The Kenyan Nomad

The Kenyan Nomad

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Meet Jean Wandimi

Those of you who're active in the food and wine culture around Nairobi have most probably heard of Jean Wandimi, blogger at Being a lover of wine and food myself, I asked if I could interview her. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jean Wandimi!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I'm a finance graduate who happened to fall in love with food and wine. I started journalling my experiences in a blog for fun. After some time, I got serious with the blog and have been doing it for 2 years.

What made you get interested in wine?
I have always loved wine but I didn't get to try it earlier. I was curious. I find it fascinating how a bottle can have so much history. When I got to campus, I started teaching myself how to pronounce the wines, grape varieties, tastings etc

When and why did you decide to start blogging?
I opted to start an online journal of my experiences in November 2013. I could have easily written them in a book but I wanted people to read them because majority of Kenyans knew as much about wine as they knew about rocket science. 
Did you ever imagine that your blog would amass such a following? 
I actually smiled when I got my first blog comments & emails. After some time, people started asking me for advice and inviting me to their events. I didn't portend such a reaction.

What is Kenya's wine and food culture like? 
The food & wine culture has grown immensely.There are so many events and restaurants popping up and most have wine lists that get updated from time to time. Wine is readily available and people are now free to try different things. However, the growth has not been exponential but we are making progress.

What scope is there for aspiring food and/or wine bloggers in Kenya?
I think that one cannot become a food and wine writer with the mentality (and expectation) of making a living from it. Kenya is different from other countries. You must love what you do. There are a few opportunities.

What are your 5 favorite wines?
Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut
Dom Perrignon
Barton & Gustier (B&G) Beaujolais Villages 2010
Fantnel prosecco
Veuve Cliquot (Champagne)

If you had to describe yourself as a type of wine, which would it be and why?
It has to be a Pinot Noir. Elegant & Sexy!
( Laughs)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dear Sewanee Seniors

Ecce Quam Bonum
Has it already been one year? On the 28th of April last year, I had just finished and turned in my senior honours thesis. I was stressed/ excited about my upcoming graduation, and everything that that meant. Grad week, the parties, our own party, and the graduation ceremony went by so quickly for how much we had planned and looked forward to them.  Since I've been an official Sewanee alumna for (almost!) a year, I felt that it would be appropriate to write a letter to current Sewanee seniors and soon to be alumni about grad week, graduation, and all that lies beyond, especially so because so many people from Sewanee's Class of 2015 are very dear to me!

As a proud graduate finally stepping on the seal! 

Dear Seniors,

I know it's hard to believe, but you did it! After all those classes, exams, late night study sessions and pub runs, talks with professors about everything and nothing, and countless memories that you've made over these past few years, you're finally done. While this may seem like the end of a journey, make no mistake; Sewanee and the people you met there will be with you for a long, long time to come. Here I speak not just from personal experience, but from meeting countless alums from the sixties to date. 

Nearing graduation, some of you may be worried about what lies ahead. Be it grad school, a job, or a lack of the above, it's absolutely natural to be apprehensive about what you're getting into. I've been on the 'other side' for a year, and wish that I knew then that there was absolutely no reason at all to worry. Take this time to enjoy your last few days as Sewanee students, and have faith that things will work out; not just because they always do, but because all of you have worked extremely hard for an amazing education, because you have an entire Sewanee community to support you, and because you didn't just spend your four years learning how to read and write. We value everything that you did over your Sewanee career, and it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world outside our bubble do too!

About your friends and professors and other wonderful members of the Sewanee community: I said it then and I'll stand by it now. Toward the last few months and weeks of your time at Sewanee is when you begin to realise who'll be with you for ages to come. Some of you may be moving very close to Sewanee, while others may be going very far from any Sewanee influence (like I did), and may be worrying about how you'll keep up with your Sewanee family. Trust me when I say that this is nothing to worry about! I haven't seen many of my Sewanee family for about a year now, and still feel as close to them, if not closer, even though I'm a continent away. It seems weird, but I think that people who have a Sewanee background find it much easier to stay connected once they leave. It's like spending all that time in that magical place can't help but bond us in ways that even we do not recognise. 

Grad week is going to be a LOT of fun!! (A word of advice; it's easy to forget about packing during this time, but trust me, you'll be happier starting earlier rather than later.) It may seem overwhelming what with all the different parties and locations and people, not to mention your own party if you're having one, but try and plan your week out with your friends in advance, while still leaving room for flexibility. While you will probably see most of the people you're graduating with over the next few months, years and decades, remember that these parties may be the last time you're seeing some of them for a while! 

