24 June 2010

Travel Thursday: Kenya {City Transportation}

Happy Thursday! Today I thought I'd write about transportation in Kenya, because I found it one of the more interesting things about Nairobi. All of the photos in this post are taken from a moving vehicle between Karen (the suburb where we stayed) and Nairobi.

Transportation is very affordable: from about 20 to 50 Kenyan Shillings (around 30 to 75 cents). Also, there aren't really markers for the stops; you just have to know where they are.

There are two main ways of transportation in the city in Kenya: buses and mutatus. Buses run quite a few routes throughout Nairobi and its suburbs. The routes are set by numbers, which are usually signaled by a number on a laminated piece of colored paper posted in the window or held by the tout. But sometimes you can't find the route number, and it's always better to double-check that they'll be stopping at your stop. There are generally two people working on the bus: the driver and the tout. The tout is the one who comes around to your seat and takes your money, gives you a ticket, and then takes your ticket when you leave. The only photos I really took are from the bus, because they're a lot bigger, so I had some personal space and felt more comfortable.

The other, much more interesting, way of getting around is by taking mutatus. Mutatus are basically small vans that are run in a similar way to buses: by a driver and tout. They're smaller, so they fit fewer passengers. The tout hangs out of the window and/or runs alongside it near each stop to try to get people into their mutatu. To this same end, many mutatus are highly decorated and often even themed. The outside will be painted different colors, possibly with some designs. Music is played really loud inside the car a lot of the time. (Recently a law was passed requiring mutatus to keep they're music down. But some of them just play the music really loud anyway and either turn it down when they see a police car or bribe the police.) Sometimes there are even fluorescent lights under or inside the car, or even flatscreen TVs! Some, especially within the city limits, have themes. Music themes are common. We rode in one with a Bob Marley theme. It was yellow with red and green detailing and lots of Bob Marley painting, and the music played inside was, of course, reggae. You have to tap your tout's shoulder when your stop (or wherever you want to get off, if it's not officially the stop) is coming up.

Mutatus are known for being crazy on the road. They are willing to do anything to get where they want to go as quickly as possible, since more times on the route means more money. The drivers will speed and drive on the other side of the road or on the shoulder if possible. And they honk their horns when traffic slows down.

Actually, the can be sketch in a few ways. Sometimes they just pull over and tell you to get out and that they're not continuing the rest of the way. It's not too big of a deal, except if it's at night because Nairobi is very unsafe at night (and, being at the equator, night comes early). Also, a lot of people get robbed in mutatus (and buses). They will get quite close to you and open a newspaper over your lap or something and then take your wallet or whatever. It's very common, so you have to be extremely careful. Pocket pickers are very smooth, and it's said they could steal your socks without taking your shoes off. And you can't really even say something because often there are a few of them on the mutatu/bus in a group, and if you say something they might hurt you.

(Oh, and sometimes - unrelated to transportation - pocket pickers crowd around a person, pick them up, slip their shoes off and take them, and then leave. They will even sell a pair of shoes by asking the buyer to pick a pair of shoes that someone is wearing, and then they'll go take the shoes off the person wearing them!)

One of Nairobi University's campuses, just outside the city.

I loved taking the public transport in Nairobi. It was exciting and interesting! But (aside from the pocket pickers and dangerous driving) it did have its downsides. You can't really take any bags, unless they're quite small, because it would be too hard to maneuver and you're more likely to get robbed. Also, it was a bit tiring.


23 June 2010

World Cup & Other Excitement

Guys! I'm getting so into "the football" (as they say here in England). I've never really watched it before, and now that I am, the World Cup is really getting to me. Today's match had me stressing, & I was so excited when we SCOOOORED! In the 91st minute! Ahhh!

So excited for:
* Jonty's graduation tomorrow & our afternoon out with his parents
* Our trip down to Portsmouth
* Denise & James' wedding
* World Cup games this weekend
* Jack Johnson concert in Cardiff, Wales
* Cocktail party in my flat next Friday
* A visit from my Aussie friend Sarah next weekend

This evening, Jonty & I made rice krispie treats! Yum! It reminded me of summer camp when we used to eat rice krispie concoction warm out of the pan with spoons (or cleaned sticks) around the campfire. I haven't made them in a long time & couldn't believe how easy/fast they were to make! I'll have to keep the ingredients on hand in case I ever need a to make a quick dessert for something.

