Overdue: Pics from Nairobi

Life isn't always glamorous as an expat, but it's not all being stuck in the field wishing for home either.  Here's some pics from June - early October (the longest amount of time I've been in the country since I took my current job) when I was working in the office or seconded to UNHCR Nairobi.  I traveled with friends, I blogged a few times, I cooked some, but mostly I watched trashy reality shows on E! while writing refugees' persecution histories, explaining why they should be recommended for resettlement.  The fact I only have so few to share also tells me I need to be taking more photographic evidence of my life in Nairobi.  Here's some I did manage to snap along the way:

I survived Tchad

So I'm aware that I've been very lame about posting for the last month since I went off secondment and began traveling again.  (For the record I did blog a restaurant review on my other blog African Nights so I wasn't a complete slacker.)  My first trip post-Nairobi secondment was to Tchad.  Yes, that is a real country.  It's landlocked between Sudan, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Central African Republic.  They host refugees from both Sudan and CAR. 

Now for something a little more...creamy

Chicken satay!  The first of the appetizers I am creating for a small get-together I'm hostessing tomorrow.

2 tbsp peanut butter (in the comments section it suggests a couple of extra tbsp in order to get a more "authentic" taste)
1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves- cubed

Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, curry powder, garlic, and hot pepper sauce in a mixing bowl.

"There's a little too much hate going on in my feed right now"

And this is why I don't live in Texas anymore:

Facebook feed 1: representing the hillbilly section of the population.  Keep in mind this man is a police detective.  He is college educated and technically not an idiot.

Former FB Friend's status update henceforth dubbed "Jethro": "Simple way to end these rock throwing sheep herders from attacking our Embassy's. You breach the walls? You die! You throw a rock? You get a bullet! You kill 4 US citizens? We kill 1,000 of you!"

Burned into our memory: 9/11

While I'm not in the US being inundated with 9/11 coverage my facebook feed has not escaped.  It's not that I don't recall this day eleven years with sorrow for those who lost loved ones in the senseless attacks as well as those families who lost sons and daughters in its aftermath with the ensuing wars, it's just that I wish that people would recognize that this tragic assault on unsuspecting America changed the lives of many not only living in the US but around the world.

Healthy pasta? Sure, why not?

I eat a LOT of pasta.  I love Mediterraneo and frequently walk around the corner to Osteria for some pasta, but is there such thing as healthy pasta?  Probably, but I don't know it.  Since I'm on this health kick, I thought I'd try to whip up something with a lot less calories than my cream based love, Alfredo sauce.  I found a marinara sauce recipe online and figured I'd give it a shot and will hopefully have something fabulous and healthy to take for lunch tomorrow. I actually found multiple recipes online but this looked the simplest and took the least amount of time.  Again, I'm eyeballing the figures; it worked the last time....

And the adventure continues...in cooking that is

It's really less so an adventure and a need to not eat ugali and stew once again.  It's not the healthiest of options and while I love some Kenyan foods ugali is definitely not their claim to fame; it's a mixture of flour and water and bland. 

Today I scavenged through the pantry and decided to make a tuna salad.  There were some chopped peppers and a few slices of cucumbers left over and so I tossed those in with some chopped tomato, onion, garlic, and coriander.  Hopefully it will suffice for lunch tomorrow.  Save me from myself and give me some suggestions for more exciting *healthy* meal options!

And if you have some ideas for easy to make appetizers, do tell.  I am hosting a small home party for one of my favorite non-profits here in Nairobi in a few weeks and would like to serve some homemade bitings with drinks.

How to find a job in "Africa"

So I recently received an email from a friend of a friend asking what they could do to become an attractive prospective employee for potential NGO employers in Africa.  While I am by no means an expert on the topic as I have only had 3 positions here and have been here a little less than 3 years, I offered this advice:

Diet cooking is for the birds

In an attempt to lose some of the weight that I've put on traveling over the last 6-8 months I'm back to my standby Scarsdale Diet since apparently having regular bouts of Harvey (my imaginary intestinal worm) hasn't kept off the weight.  While I was hopeful the weight gain and other symptoms could be explained away by a potential thyroid problem I was depressed to learn that, in fact, my thyroid is working perfectly.  Therefore, evidently my weight gain is just a symptom of being in my 30s.

So, back to Scarsdale I go.  Yes, there are some off the wall remarks in the book that one should ignore about women and PMS; keep in mind it WAS written in the '70s.  However, as the overall diet is healthy and simple to stick to in theory, I am going to start the 2 week trial once again since my daily diet of home cooked Indian food is thickening under my belt. I even contemplated buying a cute new apron at Amani ya Juu yesterday to begin the quest.

