Lion King Movie Review ft East African Music

 

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July 2019

I know most of us have already watched the original lion king so there will be no spoilers from this review. The story from the first movie released in 1994 is pretty much the same in the 2019 release. Thankfully James Earl Jones is still alive to do the voice of Mufasa yet again because I cannot imagine anyone else doing it. Above all, the visuals were ridiculously amazing as they used images of real animals instead of cartoons. Beyoncé as Nala’s voice has been a source of frenzy among her wide fan base including me. She has even blessed us with a musical Lion King themed album entitled The Gift. However, there has been a bit of backlash from East Africans who felt that the album that Beyoncé released only featured West African artists while there are many solid East African artists who could have contributed to the album. This is especially controversial considering that Swahili, the second language used in the film, is an East African language. For example, mufasa means king while simba means lion in Swahili. And yes, “No worries” is actually “Hakuna Matata” in Swahili. As such, I will highlight 5 East African musicians who could have been featured on the album.

  1. Sauti Sol. 

Sauti Sol is a Kenyan band made up of four guys who have amazing vocal chords. This video is of an acapella performance that they did for the song “Kuliko Jana” which means “than yesterday”, as to say that today is better than yesterday. I think this song could have actually been a good background song for the movie especially in the beautiful ending of the Lion King story.

    2. Eddy Kenzo. 

Eddy Kenzo popularized the so called “ghetto dancing kids” from Uganda who were even featured in French Montana’s music video for the song “Unforgettable” with Swae Lee. I have seen him perform live in Dallas at a Kenyan event and he was amazing with so much energy.

    3. Selamawit Yohannes. 

I actually discovered Selamawit from a quick youtube search of top Ethiopian music which goes to show that there’s no excuse to being ignorant in this age of the internet. I have always loved Ethiopian music but somehow I forgot the names of the musicians so I need to work on that. Nevertheless, I love Ethiopian traditional dance and how they play the flute. Without a doubt, their music is very unique and would be a great addition to the Lion King movie soundtrack.

   4. Diamond Platnumz. 

Diamond is undeniably the most successful artist in East Africa right now so I do not know why he was left off the soundtrack. Diamond is such a diversified musician as he can make soulful r&b and club music easily. Basically, every song he touches turns to gold. If there will be another Lion King movie, he should not be forgotten especially since he sings in Swahili and English.

  5. Vanessa Mdee. 

Vanessa was at Essence Fest in New Orleans this year which goes to show that she is gaining popularity outside of Tanzania. I  would venture to say that she is Tanzania’s Beyoncé as she can sing, dance, and act (triple threat baby). I think her future is bright and she should be considered for Hollywood movies and soundtracks in the future.

Despite the lack of diversity in soundtrack, I do believe that the new Lion King is a worthwhile watch. Again, the visuals are absolutely beautiful and so surreal (the hyenas are a bit scary looking though so be ready if animals are a trigger for you). I really hope that we get a second film which has a more continent inclusive sound track. Also, I would really love a good backstory on Scar because understanding the psychology of a villain kind of excites me (Criminal Minds anyone?). I also just really love looking at images of lions so I think I could sit through hours of that haha. If you happen to watch the movie, feel free to comment with your thoughts 🙂 ❤

Boston Review: Resident & Tourist view

 

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March 2019

Some of you may know that I spent a little over half a decade (six years) in Boston, Massachusetts. So this is a review where I can delve both into being a resident and a tourist of the city. My first trip to Boston was in 2010 with my mom before the start of my senior year of high school to look at different universities in the area (Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and my alma mater of Northeastern University). The one campus that truly captured my eye and heart was Northeastern’s as it was right in the heart of Boston but still managed to be centralized; so you could feel like you were in your own world and still be in the mix of the city within less than a 5-minute walk.   I liked being in a worldly diverse school with students from all over the map and being in a city where all these cultures participated, especially in food.

Food. My favorite restaurant in Boston is actually a Senegalese restaurant called Teranga. It is a small place with a cozy vibe as the owner is super friendly and makes sure to talk to every table when he is around. One of my favorite quotes of his is “We are all African” which actually describes my experience in Boston because I made friends with Africans from other countries such as Nigeria and Somalia. I also loved the Boston Shawarma restaurant that I was on Huntington Avenue where my alma mater is located. I also loved eating really delicious Vietnamese soup called pho (thanks to my best friend’s mom for introducing this to me as her homemade pho is still the best in my book) at a restaurant called Pho & I which was also down the street from my school. I also loved samosas and biryani from an Indian restaurant called the Dosa Factory (I actually gave them my email one time to be contacted in case they were hiring). The China town in Boston is actually pretty legitimate and has very authentic Chinese food (sometimes so authentic that it doesn’t match your palette depending on which restaurant you frequent). My favorite is Gourmet Dumpling House which has a really nice pancake dish and obviously amazing dumplings. For brunch though, my favorite restaurant is Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen which has a soul/jazzy vibe with live music and a buffet brunch option. On my recent one-day trip to Boston, I actually did not eat out as my friend cooked shrimp & chicken Jollof for me which filled me up for the whole day (see picture below). It was actually the best Jollof I’ve ever had so shout out to Chef Ola.

