arbor is the only place in Nairobi (maybe Kenya even that does them). I've never had them before, so I'll do my best to explain my experience - but I highly recommend you go try a bowl yourself! They were so good that Darshani and I had to fight over who would take what was left home. I'm happy to report that I won!

The noodles were in a big, steaming bowl of green, fragrant broth. We had ordered the vegetarian ones, and these came with a medley of veggies including carrots, onions and mushrooms. I'm probably committing Laksa blasphemy here, but to me it tasted like a delicious mix of Thai green curry and Indian lentil curry with a coconut milk base.

After the noodles (yes, there's more), we tried the chicken sambal sandwich. Cheese lovers, rejoice! As this sandwich was brought to us, both Darshani and I thought we were looking at a deliciously gooey heap of cheese - luckily, we realised that there was a sandwich under this. The chicken had been marinated in homemade sambal sauce and grilled, and was served on bread with chilli mayo and mozzarella, with a side of fries. The chicken was perfectly spicy and sweat, and the bread was fresh and flavourful. We were extremely pleased that the fries were fresh and crispy - it's unfortunately the case in many Nairobi restaurants, no matter how amazing they are, that you get soggy fries (not that I won't eat them anyway)!

We then proceeded to try cocktails three and four - the mulled wine and the cranberry champagne. The mulled wine was absolutely delicious! The danger of mulled wine is that sometimes it can taste like someone just took sangria and heated it up. While the flavours were reminiscent, the mulled wine definitely had personality of its own, with orange, cloves, cardamom, and some spice - cinnamon or nutmeg perhaps? The mulled wine was also sweet, but not in a way that made me want to grimace. Another one of my favourites from this tasting, and another drink I hope they add to their regular, non-Christmas-special menu!

After having the mulled wine, the cranberry champagne seemed to almost pale in comparison, and it was a little hard to detect the cranberry flavour. However, it was definitely refreshing, and something I would order before the meal or as a palate-cleanser (heathen, I know) before dessert.

Yes, all the drinks in this picture were mine. Glad I wasn't driving that day!
The final food item before dessert was the Christmas special of that weekend, the roasted leg of lamb with mint gravy, potatoes and vegetables.

That gravy was really good!! I wish I could  bottle it up and try it with multiple things. The lamb was crispy around the edges and melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside. It worked so well with the potatoes and the gravy, we almost didn't need the vegetables. While I'm not the biggest fan of lamb that hasn't been marinated because of the- well, lamby flavour- I can see why this was such a huge hit. The portion was also HUGE and it's a wonder I was able to walk that day. The things we do, dear readers, to ensure your entertainment...

All the food was absolutely amazing, and if I had to pick favourites, they'd probably be the Laksa noodles and the chicken sambal sandwich. Although a multi-course meal like we had that day would work just as well ;)

Finally, just as we're about to pass out from all the food, Darshani and I had the Arbor cassata. With raspberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream and glazed fruits, we were in HEAVEN. The sorbet was absolutely delicious and just the right amount of sharp and tangy, which perfectly complemented the sweet creaminess of the vanilla ice cream. It was also amazing beautiful to look at! 

A photo posted by Roshni Walia (@rwalia) on

I really enjoyed my Arbor experience, and I'm definitely looking forward to going back. Had a visit yet? I'd love to hear all about it! And if you haven't - what're you waiting for? Happy holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Light Fire from the Spark: Rohan Gandhi

"When you are at rock bottom, the only way to move is up."

These are words we've all probably heard at one point or another - but how many of us have actually lived them? Meet Rohan Gandhi...

Growing up, Rohan had dreamed of becoming a pilot. He had a passion for cars and planes, a passion that guided him to becoming a mechanical engineer. Aside from his professional aspiration, he also wanted to box professionally. While growing up, he was a victim of bullying, and was able to overcome an inferiority complex after he was inspired by the Rocky Balboa movies.

Sounds like a story many of us can relate to, right?

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."

Unfortunately, for this particular condition, and indeed many other spinal cord injuries in general, there is no real medication or guaranteed form of treatment available. However, there are support services available for rehabilitation at the National Spinal Injury Hospital and a large amount of resources available through the National Council for People with Disabilities. Aside from physical therapy, these bodies also advise and counsel individuals who suffer from depression or low self-esteem as a result of such injuries. 

When the reality of his condition dawned on him, Rohan found himself feeling overwhelmed and confused. Everyone is afraid of that which they cannot understand, and he was no different. On top of adapting to new circumstances, Rohan also experienced a lack of self-confidence compounded by the resulting obesity. He was afraid to go back to school, to face the people he thought were his friends. All his peers were preparing to go overseas to study as he instead had to gear up for his biggest mental battle to date. 

He expected everyone and anyone to judge him for his new circumstances - and the unfortunate reality is that some people did. He recalls one incident when he was actually asked to leave a gym due to his condition some years down the line. Although he could've chosen to give them a fight that they probably wanted, Rohan paused and channeled his energies into becoming even stronger. When they went low, he went high. As he puts it, "Despite my challenge, why wasn't I just as, if not stronger than him/ her physically? Sensible choices - build yourself or break down others."

His lower limbs were completely paralysed up until he began intense physiotherapy. Currently, he has recovered up to about a 60% amount of usage through sheer will and continuous training. 

Rohan cites his father as his role model. He credits his parents and brother as his biggest sources of strength, for helping to make him confident enough to embrace his new reality, and to overcome his fears - a fear of not being accepted, of not being able to stand again, and of not being able to hold his child's hand to teach them how to walk in the future. His family helped him battle the "insecurity demon" as he calls it. They never let it occur to him that he was any less than what he used to be, or that he was at a disadvantage compared to the people standing around him. They laughed at his awkward situations together, and I'm sure we can all agree that a positive approach to any negative situation can do wonders. 