This evening, we'll be watching episode five of The Wire. We're really getting into it.


22 June 2010

The world is our oyster... but the f***er won't open!

This is our angry face. At the world.

Lately, I've been a bit distracted. I've started working on my dissertation, but not as much as I'd like to. I've had lots of fun time with friends, too. But really, I always come back to thinking about the near future. I try not to be a person that lives in the future, but I can't help but be dissolved in it at the moment. Jonty & I, being from different countries, are having quite a difficult time figuring out our next step. But, at least we know that whatever we decide to do, we're doing it together.

Here are the options & a very quick summary of the pros & cons of each:

* Stay in the UK. If I can get a job with a organization that is willing to sponsor a work permit, we can easily stay here. But finding a job like that is very difficult, unless you're very highly experienced. Otherwise, I can get a post-study work visa after my degree is conferred, but I would have to go home first, & in the end it would probably mean four or more months not working plus some time away from Jonty.

* Move to the US. We can only do this if Jonty finds a job there, which again is difficult at our age, especially when he's not in the country to interview. He might be able to work as my mom's boyfriend's marketer for his new CD, which he is very qualified for, but we're not sure if the government will approve. {He has a BA in Business Marketing & Communications with First Honours & several years' experience in the music industry (producing, recording, etc). And he has great customer service skills (of course, my guy is charming!). If any of you have suggestions, please tell me!}

* Live in New Zealand for a year. They practically give away visas in Kiwi Land. But we're a bit worried that we won't be able to get a proper job, & my dad probably wouldn't be too happy if I called him up & told him I'll be living far away for another year so I can be a barista... Plus, if we did that, I may not be able to go to my graduation in February.

* Teach English somewhere in Europe (or maybe even Asia). This is slightly back burner because Jonty isn't too keen on teaching English. And TEFL courses are expensive. But it would be a good option.

So, yeah, it has taken us months to get this far. And I'm finding it very disconcerting that we're still only at the point we're at. A standstill. Limbo. We're applying/e-mailing/looking into things, but we're not getting much closer to having an answer.

I'm a planner. I like to have things organized. It's cool to fly by the seat of your pants for a while, but I think we're further in down the rabbit hole than that. If we had some extra cash & a CONTINENT picked, I'd be happy to be a little unsure. But this is not the sitch. And it's frustrating me.

It really shouldn't bother me as much as it does. Something will work out. It may not be our number one plan, but we've got options, which is more than a lot of people. In the meantime, though, it's consuming a lot of my thoughts & energy, & I'm finding it hard to roll with the punches.

Jonty has so much faith that we'll be together, that we'll find a way. I really admire that, & I'm trying to let his attitude rub off a bit!

If you're still reading, you must be (a) a lovely, diligent reader, & I thank you!; (b) realllly bored, in which case I apologize for this long, unexciting, negative post; and/or (c) full of ideas, which I'm so very willing to hear! I am sorry for this obnoxious post, but I really needed to get it out. And it helps so much to put what Jonty & I have been researching & discussing in writing. (This is, believe it or not, actually very condensed.)

Anyway, other than visa/job/moving troubles, life is busy & good. This next couple of weeks are going to be so much fun! Jonty's graduation, a trip to Portsmouth for Denise & James' wedding, a trip to Cardiff to see Jack Johnson, a cocktail party at our flat, & my Australian mate Sarah (who I lived with in Oxford a couple of years ago) coming to visit me in Bristol! Very exciting!

What is the start of summer bringing you guys?


17 June 2010

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

Drumroll please!

And the winner of the CSN Stores Giveaway is... Bored@ Work!

Thanks to everyone who participated!


15 June 2010

Denise's Surprise Hen Party

My good friend Denise, now lives in the UK with her husband. (Remember, we went on a trip to London a few months ago?) We joined our sorority in the same semester, & have known each other for about three & a half years now. Last spring, she met one of the British exchange students (James--not Jonty, duh) at a barbeque Jonty & I threw. They hit it off so well that by the end of the summer, they were married. They had to start out with an early courthouse wedding in the August (maybe early September?) because Denise couldn't get a visa to live the UK (where James still had another year of university) unless they got married within a few months of her arrival in the UK.

