A taste of Kilifi – Mnarani Club

For the first time in a long time (I think a year and a half) I finally went on vacation. On the evening of the 13th of November with a number of friends we boarded a bus heading to Mombasa and on the 14th caught a matatu heading to Kilifi. Our final destination was Mnarani Club in Kilifi. Being the first time going past Mtwapa I was pleasantly surprised at how green the area is. My assumption has always been that the coastal part of Kenya is sandy and not suitable for agriculture. Rows and rows of sisal plants greeted my eyes before the landscape changed to undulating hills with neatly planted crops spotted with a few palm trees. The matatu we boarded was old and rickety. When it started raining we quickly realised that we hadn’t chosen the best seats. The three of us seated at the back had to hunch forward to avoid droplets of water seeping in through the gaps between the boot’s door and the roof. The guy seated next to the door was worse off. The huge gap between the door and the chassis let in a steady stream of dirty water. Weren’t we glad when we arrived at our destination!
Before we left for Kilifi I had spent some time on the internet looking up Mnarani. Immediately we got there it became clear that the photos I found didn’t do it justice at all. The first view you will come across is what they call the infinity pool. It isn’t called that for nothing, from almost all angles you would think it goes all the way past the ocean.
They don't call it the infinity pool for nothing, it seems to go on beyond the horizon

They don’t call it the infinity pool for nothing, it seems to go on beyond the horizon

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That is un-African

I love debates; I find it really hard to shy away from one. A debate will give you a sneak peek into how someone thinks. The way one articulates his/her points sheds a lot of light on his/her personality. People have different ways of justifying their opinion. Some draw on previous experiences, something they read somewhere, quote someone, quote a book (like the Bible) or just come up with their own “facts”. Often people who can argue without being emotional are able to drive their point across better. Unfortunately this is something most people have never understood so the debate usually ends up being a shouting contest.

Now there is one line which pisses me off during a debate; that is un-African. I almost lose it when someone uses that line. What is the meaning of this statement? What is African and what is un-African? How do we distinguish between advances on what we already had and that which is completely foreign? Before we were colonized we had houses which are very different from what we have now. We had a way of communicating, smoke signals and the rest, which is very different from what we have now. Where would we classify things like shoes, make up and all the things that we didn’t have before? Where would technology fall under? Would that be un-African too?

This would definitely be your digz were it not for the colonialists

This would definitely be your digz were it not for the colonialists

This line is used a lot when it comes to issues touching on morals. Recently Binyavanga came out of the closet and said he is gay. So many people attacked him claiming that this was un-African. Gado did an interesting cartoon about this (Thanks Paul for the link – http://gadocartoons.com/homosexuality-is-unafrican-and-foreign/). He was basically pointing out that Christianity is un-African too. I know a couple of things that are African: wife inheritance, FGM, cattle rustling and so much more. By using that line in an argument are you endorsing the above and the other African practices?

What is African and what is un-African? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @kiruik.

A social experiment

The society in general has always fascinated me. As human beings we put a lot of value into what other people think about us. I do that too; it is only human. We always strive to best the best dressed, the most popular and generally just be the best in some way. The interesting thing then is what people have decided as the benchmarks for this. From how we dress to the car you drive the standard has been set by the society. KOT (Kenyans On Twitter) standards are particularly ludicrous but I digress. As a result we have a society that seeks to conform to a standard set by the larger community in general. Do something off the norm and you are termed weird, geeky or just uncool.

From September 2013 to January 2014 I decided to carry out a social experiment. I changed my look radically just to see the reaction of the people I hang out with. I twisted my hair resulting in a very rugged look as you can see in the photo below

With my cousin at our farm in shagz

With my cousin at our farm in shagz

The reactions were wide and varied. Some people asked me what I was rebelling at, others complimented my look, and others tried to find out the “reason” as to why I did it. Some asked if I had aspirations of being a musician. All the time the question I was asking myself was whether the new look made me a different person. Did it affect my work output or how I related with people? I am lucky I work in an unconventional environment which values what you do than more than how you look. We are allowed to dress the way we like as long as it is decent. I know of companies who don’t allow ladies to rock afros or dreadlocks. Who set these standards? Isn’t it about looking presentable? What is presentable?

