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 🙂 ❤

Love: is there a formula?

10258Before I start this post, let me give a shout out to my best friend who did this digital sketch of a selfie that I took in 2014. From what I remember, it was during summer classes in June and I had a daily ritual of a mid-day nap so this was either before or after the nap (probably after, because my lips tend to dilate while I sleep).

This post is about love and I think the feeling of love is only seconded by the feeling of a really good nap (in my opinion, both induce rose colored glasses and necessary to life). From talking to several different people (including my parents and married family friends) this past weekend, I started to wonder if there is a formula to love. Well, my friends, I have reached the conclusion that the answer is both yes and no. No because typically in a formula you have an independent (x) and dependent variable (y). So if y=love, then x would have to equal something that we all determine to result in love if there was a direct relationship between x and y. Okay, that is enough math for today but my point is, we have not scientifically determined any one thing that results in love all the time. However, we do know certain factors that may be assist in the process of love. My small interview based research with my parents and family friends yielded common results. Almost everyone will tell you honesty, trust, and patience are important in love. So we can assume that those are probably part of the formula especially in terms of long-lasting love. So in my opinion, the answer is yes and no. For the final math/science reference, if honesty, trust, and patience are part of the formula then they would be referred to as constants since they would be unchanging.  Therefore, maybe we should focus on the constants of love and somewhere we will find the (x- male or female in this case) that makes it work (thereby, turning y to equal love).

Some of the conversations I engaged in also produced some quotes that I would like to share below.

  1. “If your partner/lover/whatever-you-want-to-call-them lies to you about small stuff, run the other way because they will definitely lie to you about bigger stuff.”
  2. “Go with the flow.” When my mom and dad met they both were not trying to force the relationship to work. According to my mother, they both kept talking about breaking up until they both realized that they actually deeply cared about each other. None of them took the relationship that seriously until it actually became serious. Supposedly, there is less chance of heart break this way but keep in mind that there is no true formula to love.
  3. “Do what makes you happy.” Of course, you have to consider long term vs short term happiness but in most cases, you will never regret what made you happy. I recently shared with one of my friends that I do not get scared about a relationship turning bad anymore because if it made me happy for x amount of months or years then it was not a waste of time. I have also been watching a TV show called Billions (thanks to my male best friend that put me on to this really cool show ) which is mainly based on stock investment firms and how they manage their investments. To me love can be an investment because you expect the love to grow/appreciate over the years. Love is more of a long term stock. However, there is an investment strategy known as shorting or short-selling where you borrow a stock at a certain price and quickly return it when the price goes down. So imagine your potential mate is a stock, if their perceived value to you (emotionally and mentally most importantly) goes down then you can feel free to return them to the universe.

I feel like this turned into an extensive thought piece (probably because I am writing this at 1am which is when my mind really peaks haha). I apologize if you have a deep fear of math and this post triggered you. 🙂 ❤

What I’ve learned from celebrity relationships

meghan-markle-prince-harry-parenthood-1024x781.jpgIf celebrity relationships weren’t interesting, then most magazines would cease to exist because that is one of the prime reasons people buy them.  Shout out to our previous house owner who was subscribed to PEOPLE magazine so I get updated on Meghan Markle and Harry’s marriage every week (even though, paper mail gives me anxiety because of a) bills and b) tree deforestation for the purpose of paper). The main thing I learned from Meghan and Harry’s relationship is that if a man wants you, he will break all the rules to have you (i.e. marrying a divorced older woman). So with that, never accept an excuse from a man as to why he cannot be with you because a man will try to move heaven and earth if he really wants to be with you. With this post, I am doing the sandwich method where you present the good first, the bad second, and then finish with good. Therefore, the next two cases are not so romantic.