Not having had a traditional wedding, they didn't do all the usual things, except a semi-honeymoon trip to Edinburgh. They still planned to have a proper wedding this June. It's all arranged now, & they will have a ceremony in a couple of weeks. But the vicar at the location they decided on won't do an actual wedding ceremony, since they're already married, so they're just having a blessing/commitment ceremony type thing. It will still be a lovely ceremony, but this change has led them to disregard some of the traditions of a wedding, like bridesmaids/groomsmen and bachelor/bachelorette parties (called a hen party/stag night in England).

When I realized that Denise wasn't getting these things, I snapped into action. I contacted her husband & the one female friend of hers that was still in Oxford (where she lives) & planned a small surprise hen party. I showed up at her house (on a night her husband was away visiting his family) with a bottle of gin, a cake, some frosting, a few small decorations, & plenty of ideas.

First, we had a couple of gin & tonics & watched Clueless.

Then, we decorated the cake together. I may have taken over a bit, but Denise put on the finishing touches. (Hint: She used the white.)

Sorry for the vulgarity, but considering the usual bachelorette/hen party obsession with genitalia, I think this is relatively tame. And it was amusing to boot.

Next, we headed out on the town where we (surprise!) met Denise's friend Elli (who she didn't even know I had talked to, since I'd never met her before--thanks James) & hit a cocktail bar/hookah bar/dance club.

We worked on a scavenger hunt...

...but we didn't end up finishing it. This is mostly because there was a guy sitting near us outside who happened to be a stripper, & he offered to give the bride a lap dance. She tried to resist at first, but with a little prodding from Elli & me, she accepted.

She was a bit weirded out, but mostly I think she was amused. It was definitely entertaining!

We finished off the night with (amazing!) late-night burgers. The next day, we went to an Affordable Vintage Fair, lunch & wine at Cafe Rouge, & a street party in Jericho. The street party was a fun community affair.

We only wished we hadn't already eaten, because there was so much cheap, delicious-looking food around!

Overall, I really think the Bride had a nice time. She was actually surprised (which surprised me), & we had a lot of fun. I can't wait to go to their wedding, & be a part of their union.

On another note (F sharp, in particular): Guys! What's with no one entering my giveaway?! I promise, it costs nothing. Except, I guess, for the two minutes it takes to comment and think of an answer to the question. But, for a £40 gift certificate, isn't it worth it? The site has several great things to buy with that amount. Good for yourself or for a gift. I'm really confused about why nobody wants free stuff... Maybe there's some confusion? I'll try to clear up any that might have come up: You don't have to live in the UK (despite the gift certificate being in ££s). You don't have to re-blog the giveaway; that's only if you want an extra entry.

All you need to do is leave a comment, answering the fun little question, by the end of Tuesday (which I suppose, as of two minutes ago, is today). The winner will be announced on Wednesday. What are you waiting for?? Go enter the giveaway right now!

(Please? I'm a bit sad that so few have entered. I love you guys! Did you know, I had the option to review a product but instead I wanted you guys to get something?)

Did you guys do anything fun this weekend? What did you think of the USA v. England (World Cup) match?


14 June 2010

Simple Happiness Tip #6

Grow your own herbs. Having greenery in your kitchen or elsewhere in your house will brighten your kitchen & make it feel more comfortable. Helping anything grow can be rewarding, & using fresh basil in your pasta, fresh mint in your mojitos, & fresh alfalfa sprouts in your salads can really brighten your mood! Plus, you'll know it's pesticide free. Yum!

10 June 2010

Travel Thursday: Kenya {Nairobi}

Kenyan Parliament Building

Nairobi is Kenya's capital & one of Africa's major cities. People in Nairobi are not very comfortable with technology, except for cell phones. You can top up your mobile minutes from pretty much everywhere! We even saw some mobile top up stalls from the train in the middle of nowhere. I guess that's a good way of providing phones to people, since it's much more complicated to set up landlines all over. So, because technology is a bit foreign in the city, I didn't take many pictures. It just felt weird.