Things got a bit more interesting when I travelled to my grandmother’s place over the Christmas period. No one had the guts to ask me a thing about my hair but I was informed later that most were asking as to when “niliharibika”. The interesting part is that my parents have always been cool about it. They raised me well and trust the decisions I make. They never judge people based on their looks but rather they judge you based on your actions.

My hair is back to “normal” now, they were turning into dreadlocks and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to spot dreadlocks so I untwisted it. I wonder what my next social experiment will be but I am definitely open to suggestions.

Is how you look everything? I guess there no concrete answer to this question but feel free to share your thoughts with me on Twitter @kiruik. The last time I checked the comments section works so feel free to share your thoughts here too.

Car things!

The new Subaru WRX, I would love to be driving this

The new Subaru WRX, I would love to be driving this

I recently had a very interesting conversation with two of my colleagues, Michael and Leonard. I am always amazed at the depth of knowledge my age mates have when it comes to certain issues. You will never know this without having such discussions. We discussed a varied number of topics ranging from investing to buying a house and more. Being boys the conversation naturally drifted to cars. It first started with the different cars available out there in the market and the different reasons why you would choose one over the other as your first car. I have always disliked Toyotas (Prado’s and VX’s don’t fall under this category for me) as I feel they focus on efficiency and completely neglect comfort. As a result my first car would never be a Toyota. They are pretty solid but they just don’t cut it for me. The conversation then drifted to how to obtain funding for your first car.

There is a time I swore I would never get a car loan. To me a car was a liability which I was going to be paying for a long time. Add the fact that bank interest rates are so high you feel you are being robbed in broad daylight. My plan then was to save money until I was able to acquire a vehicle with cold cash. My first car would be in the range of 650 to 900k at the most. Working with 900k I would need to save 75k a month to get the car in a year. This definitely is not possible for me at this point. If I was to spread this over two years I would need to save 37,500 a month. This is still a very tall order. Let us work with a cheaper car. With a car worth 700k I would need to save around 58k a month in order to get in a year and around 30k to get it in two years. I am not that patient; I can’t wait for that long. Keep in mind that I need to be investing in other things too so I would need some more money. Assuming I actually manage to save that money would I use it to buy a car? I don’t think so, at that point I would look into where I can invest it because that is a lot of money to give out at once and never see it again.

What is the compromise? Take a loan. Raise 60% of the money I need and top up the rest with a loan from a SACCO or family. For a car worth 900k I would need to raise 540k. This seems more manageable. Typical SACCO loan rates are 10%, that is workable too.

This is my theory, let me try it out. What are your thoughts? Please feel free to share them with me here or on twitter @kiruik

Oloolua Nature Trail – a hidden treasure within Nairobi

On the Saturday 9th November 2013 together with a number of my friends we decided to go for a nature trail. We didn’t want to do the conventional thing of going to the trail at the Nairobi National park and so we decided to try a different location. We discovered this gem Oloolua Nature Trail despite it not being marketed at all. It is situated in Karen not so far away from Karen Blixen Museum. This article can give you more information on how to get there and the fees to get in.

Oloolua has a number of attractions. We first passed by the waterfall. Compared to the waterfalls I have seen before this one was quite small.

Nothing beats a shady group photo at the falls

Nothing beats a shady group photo at the falls

A section of the trail

Between the trees

Between the trees

There is a cave too. I now know people who are scared of caves

Strike a pose, how else will people know you do nature trails and go into caves?

Strike a pose, how else will people know you do nature trails and go into caves?

Pit stop to recharge, many people are not used to doing such trails

Tweeting how "enjoyable" the experience was so far

Tweeting how “enjoyable” the experience was so far

There is a swamp too, a bit disappointed though because it looks more like a sewer plant than a swamp

More shady photos. What if you tripped and fell back?