Today I figured I would start with something simple, like a fresh garden salad.  With no dressing in the house and just me and my clumsy fingers for chopping, I think it's going to be more difficult than it sounds.

Rediscovering Kenya

I know I've been completely lame this year about blogging and I could use my hectic travel schedule as an excuse but I've been seconded to UNHCR Nairobi for a good month and a half now and I'm not doing any better on the writing front.  Granted they are definitely keeping me busy and while I'm happy to be in the same city as my friends for an extended period of time there is definitely not as much free time as one would expect.  Not that I'm complaining; I actually enjoy having work to do in the office and am not upset that this means a bit of after hours work during my weeknights and weekends.

That said, I think Nairobi has lost a bit of it's shine too, giving me less to write about as I am not one to use my blog as a ventfest.  While yes, I could write about the daily grind of matatu chicken and the guessing game of constantly changing roads, that's not really my style.  Therefore my goal is to try to reclaim that happy shiny feeling that Kenya gives so many people.  Granted, most of those people live in a bubble that doesn't involve torture stories and revolves around expat-centric Westlands or Gigiri, but still; I know the shininess is there, lurking somewhere just beneath the surface, and I'm determined to find it again.

Step one: I went to Castle Forest Lodge, a colonial weekend retreat near Mount Kenya, where elephants are known to traipse through the forest and past the bandas in the evenings.  It was scenic and relaxing.  I spent most of my time lounging by the fire reading and catching up with friends.  Then we spent Sunday in Nyeri getting massaged and relaxing in the steam room and sauna at Green Spa.  The sheen has brightened a bit.

What to do in a power outage

Well, first off, get an apartment that has a generator.  Or if you're Curry Delight, invest in a lot of rechargeable battery lamps and candles and let the good times roll.

1. Make sure your laptop battery is charged so even if you can't access the wireless you can plug up your dongle for some internet fun.  Or you can get a couple of hours of movie/tv watching in, depending on how long your computer battery lasts.

2. Keep a fully stocked bar.  Nothing says power outage like drinking a bottle of white wine before it gets warm or having a couple of glasses of scotch on the rocks before the ice melts.

3. If you're already in the shower, pray that your hot water heater pre-heats the tank and isn't heating the water as it comes out the tap. Doing your make up in the mirror by candle light makes you a better person.  Did I mention the perks of a fully stocked bar?

4. Keep a plethora of books on hand.  Flashback to childhood and read under your blanket with a flashlight after lights out. 

5. Order in.  Dinner under the stars is romantic and a much safer option than attempting to cook on the gas top stove in the dark. 

6. Board games!  I've yet to convince anyone to join in the fun with me.  I think my cardboard Kenyan Monopoly doesn't necessarily transcend the cultural divide with Curry Delight.  He just looks at me like I'm crazy when I point out that the backside is also a chess board.  Woo.

7. Tough it out at your favorite bar when the goin gets rough.  Hellllllo, Brew Bistro!

What fun things do you do when the lights go out?  As in good, clean fun, people.

Things I Am Grateful For: Freedom

While I don't actually live in the US of A at the moment, I am still grateful for what the passport I carry means for me.  Today I am grateful for freedom and the American servicemen and women who have fought and died for our country so we can live free of oppression and tyranny.  I am grateful that I have the freedom of speech and the right to speak out against unconstitutional policies or unfair laws without fear of reprisal from the government.  I am grateful for the freedom of movement and the ability to legally move with in and with out of the country.  I am grateful for taxation with representation.  I may not always agree with the stances of our elected officials but I am grateful that I have the right to vote for or against them without fear of retribution.  I am grateful for taxes that build our country and boost our social and political systems.

Today also reminds me that not everyone in the world is so lucky.  I believe my colleague said it best in her facebook status today; "Freeeeeeeeeeedooooooooom! Freedom from persecution...that is the foundation of my great nation. Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans and especially to all the recently resettled refugees who have a chance to start a new life like our forefathers did...."  I am grateful that my country recognizes that not everyone is as lucky as those born in the US and remembers that the country's foundation was built on refugees and immigrants and that the government continues to accept the huddled masses en masse. 

What does Independence Day mean to you?  What are you grateful for today?

World Refugee Day 2012: Refugees have no choice. You do.

