Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Return of Sunday Brunch

Weekends in Bahrain are slightly different than what you’re used to: Saturday and Sunday are so passĂ©! Thursday and Friday are the way of the weekend in this island nation. What that means is that my favourite Indian tradition - Sunday brunch – comes a little earlier every week. Welcome to the Friday Brunch!

But before you can have brunch, you have to eat the most important meal of the day: breakfast. As most of you know, I am not a big breakfast person, which is why I told Hubby on Friday morning to go ahead to breakfast without me. “Come get me if it looks good,” were the vague directions I gave him as I snuggled back under the fluffy, white duvet.

Five minutes later I heard a knock at the door and Hubby came back into the room. “You’re coming to breakfast.” “Is it good?” I demanded sleepily. “Vegas good!” he declared solemnly.

Not only did Hubby not exaggerate about the huge breakfast spread but also we apparently didn’t sleep in. We lingered over our light meal and watched as family after family made their way into the dining room as late as 10:00 a.m. Nobody in Bahrain eats early regardless of the meal – breakfast at ten, lunch at two, and dinner at nine were all considered early sittings to most locals.

After breakfast we took a dip in the pool and lounged around enjoying the fact that we had no demands on our time other than relaxing and getting ready for brunch at the Ritz Carlton. Unbeknownst to us at the time, that would be our first and last lie around the pool. Who knew that the desert was so darned cold in December?

The Ritz’s Friday brunch was listed in several of our books as the best in town and other than a small seating snafu we weren’t disappointed. You see, we weren’t the only ones who read those tourism books and the main dining room was packed despite our reservations. I admit that I was initially worried and had my nose out of joint about being seated in the Indian restaurant down the hall. Hubby, as always, had faith and he was right.

The new seating arrangement gave us access to the buffet in the main dining room but we also had a full buffet of tasty Indian food to enjoy as well. The main buffet had everything from sushi, tacos, freshly prepared spring rolls, and the usual array of meats, pastas, and salads – just enough food to keep us coming back for more even when we thought we had had enough. Oh, and an unlimited amount of sparkling wine to wash it all down. The perfect meal from the first bottle of bubbly through the third (or was it four?)!

That evening, still full from our $50/person brunch, we decided that even though we weren’t hungry we still wanted to get out and do something. So we drove aimlessly around the main island of Bahrain and explored by night the city that we would experience by daylight in the morning. A relaxing end to a relaxing day.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

From one Mzungu to Another

I saw this pic over at Robyn's Place earlier in the week and knew that it had to be shared.

Enjoy your new Jeep, Robyn. I'll be looking for your plates next time I'm home. We wazungu gotta stick together!

Friday, February 22, 2008

An Island of Relaxation

I realize that it has been a while since Christmas but since I never got around to telling you about Bahrain I thought I would do so now. First off, let me tell you from the beginning that the point of this vacation was to relax and do as little as possible. Hubby and I spent so much time over the summer running around and have been stressed with work that we decided we needed an actual vacation.

The problem is that we’ve never had a vacation where all we did was sit around and relax. We like driving around and doing things and seeing things. We started out with several lists of great places to visit but were able to cull the list for reasons like cost (Zanzibar) or too much effort (Egypt). Hubby finally came up with Bahrain that fit our criteria quite nicely: it was island (as were our last two Christmas vacations), there weren’t too many things to have to do there, and it was vaguely affordable. As my father would say, “Done deal!”

We left on Wednesday the 19th and started our trip on a perfect note – a free upgrade note! The desperate wish of all frequent fliers came true as we prepared to board our flight to Dubai when we were told that we had been upgraded to business class free of charge. (And may I mention that there is something devilishly satisfying about sitting in your business class seat sipping champagne while people glare at you as they walk all the way back to their coach seats.)

Our eight-hour wait in the Dubai airport was thrilling as we sat in the Silver Lounge and tossed and turned in our leather chairs trying to get a few hours of sleep in before our one-hour flight to Bahrain. On the plus side, I did buy a new cell phone while we were waiting. Or as I like to put it: Santa Hubby gave me an early Christmas gift!

After picking up the most ghetto rental car that Avis had available, we made our way to the Novotel that we would call home for the next week. The hotel boasted one of the sweetest pools I have ever seen – deep enough that even Hubby couldn’t touch the bottom and big enough to swim laps while avoiding the dozen or so children who always seemed to be in it.

Before I tell you how we spent most of that first day, I don’t want to forget to mention the amazing lunch we had at a Lebanese restaurant around the corner from our hotel. The guidebooks all said that Al-Sawani was a popular spot for locals to eat with their families but when we arrived we were some of the only people in the cavernous dining room. The buffet-style food was fabulous; from the hummus (literally the best I’ve ever tasted) to the rice dishes and barbequed chicken, every single dish was fresh and well prepared. The affordable meal was far better than the term “buffet” might suggest and it was only due to poor planning on our part that we didn’t return there again during our stay in Bahrain.