 

 

Tourist Attractions. A lot of films are actually filmed in Boston so you should already know that it is beautiful (especially in the summer because snow can become a pain after a while). My favorite spot is the Boston Gardens which are right at the end of Newbury St where you can shop from various high-end stores like Gucci and even low-end stores like Forever 21. My friend and I went there to chill before heading to Macy’s which is within walking distance. We actually ended up climbing a tree together (mainly him climbing the tree and helping me up). After Macy’s, we went to the Charles River Esplanade which is another tourist attraction where you can watch sailboat races or just a beautiful sunset. There is also a little park by the banks of the river which I love to visit from time to time mainly for the monkey bars where I like to hang upside down like the primate that I am (every so often I like to do this just to make sure that I haven’t lost this skill yet haha). If you want a great view of Boston (no upside hanging involved), the Top of the Hub Restaurant which is at the top of the Prudential Building (also known as The Pru) is a great place to go especially during a clear day. If you are a museum enthusiast like myself, both the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner (ISG) Museum are a must-see.

Nightlife. One of my favorite places to chill and listen to good music is the W Hotel in Boston. It never disappoints and the African City party this year was held in the hotel so I was excited to attend. My friend and I got there an hour and a half late but the party still had not started. When it did start around an hour later, it was actually a great party with a great DJ playing music from all over Africa (not just Nigerian and Ghanaian music). When he played Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s Umqombothi song that was when I knew he was the real deal. Unfortunately, clubs and bars close at 2am in Boston as it was/still is a Puritan city. This used to really frustrate me when I was in college but now that I am old, sleep is life so I do not mind the 2am curfew at all. Most of the time people have house parties afterward so there are ways to work around it which brings me to my next topic about accommodation.

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Travel & Accommodation. I won’t even try to sugarcoat it; Boston can be a little bit racist (I even talked to a white person who lived in Boston who stated this). I will say that I did experience some racism when trying to secure an Airbnb during my last year of school. For example, some prospective hosts will not even message you back based on skin color or will pretend that the dates are actually booked when they are not. Therefore, a hotel is probably the best option if you have a short stay (I guess unless you get lucky with Airbnb). If you are planning to stay in Boston long term, do bear in mind that rent is pretty expensive. You can live further out of the city for cheaper accommodation but if you do not have a car, the commute can be long by train or bus. I chose to stay close to campus because my major required long nights at the library and I wanted to be safe going home. Also, commuting during the winter can be hell with snow covered streets. In general, buy good shoes because the city of Boston requires a lot of walking and if you are a lady, the cobblestone will most likely ruin your stilettos. But one thing that makes Boston stand out from the rest is that it is a very clean city, your shoes will probably still be squeaky clean at the end of the day.

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Near death experiences: fresh perspective on life

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August 2012

I like to regard myself as sort of a dare devil. I loved jumping from trees and was not really afraid of heights as a kid. Now I am bit more reserved since I really do not want to die a stupid death, especially after watching 1,000 ways to die with my dad and brothers growing up. But despite my reservations, I have still experienced at least 3 near death experiences (that I know about). I’ll start with the least frightening to the most:

