Watermelon Halves

Greetings from Bermuda, Hamilton! My home for the past two weeks.

This time has been spent relaxing; beach sits and walks, sitting in parks just breathing and taking in the surroundings, roaming the streets, taking tonnes of pictures, meeting new people, sleeping, eating. The books I plan on reading: J K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, Chimamanda’s Half of a yellow sun (for the second time), and David Baldacci’s The Hit, have barely been touched. I have never felt better.

It is so quiet I did not realize how loud Nairobi is. Especially now with all the campaigning going on. It is so clean. It’s a shame this is a point even, because it should be the norm. But when you see someone rolling their car window down to throw out an empty water bottle, or a banana peel at home, I guess it is something that surprises you, clean streets, something that you notice. The locals say it is not as clean as it was before, I wonder to myself how it must have looked then. I guess too, it will be spruced further as they prepare to host the America’s cup 2017 in June.

The people are so friendly, you say hello to everyone, everywhere. Caro, my sister, has to remind me at times. On the streets, stores, in the parking lot, in church they actually give you a hug, tell you they love you. Now I am not sure whether this is superficial or something that is done without much thought, but it sure feels good. We are all going through something and at times all we need is a stranger saying hello and smiling at us.

The clubbing scene is nothing compared to Nairobi, but it’s alright. The best spots are on one street, Front Street. Soca music is very popular, and very dance-able I might add. It finds is origins in Trinidad and Tobago and is a fusion of calypso and Indian Rhythms. Like Kevin Lyttle’s Turn me on. Some revelers I was chatting told me Jamaica, Kingston, is the place to be for partying. So now you  know where to go. The place I have been to had mostly expats, some Kenyan friends told me that one ni ya wazungu so I asked them to recommend ones that give me the local vibe. Now you know where I will be Friday and Saturday. Harbor nights have started, every Wednesday. Harbor nights is a street festival characterized by local Gombey dancers and street food. The shops remain open till late, folks  mingle, chat, dance, eat. Awesome sauce.

People jog here especially on Sundays so I have temporarily ditched my cardio, abs, and strength workout routine for jogging. I mean, how could I pass on the chance to jog whilst surrounded by water, houses painted in pink, blue, green, yellow, orange, all colors you can think of, all with white roofs and boats parked upfront, greenery? It makes it enjoyable, easier, even when you are huffing, puffing and dripping with sweat since it can get hot and it is humid too.

Stuff is expensive though. The currency, the Bermudian dollar is equivalent to the American dollar and one can use either. A 680g loaf of bread is $6.29, one half gallon of milk $ 5.59, water melon halves $10.99. I stopped mentally converting to the Kenyan shilling because my head was spinning each time. Guess this is due to the cost of importing goods especially since there are almost no taxes levied here. There is no direct income tax, no capital gains tax, no income tax returns to file individually, no wealth taxes. There is however payroll tax which is around 6% and land tax based on value of property. Makes this place a kind of tax haven for the rich.

This week on Wednesday there was unfortunately a road accident, between a motorbike and a car. The person on the bike succumbed to the injuries. This was the 4th death since beginning of this year related to road accidents. Speed limit is 35km/h and visitors cannot hire cars, only scooters or use the bus and taxis.

I guess it is easier running the place though given the population is just slightly over 60,000. Can’t really and fairly compare it to home.

I miss Djasiri terribly. Try video call him every other day. But I noticed one thing, he is OK, barely spares a full minute for me before he wants to run off and do something. Made me realize that maybe it is the parents who need the children? Like emotionally or to validate us or something, I am struggling with the right words. The children are fine, really.

I think at times, we use the kids as an excuse to not do certain things, or to limit ourselves. Now I am in no way suggesting that we ignore our children, not spend quality time with them, and be all in their business. I am proposing that it is fine, probably recommending even, to take time for ourselves as parents, to recharge. I know how challenging it can be, for example maybe to find someone you are comfortable with, can count on, to watch your child, but when you get an opportunity, even if for a day or two, to travel to another town, city, country, take it.

I urge all mothers, once in a while, to take time for themselves; a day at the spa, tea/ drinks with the girls, a holiday by themselves or with their girlfriends.  Would be good for you.