Day 1 can basically be summed up in one word: sleep. After months of working 10-12 hour days, traveling constantly, and stressing out over every last little thing, Hubby was understandably tired. We returned from lunch for a nap and woke up just in time to enjoy a light dinner at the hotel bar complete with some of the worst karaoke-style singing I have ever been forced to endure. After dinner, we crawled back into the comfy bed and didn’t awake until well after nine a.m. the following morning. Sounds like a perfect day to me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How Apt

I’m not sure if today’s “In the Bleachers” is about Kenya or track and field.
What do you think?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cat Conundrum

Hubby and I are having a rather drastic disagreement. The crux of the problem is that I grew up with dogs and he is a cat person. In his family, pets are allowed on the furniture, on the table, on the counters, on people, and basically anywhere they want to be. In my family, pets sit in the next room while we eat dinner, they don’t jump on furniture or people, and they understand the whole dog and owner relationship.

You see, we discussed the possibility of getting a cat to keep me company while he travels. I’m not a huge cat person but since they are far less work than dogs I agreed to consider his offer under a few conditions. No cat of mine, I told him, would be allowed to jump up on our unused dining table or our much used kitchen counters. The cat, I continued, shouldn’t be on the furniture but maybe a bit of snuggling next to us on the couch could be considered.

Hubby doesn’t think that you can train a cat to do any of that and my arguments about spray bottles like I’ve seen on animal training television programs are, in his opinion, a waste of time and energy. He agreed in principle that our unborn cat should not be up on the counters but his reasoning for this compromise is that he’s afraid they’ll fall out the window and down four stories

(Hubby edit: There is a bit of exaggeration in these claims, as a lot her points these make sense to me). (Typ0 edit: There is no exaggeration here – he has said all of these things at one time or another. Just maybe not all at the same time.) (Hubby edit: She never lets me change my mind!!) Anyways, back to our dilemma...

That’s came the deal breaker.

“It will be so nice to snuggle the cat in bed,” Hubby said wistfully. Excuse me? In whose bed? Not mine! Pets do not belong in beds! Beyond the hygiene element what if I roll over onto it or kick it?! No. “The cat does not ever get into our bed,” I explained rather emphatically.

You wouldn’t think that this was a big deal – but it was. We argued about it. Debated the issue for at least an hour. And then said that if the cat sleeping with us was such an issue we could simply not get a cat – ever! (The last two paragraphs are the family friendly version of the actual conversation. Fighting about a cat we don’t even have! Can you imagine?!)

So now I turn to you, my Devoted and Beloved Readers for your opinion. Am I overreacting or is Hubby on crack? Do cats belong on any piece of furniture they take a shining to, including the bed? Or should they know their place and stay at foot level at all times? Please help us solve this disagreement!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Amani na Uhuru

I saw this billboard driving home from Junction the other day. This is the second “peace” billboard I’ve seen around town although I’m sure there are others. After seeing the sign I had to go home and find out what the image and words meant.

Here's what I found:

The dove is flying over the Maasai shield and fallen spears from the Kenyan flag. According to the (hopefully accurate) information I found online, the shield and crossed spears represent the defense of freedom.

The words on the right are lines from the Kenyan national anthem. I’ve broken down the translation (as I found it online) for you below.

Haki iwe ngao na mlinziJustice be our shield and defender
Natukae na uduguMay we dwell in unity
Amani na uhuruPeace and liberty
Natujenge taifa letu Let all with one accord
Ee, ndio wajibu wetuIn common bond united
Kenya istahili heshima Build this our nation together
Tuungane mikonoAnd the glory of Kenya

Peace for the glory of Kenya – now there’s a message I can get behind.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day

The day of hearts and roses has finally arrived. While Cupid himself has not yet made a diapered appearance you can tell that it’s V-Day just by watching the booming business that the roadside flower vendors are doing. It would seem that there are a lot of ladies in Nairobi who are about to receive a dozen Kenyan-grown roses from their loving husbands.

And the British government hopes that you will too!
Love Kenya roses, romantics urged

Valentine's Day romantics planning to say it with flowers are being urged to buy roses from Kenya to help the troubled country.

The UK government says buying flowers from developing countries creates jobs and reduces poverty.

A recent study indicated roses flown to the UK from Kenya produced fewer emissions than roses grown in Holland in heated greenhouses.

But campaigners say some workers suffer long hours in poor conditions.

"Everyone can make a difference on Valentine's Day including to the lives of Kenyan farmers who, given the current political crisis in the country," International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said.

"They have been working so hard in such difficult conditions to ensure their flowers reach the market in time for 14 February," the minister said.

Several hundred people have been killed in Kenya since December. Ethnic and political violence began after the disputed Presidential elections.