  1. When I was born and still in the hospital with my mom, she fell off the hospital bed and fortunately she was not holding me and luckily, I was lying on the side facing the wall so I did not fall with her. Obviously this is not an experience that I remember but when my mom told me about it, I realized how fortunate I am to have been spared from the numerous infant mortalities that happen on a daily basis. They say that when a woman is pregnant, she is between life and death because of how dangerous pregnancy can be at times. Childbirth still scares me to this day but I guess if others have done it, so can I.
  2. In 2005, my mom and I went to Kenya to visit for the summer. While there, we went to a place known as Eastleigh in Nairobi where the place is surrounded by vendors all over the streets and malls filled with more vendors. I was about 12 years old so I shopping trip with my mom and aunt was a little bit boring for me because they were talking about grown up stuff that I knew nothing about. Anyway at some point, I bent down to tie my shoe and didn’t say anything because I did not want to interrupt my mom and aunt. Next thing I knew, I was essentially lost as I could not find them at all. Now picture me as an innocent looking girl all along in a street filled with people and chaos. The female vendors were looking at me like, “be careful” and they kept telling me “fungua macho” which means “open your eyes”. Since I was young, I didn’t realize they were saying this because they wanted me to look at their products. Instead I thought they knew that I was lost and were warning me of danger. So during these period of being lost, my mind went to dark places as I started imagining myself kidnapped and used as a child slave. Fortunately, that did not happen, as my intuition led me to a three-story mall and I walked through all the booths until I heard the sound of my mom and aunt’s voice. Remember this was the age where kids didn’t have cell phones and Eastleigh was so far from where he stayed that I might have been really doomed if I did not find them.
  3. If none of the previous stories scared you, this is the one that probably will. So this probably happened when I was about 19 years of age. I was home for the summer from college and my older brother had just bought a motorcycle. So me being the dare devil, I decided that I could convince him to let me park it for him in the garage. Somehow he agreed and gave me a quick tutorial on how to press the gas and the break. I guess in my excitement, I got the gas and break confused so I quickly pressed the gas thinking it was the break and the motorcycle (with me on it) sped off so fast that even my neighbors who were outside ran to our garage to see what was going on. Fortunately, our garage had a door to the backyard so I did not crash into the concrete walls of our garage. Next problem was that there were huge oak trees in the backyard that I could crash into and break my head in two as I was not wearing a helmet. Fortunately, I steered left and hit one of the bushes adjacent to the house. The motorbike fell on me and scratched my lower leg a little, which to me was a miracle considering how bad that situation could have been. Like everyone involved in this situation, especially me and my older brother were in shock. It took a while for my heart to stop racing and when we told our dad about it, he was not very happy. However, my brother still kept riding his bike and I decided to just be happy with being his passenger. By the way, the featured picture above was taken about a week or two before my doom while posing with my brother’s bike that was parked in the garage at the time. Little did I know what was to come lol.

When I remember any of these near-death experiences, I realize that I would already be dead by now if I was not meant to be alive at this point in time. There has to be reason that none of those moments were not my time to go meet my maker or just turn into dust. Therefore, they keep me motivated to make good use of my time here on earth. We really never will know when we are going to die, even some people who attempt suicide end up surviving their self-injuries so you never really know. To end on a lighter note: here is a new fun fact that I learned recently. For those who participate in the U.S. daylight savings time, what is the longest month of the year? If you guessed October that is the correct answer as the 10th month has 31 days and because of the extra one hour gained during daylight savings time, it surpasses the other 31 day long months.  🙂 ❤

Like my father

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March 2010

Since birth, I have always been a daddy’s girl. When my mom used to get frustrated doing my hair as a little girl and want to shave it, my father would tell her to dare to cut it and risk getting returned to her village (this was obviously a joke by the way). But yes, my dad has always looked out for my best interest. When I wanted to get my hair chemically relaxed to be straight, he said no but since I wanted it so bad, my mom said yes. Now I wish I had listened to my father because my hair was so much healthier before. In fact, people I grew up with in Kenya remember me for my long hair. Hair stories aside, I sought my dad’s satisfaction the most (see previous post about how I tried to remain neutral in who I loved more). I think this was because my dad was very social and would brag about the exploits of my siblings and I to anyone who would listen. My mother is more introverted so not so much bragging there but of course, we could tell when she was proud of us too.

            They say that when a woman looks for a man, we look for our father’s or our brother’s characteristics in the man we marry. Sometimes, consciously and sometimes, subconsciously. In one of my previous relationships, the guy told me that his goal was to love me more than my father loves me. I did not think much about it then but recently, I thought about it and realized that the man who promised me this made a promise he could not keep. For one, my father has never put me in any situation that could hurt me. Secondly, my father will go above and beyond for anything that is important to me. Finally, I am named after my father’s mother so my father not only sees me as his daughter but also as the spirit of his mother. In essence, my father loves me as one would love their mother and child at the same time.

            I am not saying that your spouse can or cannot love you more than your parents. That is too deep of a philosophical question to answer in a blog post but what I do know is that as a woman, your relationship with your father plays a major role in your life. I know some people who did not have the most present or loving father and so they look to God to be their heavenly father. I think this is because we all desire security and love especially when we are young. I am blessed that my father provided both needs. He is not a perfect person but I can definitely say that I would not be the person that I am today, including my achievements, without his support. And to defy societal standards a bit let me share a few interesting characteristics about my dad:

  1. He has beautiful handwriting, actually better than my mom’s because he was taught calligraphy as a child.
  2. He is really good at cutting paper in a straight line and stayed up with me several times during my science fair projects to help me decorate my posters.
  3. The quote that I remember most from him is “work smarter not harder”. As such, I have a slight obsession with problem-solving and have a slight pet peeve with inefficiency