More shady photos. What if you tripped and fell back?

And the last stretch heading back to the starting point.

final stretchI absolutely loved the trail. It is not too easy and neither is it too hard. The pathways are full of leaves and the landscape is just magnificent. I will definitely do it again another time.

Lesson 6: Employers vs Employees

*This is the last part of a series of posts I am doing about some six lessons I wish I had known better in school

My dad has had the biggest influence in my life; he is my hero. He is the one person who has always told me like it is. He is not the strict kind of dad though, my mum was the one who disciplined us. I am still afraid of my mum, I always feel if I do something wrong she might just give me a serious whooping. My dad has never been employed in his entire life. He is the classic hustler, you will find him doing this today and when we do the Kenyan thing of copying everything he jumps to the next venture. If you don’t believe me just open a shop or something and within no time someone will open a shop with the exact painting. The only difference is the name and I guess that is because it is illegal.

My dad started simple, with a bike. He used to deliver goods to shops. From there he bought a pick up and his business grew. After sometime he was able to open a physical shop as before he used to hawk his stuff from the back of his truck. Next was an insurance company (after he did a diploma in an insurance related course). He ventured into much more things, I am not able to keep track of all of them.

My dad was born an entrepreneur, he was born an employer. His mind was never set to work for anyone, a little bit of that sprinkled on me. I have always had a dream of running my own company in the future, I have always dreamed of having a product out there in the market. For some people like a friend of mine their ultimate dream is getting a job at the UN.

What is your dream? Not everyone can be an employer nor everyone can be an employee. Someone has to hire another and vice-verse. Somehow students have been fed the idea that we must all be entrepreneurs or that we all need to work for someone. Find out the kind of person you are and be the best you can be!

*I was a bit under the weather this week otherwise this post would have been up earlier, my body had rebelled against me so I spent a considerable amount of time in bed. I have not recovered fully but slowly by slowly I am getting there. I am going to create a section on the blog and have all the lessons there.

Lesson 5: The power of networking

Hanging out with Emilio

Hanging out with Emilio. It is a pity I closed my eyes. A camera is not my kind of thing

*This is the fifth part of a series of posts I am doing about some six lessons I wish I had known better in school

Sometime back last year during the launch of opendata.go.ke I had the chance of representing MChanjo at a showcase at the KICC. I got the chance to meet the president in person! The invite was courtesy of the ICT Board. This was just after the inaugural Pivot 25 competition.

Now you have the skills, you have slowly been improving day by day but nobody wants to hire you. At this point you might start wondering whats the point and even some people think of giving up. Let me use two analogies to put this point across.

In a football match a striker is a very important person (Unless you are a traitor like Van Persie then this point simply doesn’t apply). Need I say that no team has ever won a game without scoring. A striker consistently tries to put himself/herself in a scoring position. Without doing this the chances of scoring are nil.

What do people do when they are looking for a better half. I know some of my friends who stay in the house the whole time or go to the same places all the time and hence never get to meet new people. For the purpose of this post I will not be referring to them at all. We normally go to new places and try to meet new people in the hope that we will actually meet someone we like. You have to put yourself out there so that you get noticed. You have to meet people so that they can see that awesomeness you believe you have (You might not have it but at least you tried 🙂 )

How does this fit in to my post? Networking is pretty much  the same thing. People will not know of your capabilities unless they interact with you first. In my third year of study I made sure that I networked extensively as my external attachment was coming up and I never wanted to go to those places where you sit and do nothing. I made a point of attending many tech events and talking with the who and whos in IT. Through this I was able to meet Liko, the CEO Pesapal, and a few months later when I applied for internship they responded well and gave me a chance. Remember that we are all human, an employer is more likely to give you a chance if you have met before in a different setting. You are much better off if he/she remembers you.

Go out there, meet the key people in the industry and more importantly get to courage to talk to them. Leave an impression( a good one). It will help you in the future.

*Sevens here we come! As a result my last post will be delivered on Monday