Monday, February 5, 2018

A Letter to You


Today's guest post is from a beautiful person I know who has a story to tell - a story about love and heartbreak and what it feels like to be human. 



My love,

I once heard someone describing their heartbreak as physical pain they felt within their breast. I could not understand it and I could not comprehend how emotions and our physical being could become so synced by something as meagre as love.

The pain hit me right in the middle of my chest. It began as a tightening feeling and grew upwards to my throat and neck. Anxiety it threatened and misery it promised. It was actual physical pain and it felt like all the happiness from within my existence had vanished instantly. I thoroughly wish I was writing with extreme exaggeration - however, it seems this is why heartbreak is named as it is.

So many unanswered questions, so much yet to say and so many promises broken. “I’ll never leave” was the biggest lie we said. So much was so wrong with everything, yet everything seemed so right. Sense and practicality had taken a back seat because your smile was all I needed to forget myself. It seemed that reality had finally become better than those escaping dreams, for sleep was something we fought and every waking moment was drenched in the vibrancy of each other.

Many have presumed to have fully understood love. They say that you cannot have loved for this and that reason and condition, it is as though a rule book exists. I was once of that school of thought until I got knocked to the ground by love and all its grandeur. Love in all her magnificence and glory was too remarkable for me. I questioned her presence and I believed her loyalties lay more with you than me. Indeed I was wrong, for she was not just to either of us.

In a world far away, it would have just been me and you, me and you, just us two. However, life had something so alternative in store for us. We were never perfect for one another and no matter how much we tried to mold our shapes, these two pieces would not fit together. To love someone and for them to be your ever after are mutually exclusive, this we learnt the hard way.

In the night I can hear you call my name and in the day I can feel your smile dance on my skin. I remember every curve of your face and every hair within your beard especially the odd white ones which you hate but which I love so. I remember the sound of your laugh and the pain and sadness in your eyes as you reflected on what has passed, what is now and what is to come.

Love flowed deep within me although you doubted me and doubted my love, it was always there, however what I will admit was that I didn’t love myself enough to love you for everything you came with. Now, just like sand slipping through my fingers; I have to let you go for you were never mine to keep. You belong to the whirlwind of life and to those who have already claimed your love. You belong to someone who has enough strength to fix their own broken pieces as well as yours and who can carry the weight of the own heart and yours. I was never strong enough for the two of us.

The tears I constantly weep make no sense to me for I do not know if I am mourning the loss of you, or the loss of who I was when I was with you. The pain in my heart will continue to surface in the small moments of the day. My days will carry on as will yours, however I will always have those instants where I will stop with whatever I am doing and I will miss you terribly. For now that is my constant being.

Then a day will come, a day where my happily ever after will come and you will become a distant memory whose lines I can barely remember. The thought of forgetting you makes my heart ache and yet it gives me hope to know that someday my heart will be able to love again, and from the lessons I have learnt, it will indeed love wholly and fully.

For now, I leave you to the one who is the best of keepers, and I pray that wherever you are, whoever you may be with and however you may be that happiness will always find you. May all the hardships you have faced become easier and may every moment presented to you be filled with utmost beauty.

Forever yours,


A. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Garden Brunch Cafe: Nashville Restaurant Review

What's a reunion without brunch?




Asking ourselves this, 8 of us planned to do brunch the Sunday most of my friends were in town - 17th of December. The Garden Brunch Cafe was selected as our location, and so we headed there at about 9:45 am. Unfortunately, the cafe doesn't take reservations, so there was about a 30 to 40 minute wait for us - more for those who came after us. The weird thing is that they don't seat tables of more than 6, and all had to be present for us to be seated. This meant that 4 of us got a table first - and then 2 of us had to wait an ADDITIONAL 30 minutes for the last 2 to arrive to be seated. We weren't too happy about that, but by the time we were hungry enough that we just wanted some food - a good decision, since the food was great! The ambience was chic and modern, and not too busy.

I loved these centrepieces!

We decided to get a carafe of their mimosa for the table - mimosas make everything better, and you simply can't do brunch without them. Really silly, but I got excited about the fact that they spelt 'litre' with an 're' - you can see it in greater detail in the second picture.






I decided to get the fiesta omelette, with turkey sausage, green peppers, cheddar, onions, and jalapeno peppers, and a side of pancakes to share. One of my friends ordered the same, and the others got the french toast, and the breakfast bowl - scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, a choice of bacon, sausage or ham, served over pan roasted potatoes - with an iced coffee.



Oddly enough, there was no cutlery on the table, and we had to ask for it. In fact, the service for such a popular place was slow and substandard - hopefully, this was just a one time thing. For example, one of our friends ordered a southern pecan flavoured black coffee. This came, but we had to ask for the cream, which took a while to bring. The same friend had asked for her omelette without onions - however, it came with.