To make this blog post more well-rounded, I will say that we should all aim to be better than our parents and so I am not blind to any bad qualities that I may have picked up from my parents. But I think if you ever ask a woman whether she would prefer a better husband to her or a better father for her kids, she would go with the latter. So with that, thank you to the fathers who help to bring up good human beings into our society. Apparently, some countries celebrate fathers’ day in March so I guess this early fathers’ day blog post for those of us in the U.S.A while it is in due time for others. Either way, thank you for reading. 🙂 ❤

Love and Divine intervention

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January 2019

 I am not the most religious person in the world but I do believe that there is/are higher power(s) much bigger than humanity. I do believe that there are forces rooting for you and as in science, there are always equal opposite forces as well. These forces could be the goodwill and the bad nature of people. I think time is also a force that could work with you or against you especially when it comes to business and romance. I think that is why they say that good luck is when opportunity meets preparation and hard work. So whether you believe in God or not, I think it is hard to deny that there are forces much powerful than us. For example, a piano could fall from a building and squash someone to death; this would be due to the force known as gravity.

            To make this more personal, I have always told my friends that finding someone to marry should not be stressful because ultimately who you meet, how you meet, and when you meet is largely not up to you. You could be born a white woman born in Mid-Western American and end up marrying a black man from Kenya who will impregnate you with a man who will become the first black president of America. Yeah, I just used Barack Obama’s birth story for the sake of a non-political argument but let me stick to the point. The point is that we stress ourselves with whether we are making the right decisions about our love lives when we should just learn how to trust the divine plan or powers that be.

            Like I mentioned, I used to say that the divine plan is always working but when I would get deep in a relationship, I would try to force it to work not realizing that you should not have to force love to work. Love is either there or it is not. And as they say, you should always learn to leave the table when love is no longer being served. Even if the relationship does not work out with the person you are with, it is part of the divine plan as you are meant to learn something from it (whether you learn it is up to you). And for those of you who do not have a valentine’s this year, please remember that is also part of the plan. Look at Priyanka Chopra whose now husband, Nick Jonas, is 11 years younger than her. Maybe you just need to wait for your future bae to graduate high school, haha I am totally kidding (especially with this whole R. Kelly situation).

            Life is always full of surprises, so never try to plan out your life to the T. You can say, I must be married by 28 and end up meeting the love of your life at 35 like Priyanka. Just pray for good aging, moisturize day and night, and eat well so you can always look like a fresh snack even when you are very ripe in age. But ultimately looks will fade (different degrees for different people) so also work on yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As I mentioned in my previous post about my 2019 goals, working on my spirituality is something that I really work on this year as I think when your spirit is in check, your mind and emotions follow suit. I will definitely update you guys about that as this year continues. I tend to get very into my feelings about my growth around my birthday so you can probably expect that towards the end of the year.

          I hope we may all get closer to our spirit and if you celebrate V-day, then may you spend it with someone you love, including yourself. 🙂 ❤

Zanzibar Trip Review

Zan. Zi. Bar. WOW, is all I can say. The ocean was so blue and clear that you could see your entire body, including feet from the surface of the water. The sand was so soft and smooth like baby powder. The people were nothing but friendly. Their mango juice was freshly blended every day and had so much more depth to it, with a slight tart flavor. Everyone just seemed at peace. And peace we found, within the island and eventually within ourselves. An island that we thought was small, we found that no amount of time could ever be enough to explore it all. Let me pause this cheeky introduction and dive right into the review. Unless you do want me to continue (which can be arranged for another time haha).

Flight & Accommodation. My brother and I booked our round trip flight from Nairobi to Mombasa to Zanzibar with Fly 540. I had heard about the new airline and from what I remember they had a good rate of about $300 roundtrip. We had no issues on our flights going to Zanzibar which were early morning flights so we can spend most of our day in Zanzibar, which is an island off the coast of Tanzania. However, our flight returning from Mombasa to Nairobi was hell. Our flight was supposed to depart Mombasa at 8:30pm and initially, they informed us of a one-hour delay. However, we never departed Mombasa until like midnight.  This was due to a supposed engineering issue that they handled poorly as they were not even planning for our accommodation if the plane could not get fixed. Also, other passengers suggested that they could have bought us seats on another airline such as Kenya Airways which departed at around 9:30pm. Apparently Fly 540 is like the Spirit Airlines of Kenya so please avoid it if you can.

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In terms of accommodation for our four nights in Paje (Southern Zanzibar), we had paid about $360 total for two double rooms that could house 4 people but only my brother and I ended up going so we paid the same amount for 2 full rooms. We could have probably paid less if we had alerted them earlier about the change. We did end up spending one night in Nungwi since it is the most touristy part of the island. We paid about $80 for one night in one room as hotel rates were more expensive in Nungwi. However, Nungwi is more developed and has many high standard resorts. Paje was more of a homey feel so we actually appreciated it more because it felt like a more genuine experience. Also, we engaged in way more activities in Paje.

