Lessons from 4 boxes

1. Cut out the noise!

A good photo does not include background details that require cropping out. The photographer captures only what is necessary.

At Photography school, I’m learning that it’s better to take 20 usable photos than 100 meaningless ones – a great photo begins by restricting only what you require, to the frame.

Detail

So is life: you only say what’s necessary as clearly and precisely as you can.

2. Contain it, and breathe . . .

Work unfortunately expands to fill all available time. When we’re not careful how much it spills over to affect other spheres of our lives, we will come tumbling down.

Balance

3. The ‘big break’

Often we are waiting for the ‘big break’ – a point in life when we will have adequate time or money to do what we’ve always wanted.

Yet a full life is waiting in the tiny spaces of time we have every day, the little monies we have that can be invested and accumulate over time. This is the difference between two people with similar goals, with similar time allotments – we all have 24 hours each day, we’ll never have more than this.

Content of life

During one of the busiest times in my life recently, I managed to complete 2 books in 2 days. It’s probably because I set my mind to use the little breaks in my day, and when night came, I stayed on to read one more chapter, and then another]. Sometimes passion sees no difference between day and night. It’s in how we spot those little gaps, and take them!

 

4. The 24584#$$#$$%$ keys to be happy!

How often do we wait for a circumstance outside of us to change so we can be happy? Or someone else. We have all we need within us to be happy.

Awesomness

Take responsibility of that, no blaming.

A guide to surviving in a distant land

Straight after campus, I shot off to the horn of Africa region where I lived and worked for one and a half years. Being without family and close friends was tough. I watched some relationships crumble, others slowly fade.

My job was great, but loneliness would strike on slow days and refuse to leave. I remember staring at my phone, wishing someone, anyone could call me!

On the outside I must have looked like I was having THE best time of my life. I did sometimes, but others I crumbled inside – which is the reality for most folk abroad.

So it scared me when a friend abroad recently deactivated her Facebook account, and then another.

When we feel like nobody understands what we’re going through, the temptation is to isolate ourselves even more. We quit trying and plunge into toxic relationships, addictions as we sink further into the cave of solitude. And who knows where that ends?

For anyone living far away from familiar environments, you may find a few tips useful. They helped me in a hostile humanitarian environment:

How to cope

1. Find a support group

When you live far away you either survive as a heavy drunkard or a straight-as-a mirror Christian. It rarely works well in-between. The best decision I made was to join a good church. Although I played nominal Christian, when I eventually joined a Bible study group, my spirit was refreshed.

2. Get a hobby

Mine was drawing. If you’re an outdoor person, frequent the gyme and play active games with people in your line, and with village folk too. If you love reading, stock your library with books you enjoy. Movies sometimes can get depressing if it’s all you do for entertainment.

3. Grow your network

Whenever you exchange business cards, make it a point of contacting and meeting up with them soon. Such simple exchanges can go a long way.

4. Study your Bible

Psalms 119 had a way of uplifting my spirit

5. Keep a journal

I never got to do this, but my colleague who’s been in the humanitarian industry for decades has been recording almost every single day in a journal. I’m told it has a way of helping to reflect clearer and making better judgments over time.

6. Develop a routine

I had a colleague who would head straight to the kitchen, fix a hot cup of coffee and sit on a chair at a corner in the compound sipping it slowly. That’s how every single day begun for him. Another would watch the morning darkness lift, as he sat outside listening to the radio.

Is there something you can do everyday?

7. Know your surrounding, learn cultural etiquette, learn the local language and keep an open mind

 

The point of it all is to nourish your spirit, grow your skills during un-utilized time, being busy and fitting right in. That way you keep off lots of trouble, believe me.

Do you have a friend, sibling living in a distant land?
Pick up the phone and call them!

 

The conversations

Some real life conversations leave you speechless, recorded a few below:

1. The wanderer

“I was excited to be a daddy!