Sometimes I forget that I live in a world where genocide, refugee camps, and poverty are commonplace and that many people glide through life never hearing a testimony of torture endured or never watching a perfect stranger break down in tears while recounting the day they watched their family massacred.  This daily reminder of what type of world much of this planet's population lives in is wearing at times and I admit that I am just as guilty as the next development worker at dropping acronyms, acting shocked when people haven't heard of the latest genocide brewing in Kazwhatistan, and going on holidays to the first world feeling jaded and unable to fit back into the society that raised me.  While sometimes I'd like to live in oblivion to the atrocities taking place throughout the globe (and I actually am quite oblivious on details of what's going on in really anywhere other than sub-Saharan Africa, don't even ask me about northern Africa for that matter), I have chosen the field I am in because it's fulfilling and even a small glimmer of hope is sometimes enough for survival.

Arusha Weekend Away

So as I mentioned in my previous post, I went to Arusha this past weekend to visit my friend Jana.  And in the interest of turning over a new leaf and actually staying on top of the blogging for all you peeps at home reading this here are some pictures.  The day after I get back!  Don't tell me, I know, I know, I'm awesome. 

NGO Showcase: Inherit Your Rights

My friends are awesome; they are amazing, brilliant people doing incredible work all over the world.  Unfortunately, for those of you who don't live in their corner of the world or know them personally, most people won't get to hear their stories.  My goal is to change this.  I am going to start a quasi-regular (you know how I am about posting regularly) series showcasing amazing women doing their small part to change lives.  Of course I will mostly highlight friends and acquaintances but if you know of someone doing amazing work somewhere let me know! 

This past weekend I went to Arusha, Tanzania to visit one of my good pals, Jana Hardy.  I met Jana in Kenya 2 years ago when she volunteered for a small NGO in Nairobi before she was scheduled to start an internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  When we met I was writing and researching my final papers for my MLS, one evaluating the causes of the Rwandan genocide and the other examining the effectiveness of international justice systems in cases of genocide.  Clearly, we were destined to be friends.  After 2 months in Nairobi she moved to Arusha where she spent some time before heading back to finish her law degree at Stanford.  (Did I mention my friends are smarty pants!)  In January 2011 she and her friend Katie founded Inherit Your Rights (IYR), an NGO aimed at bringing justice for Tanzanian widows who have been robbed of their land rights.

My Love Affair with the UK: The Liverpool Edition

While in the UK visiting my friend Meg, her hubby Cheerio, and their new addition baby midget last week we decided to hit up Liverpool, home of the Beatles and the International Slavery Museum.  It was the latter that got me all excited for the trip.  (I'm not crazy; I totally like the Beatles, but if you know me or have ever read my blog prior to today, you know my obsession with human rights drives me to do weird things like go on holiday to genocide sites and read about human rights abuses in my spare time.)

While I didn't get to visit the International Slavery Museum, (I blame the Queen) I did learn more about the history of slavery at the Museum of Liverpool.  Pretty much Liverpool was part of the triangle of shame where the Brits sent goods to West Africa in return for slaves who were then sent to the States where the ships returned to Liverpool with goods produced by the slave labor.  And they totally supported the South during the Civil War just to keep their source of cotton and tobacco flowing.  (I still love you, UK, and your fascinating history, despite the atrocities you've committed throughout the modern world.  We'll work through it.)

In other news, here are some pictures from the day:

Uganda Captures LRA's Caesar Acellam

Ok so obviously I am against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in general and Joseph Kony specifically; he is a wanted ICC criminal after all, however, I am still not for Invisible Children's Kony 2012 publicity stunt (for many reasons that I won't detail here as it is off topic) or the most recent act of Ugandan troops "hiding in ambush at strategic crossings for two weeks [to capture]; Acellam...as he entered the Central African Republic."  While I agree with the general idea behind Enough Project's article, Making the Most of the Capture of  the LRA's Caesar Acellam that we should look at the arrest of a high level LRA commander and decide how best to move forward from this point; I do not agree with commending the feat.  Let's look at this from another perspective:

Practicing Positivity

I love reading blogs; it's my version of reality television.  Many of these blogs happen to be expat blogs because I like to hear about other places people live, why they moved there, and how they adjust to life in those places.  One of my best friends writes such a blog which I love to read.  It's about her life after moving to Manchester, England.  I think she does a great job of giving her opinion without negativity.  It's not always in favor of the UK but it doesn't ever make me feel like I'm reading a ventfest about how terrible things are there.