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Outdoor activities. On our first day in Paje, my brother played soccer on the beach with some of the local kids and we walked down the beach to see what all the different beachside vendors had to offer. The funniest vendor was the H&M store which had no correlation to the European fashion brand but instead stood for Hakuna Matata store. In Paje, the beach is full of colorful kites as Europeans love to kitesurf there. It was so popular, that you had to book a slot for lessons a day ahead. Therefore, we booked to do this our second to last day. It was a very cool experience but I forgot to wear my sunglasses that day so my brother enjoyed it more as he was better prepared. The full lesson is 9 hours and costs about 300 euros but my brother opted for a one-hour lesson for $35. It did seem like those who paid for the 9 hours were getting their money’s worth. We also went to a butterfly garden where we realized my brother is also much better than me at attracting butterflies. However, our favorite part was getting massages on the beach with some really fragrant coconut oil. For both of us, they were, hands down, the best massages we’ve ever gotten so much so that we fell asleep during the one hour. Nungwi offered horse riding on the beach but we missed their last office hour by trying to watch the sunset. I will say that the sunset was worth it as I also got henna tattoos while sitting on the beach watching day turn into night. Speaking of night, let’s move on to the nightlife.

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Nightlife. We only experienced the nightlife in Paje as we were too tired to go out when we got to Nungwi. Dancing on the beach is always a good change of scenery from smoky clubs. The DJs we experienced in Paje were very well versed in music as they played everything from hip hop to dubstep to local music. My favorite local songs were Hodari by Mbosso and Jibebe by WCB ft Diamond. My brother also made friends with some of our hotel staff who were able to get us into the outdoor bars for the local price instead of the tourist price. I was also lucky that they loved to dance and were really good at it. The bar that my brother loved the most had pool tables as he loved to play pool/billiards. The same bar also had a fire pit and a dance floor that had been dug out of the sand which was really interesting. At both Paje bars, the locals were very well represented as customers whereas Nungwi most customers were white tourists.

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Best Mango Juice Ever!!

Food. There were many different restaurants such as Italian, Thai, and authentic Zanzibar food. In Nungwi, we also found Indian food such as biryani at the resort we stayed at. However, our favorite place to eat was the famous Rock Restaurant. The most interesting thing about the Rock Restaurant is on the beach during low tide and in the water during high tide (water high enough that you have to take a boat to it). My brother and I arrived at the restaurant during high tide during sunset so we got the full experience. The quality of the food is just as extra as the location. I ordered a steak while my brother ordered spicy chicken skewers. Both were delicious and were followed by an even more amazing passion fruit cheesecake. Afterward, we lounged on the balcony while watching the stars. My brother has an app on his phone that identifies the different constellations which is pretty cool. I will say that the Rock Restaurant is quite expensive compared to other places on the island. I think with tip and everything, our bill was about $100 for two people. But despite that, I think it is well worth it as the view, service, and food is impeccable.

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The Rock Restaurant off in the distance

 

People. One thing that sets Zanzibari people about from others is that they understand tourism very well. Therefore, they do not steal or do anything that can jeopardize tourism. In fact, one of our hotel staff would identify the people on the beach who were doing bad business that could negatively impact tourists. They are also very easy going people in that, you cannot rush them to do anything. The stereotypical Tanzania saying is “kama uko na haraka, ungekuja jana” which roughly translates to “if you are in a hurry, you should have come yesterday”. So in that case, always communicate your plans ahead of time so they can be able to help you. For example, on our first or second night, we communicated that we would like to rent a car on our third day so we could travel to Nungwi. The hotel owner was very helpful in securing us a car and helping us get a permit. He was very knowledgeable about the island and was open to negotiation when I insisted on it. For example, the car we rented was on empty when we got it and we naively filled it up only to realize that we only used 25-50% of the fuel for our entire travel. As such, I negotiated that he cut the car rental price by about the same. Amazingly, he agreed and he apologized for the car not being fully fueled upon transfer to us. His staff was also very helpful as mentioned before in getting us local prices and they became like brothers to us. Easily enough, both their names were Abu.