Then when my daughter was just a few months old, my brother came in one day and raped her. It was so brutal, she died just a few hours later. That cut through me like a knife, and together with my in-laws, we started hunting him down.

We were all looking for him, but when we didn’t find him, they came for me. They said that I was the one hiding him, and could hear nothing of my appeals, nothing about my pain.

It got so bad they took my wife from my, and now started to pursue me, to kill me. they mobilized the village. I had to escape to save my life.

It’s been 5 years now. I don’t even know where my wife is. Yet I cannot return.

I came to find work in Nairobi, and wherever I find work, I use aliases; I avoid town centres, even the small trading centres, only going there when I have to. I can’t afford anyone from my village knowing where I am.”

2. The wedding bells that won’t ring

[Text] Did I tell you I am engaged?

No

So the guy was to come for ruracio this month . . . but he started giving excuses and yet I had told my parent even the date. But when I ask about it, we fight.

Waah

Yes, it’s embarrassing. We’ve been engaged for 4 years now.

Nooo!

But I now feel like giving up.
We had set a date for our wedding but now we don’t discuss it because we fight.
Yet he’s so insecure, keeps saying I’m cheating on him . .

Am not under pressure but 4 years is a long time and am not so young.

I see. .

I meet sweet guys like you but I can’t date ‘em because am ‘engaged.’ Then they later marry and they are like, you are still with that guy?

3. The wedding bells that will ring

[Text] Hey, I hope you’re doing well, sleep well.

What a surprise, am doing well. You too I hope. Sleep well.

Wait, are you okay?

I’m fine, I just thought of you. Up at this time?

Great, I am but won’t be long. .

I’m actually planning to get married, but I still don’t understand why I don’t feel what I felt when I was with you. .

4. The answer you’re afraid to find

“My wife was very pregnant expecting our second child. As she neared labor, I found my schedule so hectic, I couldn’t take her to the hospital. A strong woman. She took herself there – that was before the pains begun.

She called me when she arrived, and we chat for a few hours into the night.  In the morning when I went to visit her, suddenly doctors and nurses there became shifty.

I later found out that she had passed on, together with our new son.

The pain and agony I went through cannot be expressed. Then about a month later, someone called me. It was a woman who said she was in the ward with her that night, and even overheard some of our conversations that night.”

She said she saw what happened to her that night, and if I ever wanted to know, I could meet her. The tough decision has been to wait a little till I mourn, or go find out right away, or just let it go because of the bitterness it will bring me . . .

Brown is good

She fell ill as we watched.  

One day she was OK, then her moods became erratic, her energy levels took a plunge and her vision dimmed.

Only her trips to the hospital became frequent. One day she showed up with ill fitting, ill looking spectacles; but she was yet to find a prop for her moods, and a reliable boost for her energy.

It was not until she collapsed someday, that they diagnosed a type of Diabetes. It had also been the the reason for sweating her mattress out at night.

So some drugs here, and lots of advice on how to alter her lifestyle, which included: jogging – a near impossible task as she resides in a slum; eating ndumas and healthy fruits several times a day – quite a dig into her purse. Better to spend it on her children, not on herself – it’s selfish. But does she have a choice? And now she carries sweets in her handbag to zap back her energy.

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Early this year, I sat to a talk by a doctor who’s sick of seeing patients. The things she said opened my eyes to what I already knew, and what I didn’t: like road accidents in Kenya are classified as a lifestyle disease joining the league of cancer, and other chronic guns. . .

What I heard:

  • Limit processed foods as much as you can – go for ngwacis, ndomas things like that often. Margarine and soda, punguza kabisa.
  • Brown is good – Maize meal, rice, and especially go for bread on which you can see fibre.
  • Reduce use of plastics as much as you can – this includes reusing mineral water bottles much, also plastic in microwave – here use recommended microwave dish, and cover food while you heat.
  • Eat breakfast, and even in your early morning hurry, sit and chew.
  • Stress will mess you up – Exercise. Use stairs up a building whenever you can, walk.
  • Best oils for cooking include sunflower, olive and corn oil. The latter is surprisingly priced at par with vegetable oil.
  • Go for full body check up annually. AAR’s check up could especially be more dedicated than most. Should set you back about 10 – 15k.