Got to go folks, the beach beckons. My chance to  don my short shorts. Oh and the Bermuda shorts are actually official wear, in the summer especially.

Happy Mothers day to all moms.

Much love,

Vicky.

Easter messages and Quitting

It’s Easter and with all the colored eggs and bunny decorations, I am reminded of when same time last year we were at this hotel and they had colored boiled eggs at the breakfast buffet. Djasiri totally refused to eat them saying he wanted the normal colored ones. I wonder to myself why Easter decorations are about bunnies, colored eggs and chocolate. So I find out. 

Very briefly, the tradition has it’s roots in medieval times. Bunnies were seen as symbols of fertility. Aristotle actually proposed and correctly so, that rabbits could get pregnant while they were already pregnant! They were also believed to be hermaphroditic and therefore capable of virgin births. Thus the association with the Virgin Mary. Eggs represent new life. Chocolate, because it’s end of lent, time to indulge. 

I love funny Easter messages, the conventional ones too, but the funny ones most. I actually like sending these messages for any occasion; birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations, name them, but I learnt it’s not for everyone. Last year Christmas, I sent one unconventional one that I found so funny I was laughing so hard tearing up as I sent it to this group I am in on whatsapp. It fell flat on it’s back. People don’t get humor? Or are we so used to ethnic jokes we can’t see past them? I sometimes get messages that are alike and I wonder, are we lazy to just get/ compose a message with a specific person in mind and send it to them? At times you can actually guess that this person got the same message a mutual friend sent to both of you. They then forward it to you and their entire contact list. Do they then they sit content that they have wished all  a Happy Easter for instance? Well, technically they have, but with zero thought other than for it to be said they sent a message, I think. 

Djasiri found his way to my room and bed Easter Friday and Saturday night. Sunday I am ripe to kick him out. He wants to share a pillow, breath right into my face. It also takes him longer to fall asleep because he starts playing; put his fingers in my nostrils, wants to count my teeth, hug me so tight chocking me till I tap out and admit to him I felt pain. When I tell him to keep his voice low, he starts whispering. Then he sings me a lullaby because I am being a baby, wanting to sleep. I can’t help laugh and that fuels him to keep going. I love him, more than anything on this earth and it’s tons of fun, but he had to go. I need to get some sleep so I am functioning next day. He also had to go because I was doing a pre shampoo on my natural hair. Pre poo, I learnt, while attending a cocktail no less, is preparing your hair before a wash so it’s not stripped of oils and remains moisturized. I use coconut oil which smells to the high heavens. You most certainly do not want to share a bed with someone who will most likely pull of your headscarf.

It’s very early Monday morning as I write this. 4:30a.m. Ok, maybe just early. It’s a holiday after all, I would have wanted to sleep in a bit. I found myself thinking about something I read on Twitter, on five things we should quit this week. I was also dying for a cup of fresh ginger black tea. I am addicted to it. I have taken this cuppa at all imaginable hours of the day and night. 

So, the five things to quit:

  1. Trying to please everyone

This I have done a good job at quitting, albeit not too long ago. I learnt, eventually, which is what matters I think, that it is not my job to make myself likable. It is my job to just be myself. Besides, it is impossible to please everyone.

2. Fearing change

This I am battling with. Fear of change within myself, how will it affect everyone and everything else around me, will it work, can I live with the consequences? And so so many more questions. I rest in the fact that, I effected the changes because I learnt enough that I wanted to. Also because I was hurting so bad I had to.

I continuously encourage myself with the words of Christopher Columbus “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”. One step at a time.

3. Living in the past

Work in progress. I miss some things in my past, but, and I am most certainly convinced, I do not want them back. I however miss some things and I do want them back.

4. Putting yourself down

Once in a while yes. But I have forgiven myself of mistakes I have done. I am also aware of and therefore catch myself when I start comparing myself to other people. Affirmation, affirmation.

5. Over thinking

I have been doing this a lot lately. I am not proud of myself, thinking about something/ someone too much, for far too long. I am quitting, immediately.

The battle to conquer self continues. All the best with yours. Wish you a great week. 