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As you can already tell, my brother and I enjoyed our time in Zanzibar. We will definitely be back one day. If you haven’t checked out my Kenya travel & trip review, please feel free to do so at the following link: Kenya trip. Thanks for reading. 🙂 ❤

Kenya Trip Review

First, I want to start by saying that I have been fortunate enough to never experience danger or terror throughout all my travels to Kenya. The most recent terror attack at DusitD2 Hotel Complex in Westlands, Nairobi occurred just a few days after I came back to the U.S. from Kenya. It came as a shock to me and so many others as security has really been beefed up throughout the years. Literally, there are guards almost everywhere doing body and bag scans so it is hard to understand how this happened. But despite this, Kenya will still continue to rise. I have witnessed so much growth in Kenya in better roads, a ban on plastic bags, and even the introduction of Uber that makes me proud to be a Kenyan. Without further ado, let me highlight my activities in Kenya.

Flight & Accommodation. I won’t lie to you; Kenya is a somewhat expensive country but you can always make it with good budgeting. The greatest expense is the flight especially if traveling from the U.S. My mom bought her ticket like 10 months in advance and got it for about $1200. The rest of us bought ours later and ended up paying $400-$600 more than her (Ouch, yeah that hurts to say). So book early and consider KLM, Lufthansa, Emirates, or Air France. British Airways is usually much more expensive. If you are going with a big group, consider renting a villa, cottage, or house instead of individual hotel rooms.  My family rented an apartment where one of our friends and family stays so we were in close proximity for them to help us if needed. There is Airbnb in Kenya and can be searched at the following link: https://www.airbnb.com/s/Kenya

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Safari/Wildlife. Most people go to Safari in the Masaai Mara in Southwestern Kenya but the country is blessed with great biodiversity so there are actually several places to see animals. My mom went to Tsavo which is much more south closer to the coast of Kenya. As a family, we all went on safari in Nyanyuki which is in Central Kenya (In fact, the Ol Pejeta Conversancy we explored is right on the equator line) and we saw quite a number of animals such as Elephants, Zebra, Buffalo, Antelopes, Rhinos, and Warthog. We also got to see and feed giraffes at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi. The Masaai Mara is the most famous because it is where the great migration of wildebeest occurs every year and it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I speculate it is more expensive to do a Safari trip in the Masaai Mara due to the high volume of tourists so please consider the other Safari options in the country as well.

 

Nightlife. We did not have much to go clubbing in Kenya because of a lot of early mornings traveling but we made sure to try a few places out. Kizza Lounge and B-club in Kilimani were recommended by a fellow passenger at the airport. Kizza Lounge had a very good DJ and mature clientele but people were not dancing that much. B-club was pretty much empty when we checked it out but it was very fancy. The music was also more for a European clientele. As such, we escaped to J’s Fresh Bar in Westlands which had very good music and a dance floor. However, the majority of the crowd was high school to college age. The following night we tried a club known as Memphis which is frequented by a lot of students of the United States International University of Africa. The music was very top notch and the place was fully packed. We could have spent the entire night there but wanted to check out Brew Bistro in Westlands. Apparently, Brew Bistro has a policy of not allowing people less than 25 years of age so we were not able to enter as my younger cousin is still in his early 20s. As such, we took a short walk to the 40Forty lounge which has no affiliation with those owned by Jay-Z in the U.S. It has a very beautiful view due to the fact that it is on the 9th floor but their elevator was down so we had to walk up 8 flights of stairs to get there. Luckily, it was worth it as the DJ was on fire with his music selections: as always my club personal favorite is “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira and Wyclef Jean. The cool thing about 40Forty Lounge it is essentially, a fancy sports lounge. The place has huge TVs everywhere so if your boy wants to watch a game but you want to dance, you can both be happy. Kenya has a lot more Clubs, my usual favorite is K1 KlubHouse in Westlands but I decided to try new places this time. As previously mentioned, Kenya has Uber so need to worry about transport at night. If you have a big group, consider using the Taxify app as Uber in Kenya does not currently offer Uber XL but Taxify has XL options to accommodate a big group.img-20190120-wa0000img-20190120-wa0001

Food. Kenya has a lot of food chains now including KFC, Subway, Domino’s Pizza, and Burger King. However, I am sure you would love to try more authentic Kenyan Food. If so, you have to try a local Barbeque (Nyama Choma) joint which are all over Kenya. If you want to try different meats like crocodile, bull balls, and ostrich, then you should head over to Carnivore Restaurant on Langata road. The buffet fee is kind of expensive at $36 per person but I think it is worth it as it also includes soup, salad, and dessert.0110191918c

Wananchi (Kenyan Citizens). It is always nice to hang out with people who I grew up with in Kenya (both family and friends). It sometimes gives me insight to what my life would be like if my family never moved to the U.S. And to be very honest, most of our family friends are doing very well for themselves so if that is an indication, then we would have been alright too. I also like to observe new trends like hair and fashion. This time around I noticed that almost everyone in Kenya is wearing Crocs (off-brand) around the house. For example, you go to someone’s house and instead of giving you sandals to wear like before, they give you crocs. Also, people in Kenya love spending time at malls and there are so many of them now. Most of these malls are multi-level and have grocery stores so it can be a one-stop shop kind of place. I almost bought a $100 fake Louis Vitton and then realized I could probably get a cheaper one from eBay. Moral of the story is, always know the conversion from your currency so you don’t buy something super expensive as compared to your country. The photo below was taken when my family visited the school my brothers and I attended prior to leaving Kenya. img-20190103-wa0016