But most of the city just looked like this:

Syano took Jonty & me to the site of the 1998 American embassy bombing. The event is a huge one in the lives of Kenyans, & Syano said he new of schoolmates or schoolmates' family members that had been injured or killed in the bombing. Since then, the embassy has moved outside of the city in a walled building to protect Nairobi's inhabitants, and on the site there is a lovely memorial park.

Mostly, we just wandered around in the city. It's relatively big, but you can walk from one end to the other if you want to. I think its suburbs are quite expansive; we stayed in Karen, which is about half an hour's drive away. The city itself was, well, a city. It sort of reminded me of the less picturesque parts of San Francisco. There were lots of business, banks, & mobile phone stores. Not all that much shopping, really, expect for some indoor shopping areas that mostly had independent clothing stores. And Nakumatt, which is basically the African Wal-Mart (and is quite possibly owned by Wal-Mart).

It was pretty darn difficult to find some sunscreen, & actually impossible to find cheap sunglasses. (Yes, somehow Jonty & I managed to leave our sunglasses at home when we went to AFRICA.) As a result, my skin got very burnt (in a square neckline shape too, ugh), & my eyes were not too happy. That equatorial sun is damn strong. Oh, & it was 25 degrees C (77 degrees F), & everyone was wearing suits with jackets & closed-toed shoes. I was sweating in jeans, a tank top, & sandals!

I didn't get a chance to go into any of the slum areas because Syano pressed that it is a bad idea, especially for an American, since two of the Islamic fundamentalists that carried out the 1998 bombing were found in that area. But I do have some pictures I took when I went through on the train, which I'll show when I talk about our train ride to Mombasa.

 Next Thursday, I'll say a bit about transportation (& the massive culture surrounding it) in Nairobi. With lots of pictures!


09 June 2010


Guess what! CSN Stores has offered to give a £40 gift certificate for their online shops to one of my wonderful readers in the UK, US, or Canada!

CSN has several sites offering great deals on home ware, from lighting

To enter the giveaway for the £40 gift certificate, check out the above links & then answer the following question in the comments section below:

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what person, food item, and object would you most want with you?

For a second entry, post about this giveaway somewhere on your blog and leave the link in your comment (under your answer to the question).

The giveaway will be open until Tuesday (15 June) at midnight, & I'll announce the winner on Wednesday. Good luck!


08 June 2010

Something Fishy on the Barbie

Last week, Jonty & I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather, so we decided to have ourselves a little barbeque. We bought some fresh haddock fillets, put them on parchment paper then aluminum foil, drizzled them with olive oil and lemon juice, and topped them with lemon slices and rosemary.

 Then we wrapped them up and stuck them straight on top of the coals in the barbeque, and then covered them with more hot coals. They cooked for about 15 minutes.

We took the coals off, unwrapped our package, and BAM! we had delicious, firm, juicy fish. We served it with a green salad and homemade potato salad. (Someday I may share our amazing potato salad recipe if you're extra nice.)

Next step: Enjoy! Try this recipe out yourself; it's fantastic!

[Thanks to a Sainsbury's fish counter handout for some of the tips.]

Coming up this week: a giveaway, another Kenya post, & more!


07 June 2010

Simple Happiness Tip #5

Spend time with yourself. As important as it is to have support in friends & family, you should be your own foundation. Take some time away from other people & the TV, & enjoy your own company. Life is never lonely when you're your own best friend.


05 June 2010

Dance Proposal

How much fun is this guy's proposal? She seemed to enjoy it. I guess you can't go wrong marrying a guy that willing to entertain, eh?



03 June 2010

Quite a Quote: Wonder

Do you know that, in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom? 
-- Death, The Hogfather (2006)

Travel Thursday: Kenya {Day One}

Hi lovely readers! Guess what! Today is the day that I start sharing my Kenya photos and stories. I'm sorry for holding off for so long--but I hope it was worth the wait!

Today I'll give a little bit of info about the flight & my friend Syano's house and family.

Since we flew with Swiss Air, we had a stopover in Zurich. Going from one terminal to the next, we had to go through security (damn overly safe Switzerland... no, I take that back--I actually love Switzerland), and security took my fresh squeezed orange juice and newly purchased water bottle. Lame.