Okay, back to the food. My omelette came with toast and grits. The grits were FANTASTIC. They were perfectly creamy, and I had to pace myself in order to avoid finishing them all in one bite! The fluffy pancakes also got a 10/10 - they were perfectly fluffy, and just slightly gooey in the centre. I absolutely LOVED them.



The omelette was good too - however, it wasn't closed, and the ingredients were cut really big! So this meant I had to take a bite of peppers separately, then sausage separately, and so on.

Fiesta omelette
My friend who ordered the french toast really liked it, and rated it among her 'top 5 french toast experiences'. The only thing she would've improved was to have her eggs come with some toast.

French toast with a side of eggs
My friend who ordered the breakfast bowl wasn't as pleased with his experience. While the flavours worked well individually, he felt that they didn't mix well together - it was like a deconstructed breakfast bowl. Everything was really big and chunky, and the eggs were a huge mass. However, he loved his iced coffee, which he ordered without whipped cream and deemed perfect. With a slight chocolatey flavour, it reminded him of a kid's drink from back in the day.

Breakfast bowl
Overall verdict - good food - I'd return for the grits and pancakes alone! However, service is in definite need of improvement. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bolton's Spicy Chicken and Fish: Nashville Restaurant Review

Nashville is famous for its hot chicken, and I'm definitely a fan from when I last visited. This time, my friends decided to take me to a place that does both hot chicken AND hot fish - it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a quick review.

Bolton's is a casual, hole in the wall place. It's known as a hidden gem - not one of the more popular hot chicken joints, but definitely worth it. You order up at a little window, and tell them which meat you want, with the desired spice level and sides desired. The cutlery and plates are plastic, and you seat yourselves.

Unfortunately, on the day we got there, they had run out of the other spices, and only had one level - light medium I believe? While I had wanted to try something spicier, I'm glad I didn't - this proved spicy enough for me!

I decided to get a chicken tenders plate, which came with two sides - I chose the mac and cheese, and fries. Most of my friends got the catfish, and loved it.

The chicken was AMAZING - and definitely spicy! However, the only complaint I had is that the spice is only on the outside - it would've been nice if it permeated through to the meat itself. The fries were amazing, with cajun seasoning, and the mac and cheese was absolutely PERFECT. It was peppery and creamy, and I'd love to get my hands on the recipe. The portion was more than generous, and despite the fact that I was starving when I got there, I wasn't able to finish.

Chicken tenders plate - the mac and cheese was under the paper
Verdict from my friends: the catfish was delicious! Aim low on the spices - and don't regret getting a drink.

Most of them got the green beans as a second side, which they loved.

I do intend to return when I'm next in Nashville - and maybe this time, I'll try something spicier!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Karambezi Café: Dar es Salaam Restaurant Review

Picture this - a lovely evening, the sound of waves crashing on the beach, the smell of salt in the air. Already perfect enough, but then you add in a restaurant serving excellent seafood - meet Karambezi cafe. Located right on the ocean cliff, with a gorgeous view of the ocean and the night sky, they definitely get a 10 on ambience.


We got a wine for the table - a lovely Chardonnay that went well with our selected appetiser, as well as all the seafood we got.

For starters, we all opted for the pull apart garlic bread. As they describe it, "home baked loaf served straight out of the oven covered in cheese and herb & garlic butter". Doesn't that make your mouth water?! The flavour more than lived up to the description - it was so good that we had to order more! It was like a cheesy dream - among the top 10 garlic breads I've had. Not only was it perfectly garlicky, but perfectly cheesy too. Don't be surprised if you find me there eating this as a main meal with some wine. The only thing that we weren't too pleased about was the fact that the home baked loaf wasn't as fresh as we'd have liked. 


For the mains, I got the Karambezi fish and chips - battered fillet of fish with peri peri & coconut served with garlic sauce. My colleagues got the seafood platter - lobster, prawns, calamari, line fish, Baby White Snapper, crab claws and other delicacies served with 3 sauces; the classic fish and chips - battered fillet of fish served with homemade tartar sauce; and the king prawns - grilled King prawns served with spicy cajun.

I really liked my fish and chips - however, the portion was HUGE and I wasn't able to finish. A certain garlic bread may have been to blame. The batter was thick and flavourful, and when it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to finish, I took to eating just the batter with the garlic sauce, and the tarter sauce, which I'd ordered as an extra.

Verdicts from my colleagues - quoted verbatim.

Seafood platter: GOOD. NICE! 