Another thing about grad week; (this happened to me and some of my friends), grad week may be the time that the fact that you're leaving really sinks in. There may or may not be tears, but remember that everyone is kind of going through the same thing! For me, realisation sunk in and tears started on the Wednesday evening of grad week after a lovely 'farewell' catch up over Kenyan beer with one of my friends. It got worse when I saw another friend who had arrived for our graduation, and pretty soon my suitemate caught on to my mood. Between the two of us, we must've shed buckets of tears, largely at the PKE party, and largely on the dean's shoulder!! (Thanks Hagi :) ) 

Luckily though, we both got it out of our system that night itself, felt better for it, and used the rest of grad week to be happy about the time we were spending with our friends and families! 

Graduation itself seems like it goes on for a long time, but you'll be done before you know it! It may be hard, but try to get some sleep the night before. You're guided through everything, and all you have to do is to shake Dr. McCardell's hand, get your diploma, make sure to smile for all your pictures (and take plenty!), and run across the seal as many times as you wish!! You've accomplished SO MUCH, and deserve to celebrate your special day!

 Saying goodbye that Sunday may be the hardest part, but try and look at your goodbyes more like 'see you laters'. Trust me, the memories you've made, the people you've met, and the things you learnt at Sewanee (not just in the classroom) will stay with you far longer than you could ever imagine. 

I'm so proud of all of you. Remember, the world is now your oyster!

YSR, best of luck, and lots of love!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

20 Things to Consider Before You Get Married

Image courtesy of SplitShire
Before we start, no, I'm not married. However, I've heard of/ read about so many couples having issues nowadays that could've easily been prevented by discussion prior to marriage. While a broken light bulb doesn't necessitate a new house, sometimes the problem may be more than a light bulb.

Therefore, I reached out to married couples and did some research to compile a list of issues to talk about, questions to ask, and things to consider before you get married to someone; no matter how much you love them, and how awkward these may seem, it seems that there are common issues married couples face. By discussing these beforehand, issues like those may be avoided entirely! Or if not, at least a couple will know that they're coming and may have planned how to handle them in advance. Some of these may be small, while others may be bigger; it all really depends on the couple!

This should seem obvious, but perhaps I'd better say it just in case- none of these issues are just black and white. What I've listed below should really be a starting point for you to have an important conversation that will hopefully provide clarity, not points to make final verdicts on.

1) Your partner's values: Everyone grows up with a set of values, and these may differ from person to person. Your values need not necessarily be the same, but it does help to consider those that your partner thinks are important. Do they value struggle as much as you do? Are they as family-oriented? Do you respect each others' values? These and other such questions should be thought about.

2) Do they respect your thinking and your work?: Does your partner recognise you as a person independent of them, and respect your thinking and the work you do? A marriage may be the union of two people, but at the end of the day, they are two different people.

3) How open minded are they?: I think this one speaks for itself, doesn't it? What are your partner's views on gender equality? Are they racist? Homophobic? Intolerant of other faiths?

4) Pet peeves: This seems silly, but do you have any habits that drive your partner crazy, and vice versa? Knowing these is key to avoiding (or at least minimising) them! Sometimes just knowing these ahead of time can help you both decide what to do to work around them.

5) Chores: After marriage, both partners will (most probably) be living in the same home, and maintaining a home requires doing chores. Who will do which? Will it be equally balanced? Does one of you absolutely hate doing chores and procrastinates them as much as possible? What standards do you have about how well you like things done, and how can you compromise on these?

6) How they handle fights: Married couples fight, and these fights are different from those of a couple that does not live together. However, people have different ways of reacting to tense situations. Some avoid them until the last minute possible, some shout at the top of their voice, some argue calmly and rationally. How does each of you handle anger? Is it easy for both of you to say sorry? Or does stubbornness kick in? It's important to realise that communication becomes even more vital in such a situation, and knowing HOW your partner communicates in tense situations can be very helpful.

7) Kids: Yes, no, how many? Do you want to have biological children? Adopt? How will you raise them? Who will discipline them? What faith will they be raised in? What middle name and surname will they have? Maybe one of you wants kids, the other does not. This is a pretty big deal, and needs to be talked about before such a long commitment. Imagine how awkward it would be if you turn to your spouse one day and tell them you're thinking of names for your future offspring, and they casually mention that they don't plan on having any...

8) The living conditions each of you are used to: The neatness of your home, the light conditions you prefer, your favourite kind of mattress (this one is more important than you'd realise!), your TV habits, how you use your space, when you eat, WHAT you eat, whether or not to have a TV in the bedroom are just some of the issues to consider when living with another person. Obviously, some compromises will have to be made on each side, and each partner will have to decide what they can compromise on and what they can definitely not give up on.