Anyway, the flight from Zurich to Nairobi in the daylight was amazing.

Just after taking off, we flew over the beautiful Alps.

This is our first look at Africa!!! It was such a cool feeling to see the Mediterranean edge up against a continent we were about to experience for the first time.

After hours of boring desert, we finally saw fertile land. We new we were getting close.

After wandering the airport for a while (Syano & his sister Mueni were stuck in traffic), we jumped in the car and drove through town at night (so we didn't get to see much yet). We arrived at his house, met his parents, and ate some fabulous food.

His mom is an attorney who runs her own law firm that works especially with child-related cases (e.g. adoption) and that is run without the huge competitive pressures usually put on lawyers in their first years. His dad is a Member of Parliament who used to be the country's church leader and spoke out against the way the country's politics were run. As an MP, he is now slowly making progress in making changes. He has a wonderful family that we were lucky to have as our hosts.

Their staff member Chalo was also a very nice guy. He sliced us fresh pineapple in the mornings and made some of the best dinners I've ever eaten. And he was good company in the mornings when Syano's family was at work and the boys were still asleep.

Their house and neighborhood were incredible, too.

There was even a pool in their complex.

We tried to take advantage of the warm weather & pool as much as possible.

Well, darlings, that's all for now. I'll be back next (Travel) Thursday with more about Kenya.


02 June 2010

Sweet Summer

Jonty & I had a lovely, summery day today. I turned in my last essay (woop woop!), so we decided to head into town and celebrate.

We sat by the river for a while, sipping on Starbucks, reading, & listening to music.

I really love Bristol, especially in the summer.

We also did a bit of shopping.

Maybe you guys can settle a dispute: Is this dress nice enough for a wedding? (It's cotton.)

I didn't buy this bag, but how cute is it??

New 'fit from H&M.

My new favorite dress/top! <3

It was such a nice day on the town. When the sun is out in Bristol, it has such a good vibe. I can't wait to lay around on the grass, eat bread & hummus, drink iced tea, & read this sunny (knock on wood) weekend. Especially since I'm giving myself the rest of the week/weekend off before I begin my dissertation.

By the way, I don't usually photograph myself in the dressing room... Jonty was still looking around & I wanted him to see what I tried on. Plus, I was feeling particularly bloggy today.


01 June 2010

Random Tuesday: chainsaws, blog excitement, & garbage disposals


Random Tuesday it is!

First a letter:
Dear Chainsaw Man,
What reason could you possibly have had to start up your chainsaw before 8:00 this morning? It was chilly and rainy today, so there's no "gotta get to it before it gets hot" excuse. Actually, considering your job only took you about half an hour, it's not like you can claim that you wanted to get the job started early 'cause it would take you a while. Okay, it's fine if you think the hedges in that corner of the parking lot that nobody cares about could use a trim. Maybe it's even okay at the buttcrack of dawn. But you do realize that there are apartment buildings in the area as well as an office building? Maybe next time you could alert us to your work plan so we don't LEAVE OUR WINDOWS OPEN to be awoken by the grating sound of a motor and metal on metal?
Thanks, Breenuh

Stressful day today. I was trying to finish my final essay by 5:00, but it didn't happen. It's ready to hand in first thing in the morning, though. Finally!

There's so much blog excitement coming up! I can't wait! June is going to be a month of change on my blog. We've got Travel Thursdays starting this week (yes, Kenya photos finally!), and I'll be doing some blogger interviews soon, too. There may be some other changes, but I think I'll keep you guys guessing!

Jonty and I started The Wire last night. I think we'll give it a few more episodes before we decide how we feel.

Garbage disposals are like water: You don't miss it till it's gone. Cleaning out our drain is so freaking gross. Ick! If only everyone would just clean it out every time they wash up... but I guess I have very little to complain about here in Flat 11, so I'll just suck it up and scoop out the mushy food particles.

Jonty calls garbage disposals "in-sink-erators" because that's the brand of the one my family has at home (one of the only ones he's ever seen... 'cause England is a weird place).

It's been a long day, so that's enough randomicity for now. Good night!