Seafood platter: The prawns were rubbery, but the platter was impressive. I liked the Tilapia best. The crab was perfectly done - however, it would've been nice to get a hammer.

Classic fish and chips: Well, in the end - I got the fish and chips that I wanted. (Strangely poetic, and we've used this to express our satisfaction in multiple other contexts now!) 

King prawns: Portions were too big. Big prawns aren't usually nice prawns. It was meant to be cajun, but just had a little sprinkle of paprika. 

Seafood platter

Karambezi cafe fish and chips
Overall verdict? I loved the place! I'd love to visit in the daytime, as I bet the view is just GORGEOUS. Have you been? What did you think?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Salt: Dar es Salaam Restaurant Review

Recently, I've been spending a bit of time in Dar es Salaam with my team. I like the city - it's a sleepier, quieter version of Nairobi. Of course, there's no way I could be in a new city without doing a restaurant review, so I seized the opportunity one evening when we'd ventured out for dinner. Interestingly, we hadn't quite planned to go to Salt - we were actually planning to go to a Thai restaurant nearby. However, when we got there at around 8:00 pm, they were already closing (despite it not yet being closing hours). A little weird - and a little early to close for dinner, we thought! One of my colleagues had been to Salt before, and since it was in the same complex, we walked over. Located in Oyster Bay, an area close to the beach and known for good restaurants, we were happy enough to make the switch.



The decor of the restaurant was really cool. Rustic, eclectic - British - and easily adaptable to a casual afternoon or a more dressy dinner. It sounds weird, given that Dar es Salaam is so hot, but I think that a fireplace would go really well with the theme! Not that they'd need to use it, of course.






After perusing the menu, we ordered a bottle of wine for the table. This was the strange part - we ordered the Spier Chenin Blanc, but were told they didn't have it, and were offered the Spier Sauvignon Blanc. A few moments later, we were offered the Chenin Blanc - seems as though the waiter was a little confused! 

We decided to get a few starters before the main meal, which turned out to be a great decision - their starters were amazing, and easily eclipsed the entrees! I ordered the beer battered calamari, while my colleagues got the baked baby brie with garlic bread, the Greek salad, and the prawn cocktail. 

Beer battered calamari
The calamari was amazing - definitely an A+ from me! It was fresh, and flavourful, and the batter was light and crispy. The accompanying sauce was sweet and spicy, and perfectly complemented the dish. The baked brie was "heaven", according to the colleague who ordered it. The Greek salad was proclaimed to be among the top 3 salads they'd tried. However, the prawn cocktail proved to be overwhelmingly rich, and wasn't as enjoyable. 

For the mains, I ordered chicken skewers which came with chips and three sauces, and my colleagues got the pork chops and the Zanzibari curry. 

Zanzibari curry

Pork chops

Chicken skewers
We all agreed that the main dishes were good, but couldn't live up to the starters. My chicken skewers were slightly dry and underflavoured - however, the peanut and mint sauces were amazing. I'm not really a salad person, but I really liked the one they made - the dressing was great! Apart from the tomatoes and black olives, I ate it all. The chips were amazing - perfectly cut, not overly oily, and I could've easily kept eating them. 

The apples gave the pork chops a nice flavour, and my colleague who ordered the curry was impressed with the presentation -  they served it IN a coconut. This also ensured that the flavour infused well into the prawns. While it was a Zanzibari curry, interestingly enough, it almost tasted Creole! 

For dessert, although we were all stuffed by this point, my colleagues decided to order the pecan pie, and we snuck some bites of this. 


Oh. My. Goodness. I wasn't quite expecting such amazing pecan pie, but this was a surprise I was very happy about! It was absolutely delicious, and I can easily say it might be the best pecan pie I've ever had. I'll definitely be returning for it!

Overall verdict? Nice restaurant - a little room for improvement as far as entrees and service goes, but excellent ambience, location, appetisers and dessert!

Have you been to Salt? What did you think? I'd love to hear your opinions! 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year!


I made no secret of my love-hate relationship with 2017. Towards the end of the year, I felt that the global energy, if such a thing exists, had turned from positive to negative, and there was a lot of frustration, unhappiness and anger all around - one only has to look at the news and social media over the past few months to confirm this! While for me, personally, it was a year full of learning and new challenges, and great memories I'll treasure, I'm sure you'll understand why I'm so excited for 2018! It's only been a few days, but it already feels like it'll be a great, game-changing year. Maybe I'm still energised from an amazing, amazing vacation (more on that in later blog posts), but I have a feeling this will last. Plus, it's my sixth year as the Kenyan Nomad, so that'll be fun to celebrate!