9) Do you love them just as they are? Or hope they will change after marriage?: Sometimes, people hope that certain habits of their partners will magically change after marriage. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Ask yourself whether you'd be happy spending the rest of your life with your partner as they are.

10) Do they have a mind of their own and challenge you? Or agree with everything that you do? Are they comfortable with having different likes and dislikes from you?: As mentioned before, a marriage is a union of two different people. Some people prefer partners who challenge them, while others may prefer partners who always agree with them. Recommended reading: I loved Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It's an interesting book that can help you get to know the people around you even better.

11) Finances: Money is an awkward topic, even with family. However, it's vital to discuss. What is your financial situation and that of your spouse? Can you both sustain the lifestyle you hope to maintain? Are any of you in debt? How do you plan to cover that? What are your saving habits? How do you budget? What financial commitments (like supporting family) do you already have?

12) Will you have time to spend by yourself and with your friends/family without your partner?: Marriage is a big deal, but it shouldn't involve giving up the relationships you had previously, with your family, your friends (of any gender), and yourself. Studies done show that when two people only focus on each other and their relationship, their other relationships suffer; and their overall happiness declines (I forget which studies these were, but I recently covered them in a class and could look them up for you if need be).

13) Religion and faith: What faith do you believe in, and is it important that your partner also follow the same? If not, how different are you willing to let your faiths be?

14) Family obligations: You will still have obligations to your family, be they financial, time-wise or otherwise. How does your partner feel about these (and vice versa)? Similarly, as a couple, to what extent are you willing to let your families be a part of your relationship?

15) Surnames: Will you change your surname to theirs, or vice versa? Will both of you keep your own? Will both of you take one partner's middle name and the other's surname? These are important issues, and it's important now more than ever to realise that in a 'traditional marriage,' it isn't fair to expect the woman to do all the changing.

16) Career aspirations and ambition: What career aspirations do you have, and does your partner support these? If one partner gets a fantastic job offer in a different place, will the other partner be willing to give up their job and move?

17) What do you do in your free time?: How do you and your partner intend to spend your free time together?

18) Where will you live?: Will you buy a house together, or move into one of your homes? Will you live with your parents or your partner's? If this is a long distance engagement, who will do the moving once time comes to do so?

19) How does your partner display affection?: You may have heard of the 5 love languages (words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch). You and your partner may prioritise these differently, so it's important to recognise how your partner displays affection and what's important to them (and vice versa of course). At times, you may feel frustrated, and that your partner isn't loving you as much as you'd hope. Realising that the way someone displays affection is different from yours can go a long way!

20) Sense of humour and optimism/pessimism: How does your partner interact with the world, and how does this match up with you?

Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive. However, hopefully it can serve as a starting point! Have any suggestions that can be added to this list? Leave a comment on this post!

Jan 2016 add on:

If you haven't already, I think that you should definitely read Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. These books discuss issues that may well arise in relationships, and I've found them extremely helpful!

Monday, April 20, 2015

About Thyme: Restaurant Review

Having recently moved to Kenya, I've been eager to connect with other bloggers in the area. Unfortunately the only one I knew is the talented Aniqah Khalid of Maisha, but I was lucky enough to get to meet Jean Wandimi of The Wine and Food Review last week. We arranged to meet at About Thyme, on Eldama Ravine. I hadn't been for years and years, and was curious to see what I would find. However, the experience was absolutely fantastic!

I absolutely love the cozy ambience that About Thyme has created, and actually think it would be an absolutely fantastic place for writers to work and stay inspired (hint: don't be surprised to find me typing here)!

The service was fast, friendly and efficient. Our server was knowledgeable and willing to help. Despite it being only a Tuesday afternoon, there was a steady stream of people coming in, which I think in itself speaks volumes. The manager/owner (I should have probably clarified which) kept checking in on us and other guests, and was actively engaged in what was going on around her.

Since I was still suffering from a cold at that point, we chose to sit inside. I didn't order any wine for the same reason, and went for a cup of soothing green tea. However, I was pleased at the extensive range of wines, cocktails and other alcoholic beverages that they serve, and do intend to return to try the same!

Luckily for us, the menu was extensive and didn't just feature the 'usual' stuff. They had a quick lunch offer, which consisted of tea or coffee, a main meal, and a dessert at an affordable price. Jean chose this, and ordered the English fish and chips. I chose from the main menu, and actually ordered based upon the (great) recommendation from our server. I went for the pumpkin and amaretti tortellini. 