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Beyoncé & Jay Z. My main take away from their marriage is that Jay Z is likely to have cheated on one of the most beautiful women on this earth. Like that thought still crosses my mind in a while and I am just dumbfounded that this is even possible. But if he did, then she clearly has forgiven him and it is inspiring to know that level of forgiveness exists because clearly, I don’t have that much mercy on people. Especially for a woman who is independently successful to stay with a man that she doesn’t necessarily need, that is on another level for me. But maybe the possible beat down on Jay Z that happened on the elevator by Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, was enough to even the score.

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Khloe Kardashian& anyone. She has married a cocaine addict (Lamar Odom) and has recently been in the news for being cheated on by professional basketball player and maybe professional adulterer Tristan Thompson. In this recent debacle, she blamed the girl, Jordyn Woods, that Tristan supposedly kissed instead of making her man accountable for his actions. Lesson learned here is do not be so desperate that you accept whatever behavior a man throws at you. It is better to be alone than to be a doormat that just says WELCOME to anyone and everyone.

kim-kanye.jpgKim Kardashian & Kanye West. Unlike her sister Khloe, Kim has actually managed to have a seemingly beautiful relationship with Kanye. When the sex tape of Kim came out in 2003, I am pretty sure nobody thought that she would be happily married and with a family of four kids in 2019. But yet here we are and I think that is because Kim has really high self-esteem to the point that she did not let that oops moment define her (If anything, she capitalized on it and made money off it as many people are still Keeping up with the Kardashians). So the lesson here is to not let your last relationship be a setback; keep it moving and focus on your hustle as the rest will follow.

priya and nickPriyanka Chopra & Nick Jonas. What can I say? As someone who has been obsessed with Priyanka Chopra even before she crossed over to America with the show Quantico, I never thought she would end up with a man 10 years her junior. But to be honest, we do not usually find a problem with men dating younger women so I don’t think we should shame women for it either. To me, Priyanka and Nick both seem happy and that is what really matters. I am sure at age 36 and gorgeous, she has been courted by many men and knew what she wanted enough not to just settle for Nick. The main lesson I learned from this experience is not to rush love and jump into a relationship for the sake of it. As they say, good things come to those who wait.

will-smith-jada-pinkett-smith-01.jpgJada Pinkett-Smith & Will Smith. I do not believe in making anyone my role model because like Tupac said: “a role is something people play, a model is something people make, and both of those things are fake”. However, I will say that I admire Jada and Will’s relationship because they both seem like deeply introspective people who seek to understand themselves and each other in order to make their marriage really work. I know there are rumors at there that they have an open relationship but they have not come out to confirm that so I will dismiss that conversation. My favorite statement from Will Smith is from a recent YouTube video stating that he does not hold his wife responsible for his happiness. Happiness is a choice and only you can choose to make yourself happy. A relationship is not a hobby. Whatever made you happy when you were single should not be neglected just because you have a sidekick now. In essence, do not set unrealistic expectations on your partner. He or she cannot be your sun or your moon no matter how hard he or she tries.

I hope you all achieve and maintain happiness within you, with or without a relationship. 🙂 ❤

 

How to ENRICH your LIFE: La Joie de Vivre

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In summer of 2012, I interned at the Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi, Kenya where they conduct very groundbreaking research especially on tropical diseases (and before you ask, yes they conduct ethically sound research that follows World of Health Animal Research Protocols). My favorite part of the internship was the enrichment project where select staff, such as myself, played with the monkeys, chimps, and other primates for at least an hour a day. This enrichment project was created under the reason that the primates should still have a life with some daily fun even though they were being used for research. I was reflecting upon this experience recently and I realized that even humans are primates so we have to remember to always create some joy in our lives. The word enrichment is befitting because it enhances the value and quality of our lives. Another phrase that I love is “la joie de vivre” which is French for “joy of life”.

I personally find my joie de vivre in three things: art, food, and music. I just recently had a quick vacation to Houston that encompassed those three things so let me highlight them below in picture format.

ART (all pictures taken at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX)

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FOOD

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The Savoy Restaurant is definitely a must-visit spot for Indo-Pakistani food. At the bottom left of the photo, you can see green specks in the naan which are cilantro and Jalapeno peppers. As such, this naan is called “the bullet” naan. This was my first time having it and now I am obsessed. Also, tried goat brain masala which was better than one could expect. My favorite, of course, was the goat biryani.