I can't start off the years without saying a huge thank you to all of you! When I first started this blog, I had no idea how much it would grow. 2017 was a year where my readership was the highest it's ever been - and I loved getting feedback from people! To all those of you who took the time to write me, or to chat to me at events, and just tell me that you enjoyed reading my work - it meant a lot! I had people who didn't know me come up to me and let me know that they love the Kenyan Nomad. You can bet that was amazing to hear! I like to keep feedback channels open, so I'd like to invite you all to fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/Q0NSdOKWRvjqcZj82

It's not long at all, and gives me a chance to learn about what you liked, or didn't like, and what you'd like me to write about going forward.

Once again - thank you all, and I wish you a very happy and successful 2018! Keep an eye out for some upcoming posts; I managed to gather some great content in December!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Quotes to Live By (2 of 2)



There is something greater and purer than what the mouth utters. Silence illuminates our souls, whispers to our hearts, and brings them together. Silence separates us from ourselves, makes us sail the firmament of spirit, and brings us closer to heaven. 
Kahlil GIbran

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” 
Kahlil Gibran, The Broken Wings

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's 
And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's 
And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into 
Who among you does not feel that his power to love is 
And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not form love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love 
And is not time even as love is, undivided and placeless? 
Kahlil Gibran

Love is the only freedom in the world because it so elevates the spirit that the laws of humanity and the phenomena of nature do not alter its course.
Kahlil Gibran

Do not wait for life. Do not long for it. Be aware, always and at every moment, that the miracle is in the here and now. 
Marcel Proust

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. 
Marcus Aurelius

True understanding is to see the events of life in this way: “You are here for my benefit, though rumor paints you otherwise.” And everything is turned to one’s advantage when he greets a situation like this: You are the very thing I was looking for. Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you. This, in a word, is art- and this art called “life” is a practice suitable to both men and gods. Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing; what then could be strange or arduous when all of life is here to greet you like an old and faithful friend? 
Marcus Aurelius 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marianne Williamson

 My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
Maya Angelou

Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.
Neil Gailman

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be. 
Patanjali 

When we walk to the edge of all the light we have, and must take a step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. Either there will be something solid for us to stand on, or we will be taught how to fly.
Patrick Overton

A billion stars go spinning through the night, 
blazing high above your head. 
But IN you is the presence that will be, 
when the stars are dead. 
Rainer Maria Rilke

Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats before you and no crowds shout your name. 
Robert L. Stevenson

The World is a great book, of which they who never stir from home read only a page. 
St. Augustine 

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Steve Jobs

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. 
Steve Jobs

Nothing is as real as a dream. The world can change around you, but your dream will not. Your life may change, but your dream doesn’t have to. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Your spouse and children need not get in its way, because the dream is within you. No one can take your dream away. 
Tom Clancy 

Of all the things that can be stolen from you – your possessions, your youth, your health, your words, your rights – what no one can ever take from you is your freedom to choose what you will believe in, and who and what your heart will love.
Unknown


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Another 20 Desserts, Dishes and Drinks in Nairobi You Must Try

As promised, here's part 2! Haven't checked out part 1? Do so here!

Incidentally, this happens to by my 250th published post!

1. Bhajias from Bhajia Corner? Maru Bhajia Place? (no one could remember the actual name) in Diamond Plaza. There seems to be unanimous agreement that the best maru bhajias in town are from this little place in Diamond Plaza. Yes, we may not remember the name. but those of you who've been to Diamond Plaza know EXACTLY what I'm talking about! To those who haven't yet been - once you go to the food court, you'll be swarmed with lots of waiters trying to get your to order from them. However, just ask for the maru bhajia place and you'll be directed accordingly!

2. Nyama choma at Njugunas Place. Is there any food that's as quintessentially Kenyan as nyama choma (literally, roast meat) is? Njugunas is reputed to have the best in town - soft, perfectly done, and flavourful. No more chewing one piece for five minutes!

3. Heavenly beef at Zen Garden. In case you couldn't tell already, Zen Garden is one of my favourite restaurants in Nairobi. I love going there, but at the same time, whenever I go, I want to eat EVERYTHING! Unfortunately, that hasn't been physically possible... yet! This beef is lovely and perfectly cooked with teriyaki sauce. If you're making a list of the things you can't miss out on in Nairobi, this HAS to be on it!



4. Chicken biryani from Khazana at Village Market. Despite not being a dish of Kenyan origin, biryani has almost become a staple for us!



5. Tres leches cake at Mercado. Tres leches is a cake that's been soaked in three types of milk. Not only is Mercado one of the only places in Nairobi that does it, but they also do it well!