'Workers exploited'
Poverty campaigners argue some workers picking and packing flowers are being exploited.

"Our focus is on workers on these farms, mainly single mothers, who in the run-up to Valentine's Day work up to 14 hours a day," War on Want's Paul Collins said.

"They receive a wage that is not enough to pay for housing and healthcare," he said.

He urges British shoppers to buy roses with a Fairtrade label for their loved one, to help ensure workers receive better pay.

Growing industry
However, the Department for International Development said the average wage amongst Kenyan flower workers was £45 a month, well above the £25 minimum wage.

Valentine's Day and Mother's Day are crucial to Kenya's flower-growing industry. It makes more money in February and March than the rest of the year combined.

The sector employs 100,000 Kenyans directly and an estimated 2 million indirectly, according to the Kenya Flower Council.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Our Newest Superhero

After positive news on last Friday, Saturday’s media reports were… less uplifting. Just bout everyone involved in the non-announcement managed to get into the news by saying that they would never compromise, share, or play well with anyone from the opposing party.

Not everyone joined in the bad news brigade. Poor Kofi Annan. The boy showed up in Kenya and was told that he was either the savior of Eastern Africa or flat out not wanted depending upon the day of the week and the person addressing him. A month later he’s still here playing referee and trying to keep everyone in line – a job that would try the patience an army of saints let alone one former UN Secretary General.

The first announcement on Monday was that Kofi was taking the “interested parties” out of Nairobi and that the press was NOT invited to the party. To ensure that they weren’t interrupted by pesky reporters looking for quotes that would stymie the process yet again, Kofi and the boys left town and didn’t leave a forwarding address.

You go, Kofi! You ‘da man!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Righteous Anger?

Ok I need some opinions here. What the appropriate cutoff time for business-related calls? I have always felt that calls after 9:00 p.m. should be important and after 10:00 p.m. there had better be a life hanging in the balance. Am I out of line?

I just received a call at 10:05 p.m. and the person acknowledged that it was perhaps late to call - I didn’t contradict her. I concluded the incredibly stupid business that could have waited until morning and hung up. Then she texted me back at 10:20 p.m. on a related and equally stupid issue that could have waited until morning.

After simmering with anger for a few minutes, I responded to her SMS telling her that in the future she should NOT contact me after 10 o’clock unless it was urgent. Was I out of line?

Admittedly, Hubby is out of town and I’m just sitting around watching TV but that’s not the point! I give a lot of time to the Association and I think I am entitled to my evenings.

Now that I’ve vented I need you guys to tell me that I’m right and that this woman was out of line. Maybe if you tell me that she’s a nutter I’ll be able to be nice and edit her unlingual babblings into a coherent message instead of leaving them verbatim and letting her look like an idiot.


Friday, February 08, 2008


In Brief: According to an opposition spokesman Kibaki, Raila, and their respective parties have agreed to form a joint government in an effort to end the continued violence of the last several weeks.

It should be noted; however, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan stated that such claims were premature and “jumping the gun.”

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Year of the Rat

Bang! Bang! Pop, pop, pop!

Hubby and I looked at each other with a mixture of desperation and sadness, as we listened to the sounds not so far off in the distance. We quickly switched the TV to Al Jazeera in hopes that if something were happening they could fill us in. Instead, their top of the hour news was about the Chinese New Year. Not yet willing to hope for the best, we reviewed which embassies were near us that could possibly be setting off fireworks before it was dark.

Is this what we’ve been reduced to? We hear a car backfire and we assume the worst? If so, we’re not the only ones who see signs of doom and gloom in everything from empty hotel rooms to recent economic reports. The lack of tourism dollars and the fate of the economy were high on the agenda of a meeting earlier this week in Nairobi of more than 300 top executives from the Kenyan business community.

According to one report I read, every tourist that cancels their trip to Kenya results in seven people becoming unemployed. And with the Red Cross now reporting that over 1,000 have been killed and 300,000 people displaced in the post-election violence, it becomes ever clearer that the humanitarian crisis that has erupted in Kenya over the last month could turn into a long-term problem if not addressed quickly. As Kofi Annan said, “Without an economy, there can be no Kenya.”

According to Steve Smith, the current chairman of The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and managing director of battery maker Eveready, 750 trucks and 300 matatus were destroyed in the violence. While seemingly not huge numbers, each lost matatu will effect the thousands of people who rely upon them for daily transport to and from work. Moreover, the lost trucks directly impact not only manufacturers and consumers in Kenya but also those in the immediate region who rely on Mombassa as their main importing hub.

Perhaps most telling is the fact that, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, inflation in January rose to 18.2% year-on-year from 12% in December, and interest rates have also crept higher. When presented next to the recent news that Zimbabwe’s inflation has hit a staggering 24,000%, Kenya’s 18.2% may not seem like much, but even Zimbabwe started somewhere.