XO, Vicky

This and that

First off, I am dead tired, worn out! I have been up and down the past four weeks, work and other obligations. It does not help that I am also experiencing a loss I truly had not anticipated. It caught me flat-footed. But being a grown up comes with such, you just deal as best as you can.

In the aforementioned ups and downs, I missed spending quality time with my son. I am riddled with guilt. Life and work balance they say. I might have to call bullshit on that. You just do your best I think. And focus on the quality as opposed to quantity. Make every second count. I am trying to remember the exact words a friend used to describe this, something about the sum total of work and of life that then makes the balance. I truly am exhausted, I can barely think, remember, I doubt I can find my elbow with either hand and a flash light. But I need to write, it is my therapy. So stubbornly I will continue, hopefully it goes well, my musings on totally unrelated topics, this and that.

I learnt some, doing my other non work related obligations. That you can give your time and skill to a cause, you do not necessarily have to give money. That in my own small way I can bring change. And that it feels so damn good when you do this. Giving of your time and knowledge and other resources disposable to you is the ultimate goal. You could go to your old primary school in the village and get involved in some activity, mobilizing the parents and wider community to do some improvements to the classrooms for instance. Visit your college Alma mater and give a talk to the continuing students in your former faculty, explain to them the realities of the work place so they are able to translate the knowledge they learn in class and be better prepared for the marketplace once they graduate.

Have you ever met a total stranger in the most random of places, who then becomes a good friend? A supermarket for instance. You are queuing at the till in Nakumatt and you start talking to the person in front/ behind you. Maybe about the cashier and how friendly he is (because a friendly human in this Nairobi is a strange and rare thing, when it happens you gawk, speak about it. Have you ever said hi to a random person and they just look at you not responding? I do this a lot and usually wonder what triggers the lack of response, they were not anticipating a greeting?) Or the trolley ahead and how full it is, how long does it take to go through all that cereal, you ask each other. Maybe they have it for dinner too? Then the chit chat morphs into a serious conversation.

You go through an aha moment, a change of perspective, an awareness or understanding of subjects in a way you had never thought of before. Totally makes you reexamine your life. Like the story of that Uber driver that was doing rounds a while back, how the experience he went through made him make some changes. I guess that’s why we are told to travel, mingle with people of different cultures, class, read. We pick so much, that hopefully makes us better people.

Change is difficult. When you decide to do something different, that is actually good for you, but out of the norm, what society and culture perceives as acceptable, you best be ready to rub people off the wrong way. People close to you, your family even. Change makes people uncomfortable. And as much as they know it’s good for you, the natural way to react is object? I still can’t figure it out. I guess once you have made your mind you just go on and do it. And pray it works. And if it does not, learn from this and try again a different way. Now I see and understand why people stay in comfort zones however uncomfortable. Change is too much work.

Djasiri asked how I got him out of my stomach. I told him they cut my lower abdomen and got him out. He then asks what they used to cut my stomach. I said a scalpel. “You are lying , if they cut you, you would be dead”, he says. I am tempted to tell him I got him off the shelves of Carrefour, or I wrote a letter to the Storks, and the birds dropped him home just like in the movie. I strongly suspect he would believe this version than my truth. I also wonder how you could possibly explain a vaginal birth to a six year old?

It’s school break, grandma and Easter are here! Wish you a good one. Be kind to one another.

xo, mamadjasiri

Understanding Overvaluation

A short while back, I attended the prize giving ceremony for my sons school. It was a good function. Sonny however did not feature in the awards list.

Why I am writing is because in all honesty I felt a bit disappointed. Now don’t get me wrong, he still is the smartest kid I know (not just because he is mine, hehe). And his grades in school are perfect. I felt terrible for feeling the way I did. Then I stumbled upon a subtopic in Dan Ariely’s book, The Upside of Irrationality, that cleared things up for me.

What Mr. Ariely describes in Understanding Overvaluation is that most parents think very highly of their children, so much so that they do not realize that other people do not see them in the same way as they do.

Think about it, those who have children. You can go on and on about them showing pictures to anyone who cares to stop, look and listen, but lose interest or struggle to listen immediately the other person starts to share about their kids.