6. Tagliolini al nero at Lucca (Villa Rosa Kempinski).



7. Frozen key lime pie from About Thyme. I know, I know, frozen key lime pie? Doesn't sound the most appetising, right? Trust me though, this is AMAZING. Very light and refreshing, with a perfect blend of flavours. I first tried this on recommendation from About Thyme's owner - then fell in love, and dragged my best friend over to the restaurant to make her try it too!



8. Fresca y menta margarita at Fonda. Thank GOODNESS we have more options for Mexican food in Nairobi! Long gone are the days where you order a burrito at a regular cafe. And of course, you can't have Mexican food without (hopefully giant) margaritas!



9. Palak paneer from Chowpatty.

10. Fried chicken and waffles from Nyama Mama. Technically, Nairobi IS south of the Mason-Dixon line, so this makes total sense (as does the enduring love of country music in southern parts of the country).



11. Grilled lobster at Osteria.

12. Cheese pie from Spring Valley Artisan Cafe. I am actually SO glad I don't work close enough that I can stop by this place everyday, because I'd order their cheese pie whenever I could, and I'd easily be thrice my size! The pastry is just right, the flavour of cheese is perfect (but not overwhelming), and it doesn't drip with fat which can be such a turn off.



13. Thai red curry from Zen Garden. I usually get this with chicken, but you're free to experiment! Red curry is the epitome of Thai food for me, and I honestly believe that Zen Garden does the best red curry in town. Perfectly complemented by their jasmine rice, this curry is rich, hearty and comforting - exactly what a curry should be!



14. Chicken salad with strawberry and poppy seed dressing at Java House. One of the best things about Java is the fact that it has such a variety and can cater to so many different types of cravings. Want something decadent? Go for the chocolate fudge cake. Something hearty? Get a steak. Something light? This salad is perfect for that!



15. White sangria from Tapas/ Artcaffe. I've tried the white sangria at both places MULTIPLE times, and I can honestly say I can't tell the difference, which is why they both made it on the list ;) Red sangria is more popular (at least in Nairobi), but anyone who's tried this white sangria can attest to the fact that it is, indeed, perfect.



16. Chorizo from hell from La Tasca Spanish Corner. This is one of those I haven't tried yet, and I'm almost afraid to - it looks like pure fire! However, it comes highly recommended by a friend and fellow food blogger.



17. Crispy duck wonton with fresh mango salad and plum sauce at Pan Asian Yao. Done by the same group that brought us Nyama Mama, Pan Asian Yao is a newer Asian fusion restaurant in Nairobi. This dish has been described as 'to die for' - so what're you waiting for?!



18. T-bone steak at Trattoria.



19. Zinger strips KFC. Okay, okay, stop laughing. Yes, KFC isn't Kenyan, but their zinger strips are amazing, and had to make the list!!

20. Funghi pizza from 360 Degrees Artisan Pizza. I have it on good authority that when this pizza is made, angels sing in the kitchen to make it even MORE amazing.


Liked this post? Please let me know - and SHARE :)


Monday, December 4, 2017

Letting Go, pt. 2

If you haven't yet read the post I did a few weeks ago about letting go, you can have a look here! Part two brings in perspectives from some more people - a huge thanks to my contributors!



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From the time I was born, my nana and grandpa have always been a major part of my life. My grandpa would pick me up three days per week from school and gladly bring me to 7-11 for a classic blue raspberry Slurpee. I would go back to their home and my nana would often have sticky buns and make me a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for dinner. I grew up learning how to play cards from my grandpa on the engraved card holder that he built in his workshop. I learned how to be kind from my nana and to appreciate the small things in life. These two individuals are the most selfless individuals I have ever met. I am proud to call them my grandparents.
My nana was the first to pass away, while I was a sophomore in high school. For my entire life she had been living with multiple sclerosis – she had lived for so long in so much pain but not once can I remember her complaining. It was difficult to lose her, but I believe everyone in my family understood that for the first time in years she would no longer be in pain. There was a sort of comfort in these thoughts that brought us all closer. Even for my grandpa, who had been married to her for almost 50 years, I could sense a sad relief knowing that she was able to feel better than she had in a very long time. In my eyes, this was one of the most selfless acts and I admire him for saying goodbye so gracefully and with such bravery for him to carry on with his new life. 

My grandpa passed away my junior year of college. He had congestive heart failure and his heart was failing him as time passed by, but his mind was the same as it had ever been. He had been playing cards every week with friends, attended every Lion’s Club meeting and would never miss an event. He never failed to call my mother to say goodnight and chat every night at 9:00. My parents, brother, and I went to visit him on his last day and spent time catching up, joking about life, hearing him sing some Irish diddies and tell a few of his countless Irish riddles. None of us really knew it was his last day, but I believe he expected it more than anyone. He called every one of his friends that day to thoroughly enjoy one more conversation and unknowingly say his farewell. He ate the ice cream sundae which he had been eagerly awaiting all week and passed away in his sleep.

