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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


(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!)