This Is How I Roll

Just a few photos to catch you up on my goings on since I've been a slacker about updating the blog:

4.29.12 Relaxing at Lake Bunyoni
4.12.12 Straddling the Equator
4.1.12- Blankets and Wine
3.18.12 Lake Turkana
St. Patty's Day 3.17.12- Beers and friends on a water tower in Kakuma
3.3.12- Weekend at Raha Mstarehe- View of the Ngong Hills
2.11.12 Crusing the Congo River

I Still Have All My Vital Organs

A week in my life:  bed bugs, pharmacy hospitals, and IV drips.  Aren't you jealous? 

During my terribly exciting life of fanciful trips to exotic locales I recently got a terrible case of bed bugs or something that attacked my entire body and caused it to itch and swell up.  I'm a sexy beast.

Kakuma Ice Maker

About 40k from the South Sudan border in the suffocating heat of Kakuma a bag of ice is all one needs sometimes to brighten ones day. Especially when it's 35-40C degrees. 

If you have ever survived the heat of far north Kenya or visited Texas in August then you will understand the joy of discovering an "ice shop" in Kakuma. Since there is only spotty electricity and most of the shops are run by generator they had a very inventive way of creating ice here:

Ice machine in Kakuma

The bags are stored in salt water to keep them frozen.
Who knew a 30ksh bag of ice could bring me so much happiness in life? #it'sthelittlethings

Happiness in a Red Bottle

I am currently drinking my very last Big Red soda lovingly imported from the States during my mother's visit to Kenya last June.  Thank goodness soda doesn't go bad.  Or does it?  Anyhow, over the months I have stared longingly at this delectable delicacy and finally decided that tonight was the night to indulge in my 6th and final Big Red.  Not quite sure why tonight was the night, but it was worth it. 

This MLK Day Vow to Keep His Spirit Alive

While today ends a three day weekend for many Americans and provides a rare opportunity to sleep in on a Monday, this day is representative of much more than many think about or remember.  As a white American I would venture to say that MLK Day does not hold quite the same significance for me as it does for my African American friends.  However, as a human rights activist, I appreciate the work that Dr. King did to break down barriers and move forward the civil rights movement peacefully.  He made a huge impact on America and the country-wide celebration of the accomplishments made by him and other civil rights leaders of his time was a big step in the country's history.  While I know that the US has made significant advances since the days Dr. King stood up and fought for equal rights for all races; tensions obviously still exist.  My hope is that one day people of all races, religions, and social and economic statuses can stand together throughout the world without judgment or prejudice.

"Ditch the degree, pick up the diapers..."

...reads the title of a feature in Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper.  The article interviews three women who have university degrees, a rarity amongst many Kenyans, who have happily decided to quit their jobs and stay home to care for their children.  Their reasoning includes tension of wondering if the baby was ok with the babysitter, a baby drugged by the nanny in order to force him to sleep, higher rates of medical problems when leaving the baby with the househelp, and the discomfort of leaving the child until he is old enough to attend school.

Is it this color that makes me look crazy or what?

Maybe it's the collection of Holocaust and genocide literature littering the coffee table.  Or because when asked for titles for some light airplane reading my list included: Night, Machete Season, and King Leopold's Ghost.  Perhaps it's the fact that I have been known to holiday in death camps and torture centers throughout the world in an ongoing effort to keep the first world better informed about what has and continues to happen outside their bubble.  Or that my roommate and I have a collection of photos of ourselves in front of various human rights sites giving goofy thumbs up poses.  (I should probably explain that we only choose the most appropriate of sites to throw our thumbs up.  We're not celebrating the gas chambers but we do like Eva Peron's tomb.  Because she was cool.  And Schindler's Factory.  You know, because he saved people.) 

Another Year Another List: UPDATED

Does three years make a tradition?  Either way, here comes another list; not of resolutions but of aspirations.  A few things remain the same as I have yet to conquer my fear of heights and take a hot air balloon ride or find a live cheetah to pet.  And I have more than a few new things I'd like to do and places I'd like to see.  Here are this year's goals:

Yet Another Best of Edition

So happy belated new year and all that jazz.  As I think back over the last year I have lots of memories; some good, some bad.  However, instead of dwelling on things that didn't go the way I wanted in 2011, I want to take some time and recount all the good times.  Because, you know, while it's important to take the bad with the good you should always remember how much you have going for you even when the chips are down.  And yes, I know my little stroll down memory lane is a bit belated, but let's just chalk it up to all the traveling and the ongoing jet lag (and not my procrastination in getting around to buying internet airtime).  So even though I have a list of all the wonderful things I remember from the last year, I'm far to lazy to actually upload pictures and post a new slideshow capturing all of the fabulousness in one place.  Instead you can either A) use your imagination or B) click the links I have so thoughtfully included below to enable you to easily relive the greatness through past posts and photos.