Somewhere, my grandpa is dancing with my nana - he with a glimmer in his eye and she smiling so candidly in an elegant dress. Though it has been years now, there are times that I miss them so strongly I can barely keep it inside. These nostalgic feelings are paired with the fond memories I share with the rest of my family. I admire and aspire to have grace and strength like my grandpa to say goodbye, but it’s a work in progress. So I find myself passing by a silk scarf or watching an old “I Love Lucy” re-run or hearing an old Irish diddy, and the two of them live on within me.

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In the context of relationships, I’ve found that there are two sides to letting go. The first is where you consciously have to make the decision to let go of someone, and the second where the decision is made for you (be it down to another person’s decision or just circumstance).

Having experienced both angles, I think making a conscious decision to let go is the more difficult side to deal with. The mere fact that this is something you’re deliberating highlights the fact that there’s an internal conflict you’re facing – and being in this state of uncertainty I think is in itself the issue. While letting go isn’t a decision that’s easy or something that should be taken lightly, being lost in the middle is probably worse than making the ‘wrong’ decision. The way I see it, 50% of the time you’ll make the right choice and the other 50% will still give you a second chance – humans are an extremely forgiving species, and life gives you new opportunities every day. Meanwhile not choosing to pick a side leaves you wrong 100% of the time!

Being on the receiving end of a decision to let go is something I’ve actually found to be much easier. While it may be harsher and more intense, it’s also cleaner. From the receiving end, I was (eventually) able to take comfort in the fact that some things were out of my hands and therefore I couldn’t have any regrets for the things I could not control. All that was left to do was to go through the motions that followed and come out the other side.

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It’s easy to lose sight of reality when the relationship you’re letting go off is with someone who has increasingly become such a core part of your identity.

The situation by default is typically very emotionally charged and it’s hard to see past emotions with clarity of judgement.

My advice would be to reason the relationship out with logic and confide in someone if it makes this process of being objective with yourself any easier... the sooner you are able to accept that letting go is the best way forward, the easier it will be for you to overcome the accompanying discomfort that the change will bring.

Lastly, never let the storms of the past discolour your experience of the present - especially when it comes to seeking out new relationships.

Being let down or disappointed once, twice or even thrice is not reason enough to deny the world from benefiting from everything you have to share! Because remember: you are MORE than worth it.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Where Passion and Talent Intersect: Meet Shikha Vincent

I first met Shikha last year. I was still relatively new at being back to Kenya, and she'd seen some of my Facebook posts about my blog posts. She reached out, we hit it off, and have remained friends to date!

Not only is Shikha a wonderful person to be around - seriously, spending time with her is like a much needed recharge, she has GREAT energy - but she's also passionate about wildlife conservation. Coupled with an artistic talent, she's found a great way to channel her energy in her jewellery line. Let's find out more!

Elephant pendant with banana box (SHIKHAZURI line)

Shikha's professional background is in law. She did her undergraduate and masters in Law in the UK, and developed a particular interest in environmental law. When she returned to Kenya, she worked on a community based wildlife and conservation project bordering Tsavo West National Park for four and a half years.

She started making jewellery in 2008 following the onset of the global financial crisis. Tourist bookings at the boutique lodge she was managing had dropped drastically, which is what spurred the decision to try her hand at making jewellery as a means to generate funds to assist with raising the animal orphans she helped to raise.  Initially, this started with a couple of trips to various local markets to source beads and materials to make jewellery. However, after a few weeks of learning basic techniques, she was hooked, and managed to sell her pieces to visitors and friends. That’s where her jewellery making journey began.

After working on the wildlife and conservation project in Kenya, Shikha returned to the UK to undertake the Legal Practice Course to give her the option to practice law, and provide her with a solid career fall back option. She then went on to work in legislative affairs for an international animal welfare organisation based in London, and following that, moved to Dubai and spent three years working as a legal contracts manager. Although it was a great experience, she realised that life in the corporate world wasn’t for her, and so, along with her husband, decided to move back to Africa. As she says, "That’s when the I decided to focus my full attention to making my jewellery business a reality."

Her brand name, SHIKHAZURI, is intended to capture the cross cultural influence that is central to her designs. SHIKHAZURI is the amalgam of her name “Shikha”, which means 'tip of the flame' in Hindi, and 'to hold or embrace' in Swahili. The word “zuri” means beautiful in Swahili. Collectively, it represents timeless beauty that goes beyond adornment.