It was ABSOLUTELY amazing! The flavours blended together very well and almost exploded in my mouth (pardon the cliche), the presentation was excellent, and the food was served at a good temperature. On top of that, I was served a very hearty portion and so had enough for leftovers later! I don't usually order tortellini at restaurants, but have changed my mind after this experience. 

While I didn't have much room for dessert, Jean's dish came with a dessert, so I tried some of the fruit off of her fruit platter. 

However, I definitely do want to return to try the drinks as mentioned above, and the desserts (if you're not convinced, check out some of the pictures below). Looking for a great place to eat at affordable prices and with a fantastic ambience? Do check out About Thyme! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Temiras: Restaurant Review

This past Friday, I headed to Temiras Coffee Garden to catch up with a friend. It's located on General Mathenge Drive, previously where Le Rustique used to be. Having been a fan of Le Rustique over the years, I was shocked to find that it wasn't the same place that I once knew. However, I was excited once I realised that they served Lebanese food, a new favourite, and so planned to go as soon as I could.

Friday afternoon, around 1:30 pm found me at Temiras, eagerly waiting to see what the place would hold. For a day so close to the weekend at lunch time, the restaurant was strangely empty; at the time I arrived, I was the only customer there, and by the time my friend and I were leaving at around 3:00 pm, there were only a few others. This may be due to Temiras' 'newness', and the loyalty that previous customers had to Le Rustique.

Temiras' menu consists of pages in pockets put together in a leather cover. The cover was interesting, but I would hope that such a place would offer a menu that looked more put together.

On the drink side, Temiras offers a wide variety. Strangely enough though, wine is not on the menu, but various other alcoholic beverages are. I ordered a passion juice (a personal favourite), and was relieved to find that Temiras was not a place that added sugar to fresh juices and absolutely ruined them.

While the place still offers English breakfast and a variety of coffees the way that its predecessor used to, the Lebanese is definitely a welcome addition. While I was tempted by many dishes, I ordered the shish taouk (of course). While it was very different from the tawook I had at Epice in Nashville many months ago, it was quite delicious and well portioned. The chicken was well marinated and soft, and wasn't overwhelmed by any one flavour. The only part of the dish that confused me and left me wanting was the accompaniment of chips (french fries for those of you across the ocean). With such a flavourful main dish, serving plain chips seemed to let down the course a little bit. Garlic chips or herbed roasted potatoes would have been a much better choice! 

My friend ordered some hummus which I tried, and the pita bread that came with this was deliciously soft. The hummus itself was good; not exceptional, but certainly something I would order again. 

The place seemed a little pricey for having so few customers, but this might just have been circumstantial. The service was polite, though it could have been friendlier. Again, this may have been due to a lack of many customers, and maybe our server in particular. 

All in all, Temiras was a pleasant experience in a very convenient location, and I definitely plan to return! It might take a few trips before I can sample the different varieties the menu offers, but I'm not complaining. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Me First

As a woman who lives in an urban society in the 21st century, I am constantly being bombarded by messages from media and advertising and even the people around me. Many of these messages encourage me to look better, be healthier, dress better; but how many of them encourage me to do it for myself? 

As much as women have progressed recently, the sad thing is that in the society we live in, we are still seen as objects who should look pretty for the sake of other people. This may be changing in other places, but it is very much the case in Nairobi. What women wear and how they look are constantly being judged and criticised and held to ridiculous standards that we aren't allowed to dictate ourselves. I remember hearing the tale of a woman who got married and was made to shower, dress up in Indian traditional clothes and make-up EVERY single morning by the time she was at the breakfast table; whereas her in-laws did not adhere to these standards. 

Unfortunately, many of us are at a stage where if we wish to dress up or put on make up, it is naturally assumed that we are doing so to impress others. If people discover that we may be doing so because we genuinely enjoy it, we are seen as vain. Isn't it time that women were allowed to join the 21st century too? 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Garissa Attacks: Are We One?

Kenyan people are easily roused by trying times. This Easter was a sombre one for Kenyans as news trickled in of a terrorist attack at Garissa University College. The official death toll stands at 147, though this figure does in no way account for the psychological trauma that survivors and responders suffered, and will continue to deal with for some time to come.

You will recall that there was a similar situation about a year and a half ago, at the Westgate mall in Nairobi. There was outcry and outpouring of sympathy for those involved, and the Kenyan people seemed to miraculously come together as one, united against 'evil'.

Having faced a second such attack after less than two years however, is it not important to ask whether or not we are united as Kenyans? Justice may be our shield and defender, but it seems that our definitions of justice vary. Many a time, intentions may be pure but the way justice is carried out leaves us wondering. For example, recently, a top government executive called for rejected recruits to immediately report for duty. Sure, this does address the appalling lack of security personnel in the country... but does it address the lack of honest security personnel at all? One wonders how many of the rejected recruits will fall prey to the Kenyan disease of corruption and become like those Kenyan officers who took advantage of the already dire situation during the Westgate tragedy to loot the stores in the mall.