(Her notes) Healthy eating is. . .

  • Eating on a regular basis.
  • Starting your day with breakfast.
  • Limiting junk foods.
  • Limiting processed foods.
  • Eating mostly a vegetarian diet.
  • Eating a variety of different foods.
  • Eating sweets and other sugary foods in moderation.
  • Ensuring a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. (Monounsaturated fats:- From plant oils e.g. olive, peanut and avocadoes; Poly unsaturated fats:- From fatty fish ,unheated sunflower and corn)
  • Eating fresh fruits and raw or partly cooked vegetables.
  • Controlling calories to avoid weight gain.
  • Limiting red meat.
  • Avoiding saturated fats.
  • Not eating late at night.
  • Eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Limiting salt.
  • Limiting alcohol.
  • Preparing food from fresh ingredients.

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(Her notes) Your guide in 2015 – Easy steps of planning a healthy diet and sticking to it

  • Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time.
  • Think of water and exercise as food groups in your diet.
  • Try not to think of certain foods as off limit.
  • Think smaller portions.
  • Eat with others wherever possible.
  • Take time to chew your food.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Eat breakfast and eat smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid eating at night.
  • Enjoy healthy fats.
  • Put proteins in perspective.
  • Fill up on colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat more healthy carbohydrates and whole grains.

I especially fell in love with her definitions of:

Healthy living: creating optimum physical, mental and spiritual health with a nutritious, positive, active lifestyle.

Living healthy: moving one’s body and feeding it good things for health and longevity.

Active living: Living to the best of your abilities and putting your health first.

 

It’s what I wish for you in 2015 and beyond.

Bone a petite (sic!)

Cloudy, with no chance of Christmas

Cloudy, with no chance of Christmas

At 4 am, on November 22, 17 teachers boarded a Nairobi bound bus itching to spend this Christmas with their families whom they hadn’t seen in months. Only they had no idea that they would never see them again, because 4 hours later, they were murdered in cold blood

I have been to some of the remotest parts of Kenya, and shared the distress that soldiers, medical professionals and teachers go through in serving communities in far flung areas. My pains at having no access to mobile phone signal; at being hungry, thirsty, and suffering xenophobia last only a few minutes long – theirs, the full 365.

I had a conversation with a teacher in a far flung village in Lamu. His story below:  

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It could be said that Peter Mawele* (not his real name), a teacher at a Primary school in Lamu, has lived inside a classroom for 3 years. While daytimes were spent in classes teaching, his nights would be on a stiff mattress on a cold classroom floor. Each morning he would tuck it away and freshen up before the first student showed up at school.

One of the classrooms

One of the classrooms

Journey
Mawele made his way to Lamu shortly after receiving an appointment letter to start his teach­ing career. Although he was overjoyed, his elder brother, who was overseas at the time, checked the precise location on Google Earth, and warned the younger Mawele not to celebrate.

Reality dawned as when he realized that he had to rely on army, police and Kenya Wild­life Service (KWS) vehicles to reach his area of posting.

Had Mawele not thought of purchas­ing basic items like cooking flour, a mattress, basin and jerricans, it would have been difficult to survive. The area is so remote that it would take days or weeks to have these items transported from the local town.

Settling
“After 3 years of sleeping inside class­rooms, we decided to construct our own houses,” he said, speaking about his two colleagues also.

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By then an extra classroom had been constructed, using Constituency De­velopment Funds (CDF), yet a shortage of class­room remains to date. “The school’s senior most class is standard five, we have no idea where to take them when they get to standard six,” the local area Chairman said. Currently, Nursery school class pupils study under a tree.

Through it all though, Mawele has learnt to survive.