When asked what the main inspiration behind the brand is, Shikha says:
To promote cultural awareness through adornment. We’re exposed to so many cultural influences on a daily basis, from the food we eat, music we listen to, clothes we wear, people we interact with, etc. I wanted my brand to be both a reflection and celebration of this reality. Therefore, my one-of-a-kind range of jewellery combines beads and artefacts from around the world into a single piece of adornment to reflect this melting pot, while also telling the story behind each element: where it came from and what it symbolised to the cultures from which it originated. Similarly, SHIKHAZURI’s sister brand, Simply Zuri, also focuses its attention on story telling and sharing the cultural significance and symbolism behind each piece I create. 
As an avid conservationist, and having worked in the field for several years, Shikha is very passionate about African wildlife. Having witnessed poaching first hand and the effects of human-animal conflict, she's committed to supporting initiatives that work directly with communities and operate at grassroots level to promote wildlife conservation. So, not only does she create fantastic pieces, but she currently supports the Mara Lion Project and donates 5% of profits from sales towards the cause.

Currently, Shikha is working on introducing her products into the overseas market, and depending on the response, she'll make the decision to either refine or develop certain lines. For example, if the current Simply Zuri range is well received, she may add a new collection next year. If the market demands a more African aesthetic, she will introduce more local raw materials into my pieces.

When asked where she sees her brand in 5 years, Shikha responded:
I’d love the brand to have a stronghold in the overseas market and be in a position where SHIKHAZURI can employ a small team of people. It’s my ambition that people who encounter the brand will automatically relate it to “jewellery with a story”. 
If you want to  buy some of Shikha's pieces, you can shop from her online shops on www.shikhazuri.com or www.simplyzuri.com, or you can check out her list of stockists to physically shop her products. (And I'd highly encourage you to do so!) I'm a huge fan, as you can already tell, and I love getting her pieces as friends for others.

Let's hear from Shikha about some of the questions I asked her:

What are some challenges you've faced as a female entrepreneur?

Initially I felt people would not take me seriously and viewed what I was doing as “just a hobby”. I think especially with creative business, until you start getting some runs on the board, whether it be securing a decent amount of business or generating PR, it can be a challenging to earn respect, and if you let it get to you, it can be demoralising.

How have you overcome these challenges?

Having a supportive network around me, particularly fellow female entrepreneurs has been really helpful. I’ve done this through Facebook groups and networking events such as the ones arranged by YWSE. Whenever I feel down, I ask myself, “why am I doing this?”, and then I focus on the end goal and force myself to block out negative influences and move forward.

Any advice to female entrepreneurs who may be embarking on similar journeys?

Don’t overthink it – just do it. Challenges are a natural part of any entrepreneurial journey, but you’ve got to persevere. Find an experienced mentor within your industry who can guide you on your journey. Having the support of family and friends is great, but they’ll usually tell you what you want to hear, and may not be able to give you the honest advice you need.

What is your personal favourite piece, and why?

Shaman Flair necklace

The Shaman Flair Necklace. It’s been one of the most challenging pieces to create, but it’s probably one of the most dramatic and is a real conversation starter statement piece. It’s most striking feature are the recycled camel bone spears which were supposedly used by tribal medicine men to tie off their herb bags. These are suspended from a mixture of trade beads which have distinctive orbicular markings, translucent Ghanaian glass beads and midnight blue lapis lazuli beads.

If you could dress any 3 celebrities in pieces from your lines, who would those celebrities be, and what would you dress them in?

Michelle Obama – she’s a beautiful woman and her dress style is very classy, but she’s not afraid to be bold, so I’d choose something like the Abrihet or Fana Necklace.

Abrihet necklace

Rihanna – she’s got an adventurous sense of style and can pull of almost any look. I dress her with something edgy, like one of the shoulder pieces I created for Africa Fashion Week London.

Angelina Jolie – she holds a chic and confident poise and I think the emerald green and rich bronze-gold tones of the Fana Necklace would complement her eyes and dark hair beautifully.
Fana necklace

If you could sum up your brand in 3 words, they'd be...

Meaningful, Exotic, Captivating.

What is the best feedback you've received about your brand and your work?

The stories that I share about each ethnographic element are what makes my jewellery extra special and captivating. This is the biggest compliment for me because it shows that what I set out to create, “jewellery with a story”, is having the desired impact.

What is the toughest feedback you've received about your brand and your work?

I often have people telling me that while my one-of-a-kind pieces are striking, they could never wear them because they’re too bold. I realise that my design aesthetic means that my market is limited to a certain type of woman who does feel confident enough to be able to carry off this bold style, but over time that’s actually helped me to focus my energy even more to discovering and learning about my niche market, and reaching the women who do adore wearing my jewellery.