And with that, I can’t wait to visit the next time to see what changes. Thank you for reading. I hope this inspired you to visit Kenya. If you are interested in traveling within East Africa, then you should also consider checking out the island of Zanzibar, which I cover in the following post: Zanzibar Trip Review 🙂  ❤

What is love?

guka valentines day
Guka Ndogo’s valentine’s day feature – 2005, Kenya

This coming Wednesday is Valentine’s Day which is one of the highly debated holidays in our society. Some say its a capitalist exploit of love. Others say it’s the only holiday that celebrates romantic love. Most critics usually claim that they show their love to their partner 365 days a year and therefore, Valentine’s day is unnecessary. I think my stance is probably a mix of both. I don’t think Valentine’s day is that important but neither are some of the other holidays we have (Columbus day) yet we still choose to observe them. Either way, the most important thing on Valentine’s day and any other day is to understand what love is as well as what love is not. Therefore, I have come up with 10 personal descriptions of what love is to me.

  1. Love is when my dad clipped my shoe laces in high school because i was lazy and refused to tie my shoe laces when they came untied.
  2. Love is when my mom wakes up at the crack of dawn when we’re hosting parties so she can make all the amazing food that we love.
  3. Love is when my little brother gives me the biggest teddy bear hugs just because.
  4. Love is when my older brother made sure i had spending money in high school.
  5. Love is when my sister in law gifts me all her nice clothes that she no longer wears.
  6. Love is when my baby niece screams with excitement when she sees me after a long time apart.
  7. Love is when my grandfather’s brother (Guka Ndogo) took care of his wife for 40+ years when she went blind. Despite being 95+ years, he died only after his wife passed away. Their renewal of vows on their 50th wedding anniversary was actually featured in the Daily Nation, Kenya’s premier newspaper.
  8. Love is when my best friend would give me numerous car rides in high school when I didn’t have a car. Also, I can never forget that she’s attending 95% of my family’s graduations.
  9. Love is when I take myself out to get a massage and take time out to treat myself.
  10. Love is when I put my heart and soul into writing a blog post that touches someone’s life. On that note, I love all the feedback I get from those who read my blog.

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s day whether you celebrate it or not! 🙂 ❤

The American Dream: Is America really the land of milk and honey?

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Mother’s day 2015

Having lived in the U.S. for almost 16 years now has been an enlightening experience. The expectations vs reality phenomenon is really real. To break it down for you, I’ll list 5 things my family expected when we were coming to America and the actual reality that we faced.

  1. We all expected to have a better life in the U.S. In fact, the reason my parents made the decision to move was so that my brothers and I could have more opportunities. However, I can undeniably say that my first year in the U.S. was one of the worst years of my life. I would cry myself to sleep every night because I wanted to go back to Kenya. The home that we lived in while in Kenya was far bigger than the house we ended up in while living most of our years in the U.S. (It’s about the same now expect we had a huge backyard in Kenya due to building our house above our family farm). I can’t say that life in the U.S. is better (maybe a little easier because of a lot more technology).
  2. Many people outside of America think that it’s so easy to make money in the U.S. This perception is especially true in so called “third world countries” (I never liked this label but it sounds much better as compared to what Trump said about the S*** countries.” The truth is the unemployment rate in these countries, including Kenya, is very high and therefore, it’s not as easy to get a job. So yes there are more opportunities to make money but what they don’t tell is that the cost of living in the U.S. is high as well. Therefore, my parents who had great careers in Kenya, my dad as the principal of a high school and my mom as a teacher had to work 2 jobs when they came to America just to make ends meet.
  3. One of the opportunities my parents really wanted for my brothers and I is better education. I wouldn’t say that the education system in the U.S. is better because you get a better education based on your income and where you live (this rings true in Kenya as well). However, I will say there are way more scholarships and financial aid opportunities in the U.S. so it’s much easier for someone to get higher education here than in other countries. My parents were able to get both a bachelors and masters within 10 years of living here which greatly improved their job opportunities. In Kenya, more education doesn’t necessary guarantee more jobs due to corruption and few jobs.
  4. My parent’s greatest fear was that my brothers and I would lose our culture. I can’t say that this happened but we did lose some language skills in term of the tribal languages that we used to speak. We all still speak some Swahili so at least we have that. In terms of culture, we all still love Kenyan food, music, and keep up with the news. We also go back at least every 3 to 4 years so Kenya will always be a part of our lives.
  5. The last expectation is something that I’ll have to wait some years to find out. We all expect to retire in Kenya someday but it seems with every passing year we’re even more rooted in the U.S. In fact, we’ve become so used to the way of life in the U.S. that we sometimes get frustrated about how some things are run in Kenya. However, east or west, home is best (and in our hearts, Kenya will always be home).