During his spare time, he repairs radios for villagers together with their pangas (machetes) and knives, onto which he fits rubber handles cut from used vehi­cle tyres. “What else can you do here? People are happy . . . and the rubber handles last forever,” he said.

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Just like the Mandera based teachers, Mawele is lucky to see his family 3 times a year, and Christmas time is a big deal!

As a nation, we owe a lot more to teachers like Mawele than just security. May God help us.

Doing 26

A lot changes in one year – and 26 has been such a year for me. Am looking back. . .

Photo credit | Vnutz

Photo credit | Vnutz

. . . as I sink both feet into 27.

The lows

Life is fleeting

The in-betweens

  • I fall in and out of love; not necessarily in that order  . .

The highs

  • A photo of me is presented as a gift from one global company to another, the motions I go through are indescribable.

ExOfficio - World Concern Partner Thank You

  • Seeing my mum in a graduation gown and tassel, hits me she’s been doing school for 7 years  – and that I’ve watched her study most nights into early mornings almost all through, even though she didn’t have to. There is not a more studious, more disciplined student I have seen. Challenges me. .
  • Man enough –am glad I get to do this one. It teaches me the ways of godly men.

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  • Starting the 100 Day Challenge with friends – It kicks off like a joke really, but unforgettable connections are born between strangers, and it inspires those who dare to be great. It also affirms that it’s possible to have a goal and stay true to it, right till the end.

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The future
God has been gracious to me. At 27, am looking to assist creatives kick out depression and be more loyal to their trades; am keener on encouraging the heart broken, as God leads me – it’s part of the reason am here.

Angels of Hope

I feel things whenever I listen to Elanielani

A week after attending Share the Love concert, I was ready to be christened an official Elani groupie die hard fan. The ceremony would be conducted at an undisclosed location – the only issue was when.

So last Friday, an opportunity to do CSR against a backdrop of the unblemished live melodies of Elani arose. I sold all my worldly possessions and turned myself in, ready to be Muthoni’s and Wambui’s slave for life. Eh, this thing is serious. I rove you koo koo koo. . .

Only Elani didn’t show up. .

Sigh, hehe . .

But before I started questioning myself about the meaning of life, the Angels of Hope came and rescued me.

IMG_6914How could they not?
One thing these girls have is confidence. And someone must be teaching them how to model and that kind of stuff . .

But it what would amaze you that this Children’s home in Kibera came about as an accident really.

Twenty something-year-old founder Regina, was walking home on a rainy night when she stumbled upon little Erastus roaming about, with nowhere to go. She took him in for the night before reporting to the chief that she was keeping a lost child. The chief requested that she stays with him until someone comes looking.

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Angels of Hope Founder, Regina

It’s been about 4 years now. No one has come looking.

Between then and now, 56 more children have found their way to Regina’s house, while 50 more who cannot be accommodated in the small-4 bedroomed-house spend their day there, before leaving for the night. Truth be told, this young lady is supporting 106 children aged between 4- 16, almost single-handedly.

Fortunately, her 5 friends help to keep the children engaged during the day, as they look around for support, mostly medical.  They especially come in handy when Regina, who is a sponsored student studying Peace and Conflict at a local university, goes to class.

Another miracle for the second year student was when a donor offered to pay house rent at their current premises. Am told their former one was a shack, deep in the heart of Kibera.

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Otherwise Regina receives support through well wishers like Parapet Cleaners who had organized this particular event as a pre-Christmas gift to the kids. Oh, and as I found out, Elani are their brand ambassadors – no wonder they always look so clean!  😀

Anyway . . Jomo Kenyatta Foundation was there too, to donate tonnes and tonnes of books; as artists from Creatives Garage taught the kids how to draw and paint better.

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Really, it was random how I ended up here, but am so glad I did! There would have been nothing more fulfilling.

And I plan to visit the Angels of Hope again to assist where I can. Elani or no Elani.