Who has been your biggest supporter along the journey?

I’m blessed to have such a supportive family who have stood by me throughout the last couple of years, but I’m also lucky to have found an incredible business mentor who has been instrumental to my success thus far.

Are there any books you recommend to fellow female entrepreneurs?

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris – this huge book may look daunting but it’s broken up into easily digestible parts and highlights the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world-class performers.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice as you were starting out, what would it be?

Have a solid roadmap that can guide the direction you want your business to go in. However, recognise that things may not always go according to your initial plan, and that’s ok – if things change and you need to pivot, then do so. Life happens, and things change in business – be flexible and work around it.

In sourcing materials for your jewellery, you have travelled extensively. What's your favourite destination, and why?

I loved Marrakech – everything from spending days trawling the bustling and colourful souks to the fragrant and delicious tagines and of course the drool worthy jewellery from across the region.

If your brand were an animal, which would it be and why?

It would have to be a big cat – I’ve had the privilege of raising various species and they’re my favourite animals. Because of its characteristics, my brand resembles the leopard: they’re astute, brave and beautiful. And I’d like to put a positive spin on the saying “a leopard never changes its spots”, in that I believe the brand has upheld its core values since conceptualisation, and it’s my intention that it continues to stay true to its very essence: emblematic of classic beauty inspired by cultural influences from around the world. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Quotes to Live By (1 of 2)

For someone who's such a word lover, it should hardly come as a surprise that I'm a quote lover. I believe that words carry a lot of power, and sharing and repeating these words only amplifies that power. Here are a few of my favourites (a living list, if you will) - what are some of yours?



To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.
Bessie Anderson Stanley (frequently misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson)

If you don’t fight for what you want, then don’t cry for what you lost. Nothing depends on luck - everything depends on work, because even luck has to work.
The Bhagavad Gita

Are you being the best you can be or the worst that has happened to you?
Brian Vaszily

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
Buckminster Fuller

What if I should discover that the poorest of the beggars and the most impudent of offenders are all within me, and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved- what then? 
Carl Jung 

That’s the best revenge of all: happiness. Nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life. 
Chuck Palahniuk

When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.
Eloise Ristad

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself; I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it. 
Groucho Marx

Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Howard Thurman

My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.
Imam Al-Shafi’i 

Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. 
Jack Kerouac

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your finest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you remain true to them, your world will at last be built. 
James Allen, As You Think

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.
Kahlil Gibran 

When you part from your friend, you grieve not; 
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. 
Kahlil Gibran

When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth......
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
Kahlil Gibran


Monday, November 20, 2017

Jumping (Off) the Bandwagon



Counter-intuitively, sometimes it's easier to stand up to a crowd in public than a single person in private. We go around flaunting our beliefs behind the handy anonymity of the Internet, but when asked to defend them in front of a room of peers, we pause. Having avoided direct confrontation, we're relieved, but fail to realise that we've only postponed the inevitable. 

Is it that we're so afraid of confrontation, of having people disagree with us, that we fail to stand up for who and what we believe in? I've seen this happen so many times, and I daresay, have been guilty of it myself. We stick by previously established status quo, yet later complain that 'nothing is changing' and wonder where the problem lies. 

Change was never born out of agreeing with the masses just for the sake of it. Whether we're changing the mindset of a people, or the routine of an individual, change will require pushing ourselves out of the comfort zone, often alone. It's absolutely okay to be the first friend or family member to believe in something and to have the conviction to stand up for it. Even if others disagree with you, the realisation that we can respect others' opinions even if they differ from ours can come in extremely handy. 

Yes, it can be scary being the first person to step up and say 'this is wrong'. Expressing dissent can often be seen as a sign of aggression, but learning to stand up for your beliefs will help dispel these notions.

Think about this - a few years ago, people thought it was okay to treat people differently based on the colour of their skin, or the gender they identified with. Okay, yes, unfortunately, we still do have some people who think like that - but fortunately, or so I'd like to believe, they're a group that's getting smaller and smaller. One day, somewhere in the past, someone stood up and said - you know what, this ISN'T okay. Some shouted this, some whispered it, but you can imagine the backlash they faced.

Do we believe what we believe because that's what's right? How often do we examine what we believe and why we believe in it? Do we believe what we've been TOLD to believe?

Nowadays, more than every, when we're being confronted by a lot of - dare I say idiocy? - everywhere we go, on the news, on the streets, globally, more than ever, we're all being called to action. Called to actually THINK about what we're doing. WHY we're doing it. How we can be more compassionate - to those around us AND to ourselves. And if we find that our actions, our behaviours are not aligned with our values - then maybe it's time to stand up for what we believe. 

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