I hope this breakdown helps those who want to come to America and are not sure what to expect or the Americans who wonder how others perceive their country. 🙂 ❤

The 1st time I realized I was dark-skinned

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NYE 2017

This post was inspired by Gabrielle Union’s book “We’re going to need more wine”. Despite being absolutely gorgeous, she grew up being told she was “pretty for a dark skinned girl” or “pretty for a black girl” in a small suburb in California. This led her to wanting to try to assimilate to her white suburban peers who occasionally used the N-word in front her as they did not perceive her as a “regular black person”. This led her to wanting to be the best black person she can be. Even in Hollywood, she felt that it was her against all the other black actresses. This led her to later admitting during an acceptance speech for an Essence Fierce and Fearless Award that she was in fact a mean girl, far from the uplifting person that the award described.

I could really relate to her story as I went through the same thing in middle and high school where some people didn’t consider me black because I was African. People would speak ill of black Americans in front of me because I wasn’t considered one of them. This led me to feel like I didn’t really belong because I wasn’t black enough for black Americans and I wasn’t Asian or Hispanic or part of any other minority group in my schools. But despite all this, I never realized I was dark skinned until like 10th grade (form 2 for my Kenyans).

I was probably 15 or 16 at the time and I was riding the bus from school when our bus driver had to include another bus route in our trip because the other bus driver called out of work. So this light skinned black American guy sits next to me on the bus and starts to talk to me. He had cut stripes in his eyebrows like a lot of people did when Soulja Boy popularized it (see picture below). I could tell that we went on the same level mentally but talking to him was better than watching trees go by in the window. He seemed obsessed with his looks as he kept asking me if I thought he was cute. He also asked me to tell him if he looked more like Souljah Boy or Chris Brown. I told him I didn’t find Souljah Boy attractive (the gangsta look is not what attracts me to a guy) and that I didn’t like Chris Brown anymore since he beat up Rihanna (mind you I had a huge crush on Chris Brown in 6 and 7th grade before that horrific beat down happened).

soulja boy

Eventually, the guy gets a call from one of his friends on his cell phone ( we weren’t really supposed to be using them on the bus but the bus drivers broke that rule too so no one cared as long you were discreet). So the guy start to describe where is at and what he’s doing. At some point he says “I was talking to this pretty dark skinned girl, I wish you could see her”. Oblivious to me, I didn’t actually think he was talking to me and I started getting mad wondering why he would be talking about another girl while sitting next to me. I didn’t realize that “pretty dark skinned girl” was me until I saw other girls on the bus looking at me while seeming jealous of me. Shortly after, we reached his bus stop and he got off while saying that he hoped to see me again. I said “cool” but deep down I was still in thought about whether I was dark skinned or not.

Now that I think about it, I think the gradient of skin color depends on each individual person’s perspective. For the guy on the bus, he probably saw me as dark skinned since he was light skinned with a yellow skin tone. Growing up in my family, I always knew I was the darkest when compared to my two brothers. My mother is light-skinned while my dad is darker skinned so I think when I grew into looking like my mother, I assumed I was light-skinned like her. I knew to non-black people (especially whites and Asians), I was automatically dark-skinned to them just like most black people but it gets complicated when the person judging your skin color is of the same race. In Kenya, people are split into three groups: yellow, brown, and black. In Kenya, I knew I wasn’t yellow or black; my mom still refers to me as brown.

What has actually helped me understand my skin tone better is make-up. In the world of makeup for people of color, there is one key term called undertone. You can be of the same skin color with someone but have different undertones. Usually the main undertones are red or yellow. I have worn makeup with yellow undertones that make me too light and makeup with red undertones that make me too dark. I recently solved this dilemma thanks to the Fenty Beauty foundation which won an award for “invention of the year” by Time Magazine. I wear the number 410 or 420 in Rihanna’s makeup line and these numbers correlate to a neutral undertone. So there you have it, I am neither light nor dark. I am neutral; somewhere in between my mother and my father. And I hope we may all be neutral in judging people by the color of their skin. And please don’t be one of those people who says “I don’t see color” unless you’re blind. Most of us have been blessed with sight so use it to see someone for who they are rather than to discriminate against them.

Thank you for reading. 🙂  ❤