MUSIC

The main person that inspired my recent trip to Houston is Lauryn Hill as she had a concert lined up on Thursday, May the 9th. Despite bad weather and flash flood warning, we showed up and luckily, she did too. Her performance was amazing and she delivered considering 20 plus years have passed since the release of her album, The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill. Her guitarists and backup singers were on point too. Please watch the clip below for a morsel of her performance.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you take time to reflect on how you can or will continue to ENRICH your LIFE. Thanks for reading 🙂 ❤

Love like a gangsta ft Nipsey and Lauren London

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Photo from GQ-magazine Feb’19. Shot by Awol Erizku

If there is anything I have learned from rap songs, it is that “there’s nothing like hood love”. That Nelly and Kelly Rowland “Dilemma” kind of love. That 50 Cent “21 questions” kind of love. And to throw it way back, that Bonnie and Clyde kind of love. Now to bring it way to the front, that Nipsey Hussle (Ermias Asghedom) and New-New (Lauren London) kind of love.

           At first look, Nipsey was an intimidating looking kind of guy with his tall frame and face tattoos but we now all know, that he had a heart of gold. Lauren London (best known for her performance as New-New in the movie ATL) dated many of the richest rappers in the game such as Lil Wayne and even had his child. However, she found true love with Nipsey. Why? Because like she said in her speech at his funeral, she did not have to wear her “cool girl mask” anymore with Nipsey. Nipsey was her “turn up and her church”. He was not “perfect” and she would never ask him to be.  He was and still is “the coolest guy ever” to her. “His soul was majestic.” He was a “gentle father” and a “patient leader.”  These are all direct quotes from her beautiful speech at his funeral where she shared a text message that she wrote to him during January of this year while she was watching him sleep. Clearly, Lauren knew what she had found with Nipsey was truly special and I am sure Nipsey made her feel special as no woman would talk like that about a man that mistreats her. I repeat her “turn up and her church.” Many guys can fall into that “turn up” category but very few can be your “church.” That is a spiritual connection which is “beyond this earth”.

            Based on her and Nipsey’s spirituality, Lauren is probably better equipped to handle what has happened to her and her family. In her speech, she shared how Nipsey taught her that “you cannot possess people, you experience them.” The few years she got to experience him will last her a lifetime and maybe beyond that. Furthermore, he had told her that “the game is gonna test you, never fold.” “Stay ten toes down.” “It is not on you, it is in you and what is in you, they cannot take away.” I don’t know about y’all, but her speech gave me life and her strength was the real definition of “gangsta.” Even though the perpetrator of his death took Nipsey’s life, the love he shared with Lauren and his family can never be taken away. In fact, she shared that her greatest sadness is realizing that their 2-year-old son is “probably too young to remember how much his dad loved him”.

            I hope we may all experience such “gangsta love”. Not gangsta in regards to being in a gang or involved in crime (in the traditional sense of the word), but gangsta in how fiercely we protect it.  No side chicks have popped up from the woodworks stating that they were with Nipsey because he was all about Lauren. He was faithful, loyal, and most of all, he financially protected his family so that they would not have to starve without him. Instead of flashing his money for all the world to see on cars and other depreciating expenses, he invested in his community and educated people about financial literacy. As Lauren says, “he was brilliant” and the world is at a loss for such a man. One of Nipsey’s face tattoos says “PROLIFIC” and I had to google exactly what that word means: “producing much fruit or foliage or many offspring.” I believe that based on Nipsey’s hustle alone, his investments will continue to bear fruit for his community. His love, on the other hand, is limitless as it has even inspired people like me who are not a part of his direct community. Maybe we all get to experience this gangsta type of love in this lifetime and those to follow. As Lauren said, “the marathon continues.”