The author further writes that, in reality, he suspects that very few people are either wholly unaware or aware of their children’s gifts and faults. This translates to that, not only do most parents think their children are the best thing on earth, but that they think other people think so, too.

This tendency by the way does not just manifest in how we view our children. Naturally we view anything we create like this, the IKEA Effect.

In my unsolicited opinion, I feel it is good to be aware of our overvaluation so we are able for instance to discipline our kids when they err instead of defending them. It also makes as not make unrealistic demands of them since we understand their capabilities. And in understanding their capabilities, we are also able to nudge them when they are slacking.

 

xo, mamadjasiri.

 

Questions Galore 2

It’s been a while, three weeks going on four to be precise, since my last post. As expected, a lot has happened over this time. Two weeks ago, in a span of five days, I lost a cousin, grandfather and a friend from our office block in that order. Shook me pretty good.

In the sermon, at my Uncle’s house, the pastor said something that is relevant with parenthood and that stuck with me, “our children are not ours, we are just custodians”. I have quoted Khalil Gibran, actually used the quote as the featured image, in one of my posts, Worry How you wonder are these words supposed to console a grieving parent? Life.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the Subject. Something has piqued Djasiri’s curiosity, necessitating a second installment of Questions Galore Clearly I have discovered the insert/edit link button, hehehe. Or maybe my son has positively influenced me to be curious and try out things.

So he had reading homework, the CRE book. The chapter we are reading covers good habits, how God’s children should behave. Whether I am in complete agreement with some of the content in this book is subject for another day.

Does Jesus look like God? He asks. So I tell him yes, I think Jesus looks like God since He is God’s son. And besides we are all created in Gods image I add. “So I look like God?” Yes, I say and urge him to continue reading, before he hits me with another difficult query.

Then the book lists smoking cigarettes and taking alcohol as bad habits that children should desist from. What are cigarettes he asks? What are cigarettes I ask myself, the things people smoke? I tell him its tobacco rolled in paper that people smoke. Why? He asks. I don’t know Djasiri, I guess it is a habit that people acquire and become addicted. Before I am asked what addiction is I say we proceed. But he wants to know what alcohol is. He is on a roll. So I say it is a beverage that makes you drunk. I am aware i really haven’t answered his question. It is hard to tell children the truth but in simple terms, I find out.

Where is hell? Is it like a trillion kilometers away? “I don’t know where hell is, I have not been to the actual hell, I have not heard or read of anyone who has come back and given us the directions” I am tempted to say. But I say, all I know is how the place is described. I am not sure if the bible actually says where hell is. Thankfully we are done for that day.

Next day during breakfast,do bees make honey? Yes honey, bees do make honey. I look to see whether he caught that, nope. Do bees cough? Are you shitting me? I am just a mom, not an expert on Apiology. Oh, even you the readers have a question? Apiology is the study of honey bees. The Jungle book movie comes to my rescue, I tell him to recall the scene where Mowgli is getting honeycombs for Baloo, the bear. We just saw the bees sting Mowgli not cough.

“Mommy, can a working man go to work with just a vest?” I try to imagine what goes on in his head but I come up short. The questions are so random. Anyway, I answer and say no, they have to put a shirt on. What if they feel hot, he asks. Then they do the adult thing and put on the AC, fun, open the windows, or just sweat it out I respond. And wear a deodorant too I add laughing. I check to see again if he gets me attempting humor, nope, I am alone on this one too.

I guess I am trying to say a couple of things today, honestly I am not exactly clear if and how they gel together. I just needed to write, share all this. Please bear with me.

One is the importance of living our lives fully, forget being comfortable, taking risks. My sister said to me about our departed cousin, she was much younger than us, but she did live her life. Striving to make each day count. Friedrich Nietzshe put it best when he said, we should consider each day lost on which we have not danced even once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh. And then my favorite, Rumi, “Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.” Nice, yes? come on,  lets all say it together, “I’ll be mad!” Hahaha.

Secondly the innocence and abandon with which children ask questions, go about everything. Can we learn something from that? Everyone is a mjuaji in this city. Getting consensus in your work place is an uphill task, everyone has a different opinion.

And lastly, learning to accept life as is. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us – Epictetus.

XO, mamadjasiri.