Lest today’s entry get too bogged down in numbers and facts, let me end on a positive note. Rumor has it that the talks currently ongoing between the PNU and ODM leaders are going well. While no one is willing to say out loud that the two “big men” might actually learn to compromise, I have heard more than one person note with hope that the past week has been rather quiet here in Nairobi.

One week down – forty-six to go.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Swappy! Swappy!

Several months ago I blogged here about how playing the Facebook application Scrabulous kept making sing Fergie’s song “Glamorous.” Despite the fact that Hubby thought both my obsession with the online Scrabble game and my musical tribute were equally lame, I even shared my new Scrabulous themed lyrics with you.

In the wake of threats to shut Scrabulous down, several people jumped on my Fergie-themed bandwagon. Of course the fact that Kreole have a video and way better lyrics does not save them from being total copycats.

So let’s all try “real hard for a triple word score” and get down with our Scrabulous selves!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Working Together

I saw the billboard in today’s photo on my way to do some Association work with a friend. Rock felt that the ad was a good idea but that he hadn’t seen any others in town. Nor had he heard much about this effort from other people. Most of his comments about my taking this photo involved him repeating the tag line in a rather depressed tone, “Help save Kenya.”

On Sunday, our guard, Askari, told Hubby that things in Kibera hadn’t improved but that everyone had simply become “used to” the situation. Indeed while, Rock, Tori, and Askari are working on daily survival in a drastically changed Kenya, some members of the expat community are firmly focused on where they always have been – on themselves.

I spent several hours today at the Village Market (aka the alternative universe on the other side of Uhuru Highway), and was able to overhear various people complain about the rising costs of food stuffs at Nakumatt, having to cancel safaris due to the current “crisis,” and perhaps my favourite, that they hadn’t received the latest copy of their favourite magazine because the current situation had interrupted their mail service.

As today is “Super Tuesday” back in the States, one gentleman was prompted to chuckle that if Obama became president we had the possibility of having two Luo’s as heads of State. His friend, on the other hand, pointed out that since Kibaki was still President, it could end diplomatic relations between the two countries forever. (I shan’t be commenting here about a conversation I overheard between two embassy employees who were pleased about being in Kenya during the crisis, as it would look good on their resumes. No, I won’t be mentioning that here because it would involve too many expletives and far too much anger at some people’s selfishness.)

The moral of today’s outing is that one should never underestimate the average expat’s ability to make absolutely everything about them. I wasn’t born cynical – this place made me that way!

EDIT: Hubby just made the point that I could be mistaken for one of these whiney, self-centered brats. I would like to point out that while I may be venting here and there, I’m cuter than the rest of these gits!

Monday, February 04, 2008

For Your Amusement

For those of you who are stressed out about the current situation here in Kenya, today we have a brief comic moment brought to us by First Lady, Lucy Kibaki.
Kenya legislator says first lady assaulted him
By Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Kenyan legislator on Monday accused President Mwai Kibaki's wife, Lucy, of assaulting him at the official State House residence three weeks ago and said he planned to sue her. The government denied the charge.

Government-allied legislator Gitobu Imanyara, a lawyer who unsuccessfully sued the first lady on behalf of a television cameraman who said she slapped him in 2005, told reporters he had been the latest target of Lucy Kibaki's ire.

But the government fiercely denied the claim, saying Kibaki had instructed her lawyers to take legal action against Imanyara and "any other individual or outlets that perpetuate or communicate the wild allegations made today".

"(The allegations) border on character assassination, blackmail and are part of a wider political scheme aimed at besmirching the office of the First Lady," a statement from the Presidential Press Service said.

The president is currently wrestling with a national crisis over disputed elections that have ignited opposition calls for his removal and widespread ethnic bloodshed.

"I will be bringing proceedings against her this week, so we can give her an opportunity to come to court and tell the Kenyan people why she thinks that she has control of State House, that she can run amok," Imanyara told reporters.

He said he was in State House for a meeting about the race for parliament speaker when the first lady became angry at his presence because he had been involved in the earlier lawsuit.

"She was in pyjamas and not wearing any shoes. She immediately started throwing punches at me shouting 'nobody goes here without my permission'," Imanyara said.

Lucy Kibaki, known to be fiercely protective of her husband, has been at the centre of controversy on several occasions.

In December, local media reported that she slapped a protocol official who called her by the name of a woman widely reported to be the president's second wife.

In 2005, she entered Nation Media's newsroom to complain about a story and slapped cameraman Clifford Derrick while her security detail and police looked on helplessly as she kept journalists there for hours.

In fact she had the wrong newsroom, as the source of her anger was a story by the rival Standard media group.

In 2004, she publicly upbraided Vice President Moody Awori, who called her the "second lady". She also shouted down a former World Bank country director for playing loud music at a party at the home he had rented from the Kibaki family.