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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New York City Trip Review

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March 2019, Brooklyn Bridge

I would like to start by sharing a quote that I read on a billboard while walking around New York City that stated that “NYC is like a pretty woman smoking a cigar”. It is kind of rough around the edges and definitely not everyone can survive living there. But they also say “if you can make it in NYC, you can make it everywhere”. I am fortunate to say that I have two friends who I grew up with in Alabama who are making it in NYC and I enjoyed hanging out with them. This was not my first time in NYC but 2015 was the last time I was there so a trip was long overdue. My review of the city starts with a food review because NYC is truly a melting pot where you can find cuisine from all over the world.

Food. I have never had a bad meal in NYC. This time around I was mostly looking forward to trying Peruvian food because my best friend is always talking about it. So when I saw a Peruvian restaurant in Queens called Jora, I was excited to try it out. My best friend recommended Ceviche which is raw seafood marinated with lime and onions. I am not a fan of raw fish, to be honest, but they also served a complimentary snack of banana chips with avocado/lime sauce which was so delicious that I have to try to recreate it at home. My friend also took me to a Greek restaurant called Taverna Kyclades which was great for me because I had been craving calamari that week. With calamari as the appetizer, I ordered lamb chops and lemon potatoes. The food was decent but my friend claims that the Taverna Kyclades in Queens is better than the one we went to. The best restaurant we experienced was Soco in Brooklyn which is black-owned and soul food/creole inspired. I had previously frequented this restaurant in 2015 with some college friends for brunch and I loved their fried chicken with red velvet waffles. Yes! Red Velvet waffles! My friend ordered the gumbo and we both enjoyed it. This time around I did not eat any street food but make sure to check out the halal food trucks if you’re ever in NYC.

 

Tourist attractions. NYC has a lot of tourist attractions but I am not really drawn to a lot of them such as the Statue of Liberty. My favorite attraction is the Brooklyn Bridge because the lower part of the bridge is for cars and the upper part is for pedestrians where you can walk while getting an amazing view of the NYC skyline. I also love Central Park just because it is so huge and is usually a great place to people watch. My friend and I also went to the top of the empire state building which had a great view of the skyline at night with all the lights all over the city. Surprisingly, we went on a Thursday and there were a lot of tourists there especially from France. I joked to my friend that French people view NYC the way American people view Paris: full of romance, class, and adventure. So Paris 2020 anyone?

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Night Life. On this trip, I was really looking to find a club that plays African music because that is something I do not get to experience where I live down South. I found an event in Brooklyn hosted by an African DJ in a lounge. My friend and I showed up an hour late to the event but we ended up being among the first 5 people there including the DJ. While we waited for more people to show up, I took the chance to play the DJ’s electronic drums which was actually pretty fun as you can see in the video below (sorry for the horrible quality).  By the end of the night, only 20 people had shown up but we still enjoyed as the DJ was on fire playing all the Afrobeats bangers. On my previous trips to NYC, I have gone to American clubs which are all over the place and can get really packed. That was a while back though so I won’t give any recommendations because things might have changed. But NYC still remains as the city that never sleeps so don’t sleep on it.

Accommodation & Transport. Ubers can be a pretty expensive way to travel since the city is so expansive. It is a necessary evil though mainly for airport trips and when you’ve exhausted all your energy by dancing all night. However, the train system in NYC is world class. Usually, it will take about the same travel time as a car to take the train as train stops are everywhere and the wait times are short. Also, NYC trains are known to have talented individuals displaying their talents in hopes of being discovered and making a bit of money. And of course trains and buses are much cheaper than Ubers. For accommodation, there are usually deals on Groupon especially during the offseason (Spring and Fall). I chose to stay at a hotel in Queens because LaGuardia Airport is in Queens and I did not want to be late to the airport as usual. Also, I have always wanted to stay in Queens after watching Coming to America with Eddie Murphy and Yes, I ❤ NY.

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Thanks for reading! 🙂

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. 🙂 ❤

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 🙂  ❤