'We Are One' should not be a cry that we utter only in times of obvious need, such as during external attacks. I'd like to see a Kenya where we proudly proclaim 'We Are One' everyday, and stand united against problems that affect us internally too; such as corruption, petty crime, hunger, and such abject poverty that we should all be ashamed. Where is that united Kenyan spirit during other times? We see divisions of mzungus vs. muhindis vs. mwafrikas, and further division within these groups themselves. We talk about a united front, but often see people looking out only for themselves (and their pockets).

Development is a slow, tedious and multifaceted process. It often seems like one person may not be able to achieve much, but it is through the efforts of individuals that Kenya will slowly move forward economically, socially and politically. Education has a large part to play in this; as does courage. It'll take a generation of educated, focused and dedicated people to kickstart the processes that will catapult our nation to a stage where we can confidently and honestly say that 'We Are One' on all frontiers.

Thankfully, this is already happening. Slowly, but it is. Until then, yes, we do stand together. Maybe not all the time, not everywhere, not all of us. But we are Kenyan, and We Are One.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Instances of Sexism in Kenya

Kenya is a country that has made various advancements, especially so over the past two decades. However, some pockets of society remain 'backward' for lack of a better word, and discrimination is present in many cases, ranging from racism to sexism to homophobia.

I reached out to some people and asked them to share their experiences with sexism in the country. While most of the stories below are from people I know, some are from newspaper articles or stories I've heard through other people. In the interest of keeping these accounts readable, I've presented them all in first person. Please feel free to comment with any you'd like to share!

-As a 'mzungu' man new to the country, I was prepared to adjust to a level of development that wasn't equal to that of my home country. However, one thing took me by surprise (and still does); whenever I went out to a restaurant in the company of one or more females, the check (bill) was always given to me, regardless of whether I was paying or not. To add to this awkwardness, when I was given the bill, most of the time the women I was with didn't even offer to contribute. I don't mind footing the bill once in a while, but I think it's rude to assume that I'll always pay just because I'm a man.

-Incidentally, as a woman who values her independence, it annoys me extremely when I go out to a restaurant and I am never handed the bill. If you are unsure who is paying, put the bill on the corner of the table instead of handing it to the nearest man and seeming like a sexist jerk!

-I find it annoying that whenever I visit a certain family friend's house with my father and brothers, and alcoholic drinks are being served, my father and brothers are always offered things like whisky, beer and rum, whereas I'm not even given the option; I'm expected to stick to 'ladylike' drinks like wine or soda.

-As a woman who lived in Nairobi, I have to live with the constant frustration of knowing that 'society' is watching my every move, from what I wear to what I drink to what I say to whom I associate with, while my male peers seem to escape this close scrutiny. If in the future, I was to get a divorce, I know without any doubt that this same society would place all the blame on me and would even go so far as to shun my family, whereas my husband would be the recipient of lots of sympathy. This double standard absolutely disgusts me.

-My father passed away a few years ago, and needless to say, I was struck hard by this blow. Imagine my shock and horror when my own relatives told me to 'be a man'. I was not permitted to shed tears and grieve the loss of my own father, or even to talk about how I felt with my mother. My female cousins however, were encouraged to 'let out their feelings' and were supported fully. I would have loved to get even just a hug from some of my relatives, but was denied even this basic comfort.

-As a child, I remember going to visit another girl my age, to play at her home. Everything seemed normal up until dinner time; I was extremely confused when her father and brother were sat down and served first, and only when they had almost finished were my friend, her mother and I permitted to join. At that age, I didn't understand what was going on, and only remember feeling extremely awkward and mentioning the same to my parents.

-Back in secondary school, a male friend of mine told me he had a crush on me and would like to 'go out sometime'. I excitedly reported the same to my mother, only to be told that 'girls didn't go out with strange boys'.... whereas my brother had been openly dating a girl for a few months with the full approval of my mother.

-My friend lives in an extended family. If a decision is to be made that doesn't involve what is to be made for dinner that night, his grandfather, father and uncles sit down to do so without the input of the women in the family. Similarly, if they wish to get together with another family, a man from her family will call a man from the other family, and the women will just be informed about what the plans are.

-When I got married, in addition to having to live with my in-laws, I was not allowed to keep my last name. When I suggested a compromise, such that my husband and I both took my maiden name on as a middle name, I was laughed off.

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