Rohan tells us about a moment that helped change his outlook on life. This was at a stage when he was battling low self-esteem and a lack of motivation to do anything about it. If anyone smiled at him, the first thought he had was that they were mocking him. During his second year of university, a girl approached him with the words "It doesn't matter if you're in a wheelchair, you're a handsome guy. You're just really fat!" Blunt words, but fortunately coming from a place of concern rather than condescension. She invited Rohan to go to the gym with her, and that was it. 

Within 6 months, after having lost 30 kg, his energy levels had shot up, and he saw a remarkable change in people's attitudes toward him. The truth of the matter is that they probably sensed a change in his attitude that became infectious! Exercise does have a wonderful way of boosting self-esteem, whether this is as part of a weight loss journey or not. 

He believes that regardless of your situation - physical, mental, or financial - if you develop a fearless attitude to exploit opportunities, the outcome will be one of two things. Either people will get out of your way, or they will follow you. He cites the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who suffered from Polio which left him paralysed from the waist down too, but whose never-say-die attitude resulted in him being remembered as one of the U.S.'s most fearless presidents. 

Let's hear from Rohan as he answers some questions for us:

1) What's the best advice someone has ever given you?

Your inability to cope with your reality will ruin you. Fight.

2)  How did you battle your anxieties and depression?

I was always a witty and funny person. Getting paralysed didn't change that.  Initially I battled the anxiety/ depression by ignoring and suppressing it through humor. In one sense, I would hide behind the tears of a clown. Then I picked up the pen and started writing... every time  I felt a certain way I'd write it down as poetry to express myself, then I picked up the mic and became vocal through spoken word and rap. It is unbelievable the solace I found in my own words, in my own mind. 

3) How would you define your life journey now?

I'm not sure. I still haven't figured it out. One thing is I know is I am not the only one that has struggled or is suffering. Whether it is a mental condition or physical there are many people just like me. I was fortunate enough to find my strength and I want to help as many people as I can find theirs. I want to spread positivity and confidence to make people believe in themselves before believing in others ..... no matter what your dreams are or what you're aspiring to achieve. 

I want to help people in need. I don't know how else to put it. This world is an unforgiving place. Competition and the drive to be the best makes people hurt each other rather than inspire. We need to reach out and show people how things are done rather than brag about what we've achieved. Knowledge and good is the only thing you can leave behind worth recognizing, your ego, beauty and money goes with you. What I may lack physically I like to think I make up mentally. I'm only getting stronger and if I focus enough I can only get better or at the least reduce the discomfort associated with my physical state. We define our limits. 

4) What has surprised you about your journey since that day back in 2004?

 People’s attitudes and the fact that situations never get easier, they only get less difficult through conditioning. 

5) Let's say you're invited to give a TED talk. What are you going to talk about?

There are two topics I would consider. One is fearlessness - I'd love to motivate people to do what they've always wanted to. 

The other is women's empowerment from a male perspective, and this would have to be after doing a lot more research and educating myself more on this. I have observed a lot of resistance and inequality that women face in society, from jobs, to relationships, to life in general. My opinion is that women are more considerate to people, and can do what men can't. A personal example is that despite my condition, I have had girls see past my challenges so often that I almost feel like nothing is different about me. However, men would find it difficult to date a woman in a wheelchair, and would tend to see her as less than an abled woman. 

6) What do you wish you had known earlier?

 I wish I knew the power of positivity and how much of a difference it can make in helping one adapt to or overcome any challenge. I found it out a bit late. Still no regrets.

7) Let's say you just won a million dollars. What would be the top 3 to 5 things you would prioritise, and why?

Tough question. So in order.
-     Set up a charity for children. Poverty is the most painful scenario to watch. One child sitting on a couch eating popcorn watching a documentary about another child starving to death.
-     Travel the world. I can’t take the money and go so might as well see the most of what I can now.
-     Set up a music studio and artist development company. – I love music and realize the struggles that go into creating a project. Artists want to express themselves and sometimes can’t only because of the fact that they can't afford the service. I want to help break that norm for others and myself. 

8) Any advice for others who may be struggling in their lives?

Be fearless and let nobody discourage you in any sort of way. Surround yourself with people that lift you up and tell you how to do things, not with people that raise doubts in your mind. How you control your fear, anger and ability to reason in situations determines outcome .... if you fail make sure you learn, if you win make sure you teach. Be brave enough to experience both. 

When asked about why he felt he could share his story on this platform, Rohan says:
My goal with this article, my purpose with being in the public eye in general, is to show people that no matter how bad your situation, someone has it worse. There are people that would gladly trade their problems with yours and comfortably walk a mile in your shoes. We need to understand not everything is going to work in our favor, the beautiful eyes that we love may never look at us, the person we thought would never change ends up being different, one day we’re walking the next day we aren’t... bad things happen but there’s nothing you cannot adjust to. For me personally, I may never be able to slow dance with a girl again or walk with my child clinging to my hand but... I'm here, I'm drawing breath.... and I’m loved.  Open your eyes... how hard is your life really ?  You can use your story as an example of a tragedy or as example of sheer strength and triumph. Losers worry about losing... I’m a winner. 
As he puts it "Anyone who finds hope when they read my story motivates me to be stronger. Out of 100 people that see me, 99 will turn the other way, but the one that doesn't... that's my strength."

A huge thank you to Rohan Gandhi and Aniqah Khalid for their support on this article!

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