Thursday, December 30, 2010

While You Were Away, the Economy Expanded

They said it just before Christmas that the Kenyan economy had expanded by more than 6% for the last 3 months. A number of my friends were skeptical given that the previous months in the year hadn't been that good. What we had expected was maybe 2.5, 3% but 6?! That is almost equal to the magic year of 2007, the best and worst year in recent memory. But statistics also showed that even tourism arrivals were higher than even the best tourism year of 2007. Still most of us refused to believe doubting even the revised inflation measures that show us doing pretty good.

Maybe the main reason for our doubts is the fact that our own micro-home based economy actually shrunk! When the country was growing we must have been asleep. However whichever way you look at it, all indicators of improved financial situation in the beloved country abound. For how would you explain the fact that rents for residential houses in our neighborhood keep going up and also still finding takers. The place I moved to when rents were as low as 25K-30K a month now fetch anything between 45K and 50K. some landlords (and ladies) are even audacious enough to demand 60K for a 4 bedroom maisonette. Some say the expanded Red Cross offices with their new high class hotel in the neighborhood is to blame. In fact some house owners are now asking for rent in dollars. There is also a high influx of foreigners from neighboring countries Sudan and Somalia though.

But its not only in housing, even a visit to capital shopping center and even Nakumatt Mega reveals changed fortunes for most people. Strong cars with new plates dot the expansive parking on most days. Xmas day was another pointer. Most entertainment joints which had been a preserve of the upwardly mobile just a couple of years before are now everyones take as more people begin to afford the luxury. This time places like Village market, Panari sky centre, splash etc had so many people you would have thought it was free entrance! Uhuru park itself was full like gikomba with people looking for fun. Or is it the benefit of alcohol ban? But the rich have moved on and these days the in thing is full extended family mini camping. Some sharp Maasas have put up a brilliant day camp site on Kiserian - Isinya road. On an expansive 200 acre piece of rolling grass and wood land. You drive your family there in your new fuel guzzler, order enough goats to  lose their lives and play hide and seek with your kids as you wait for the animals to be roasted on open fire. Its a perfect getaway. Most people are getting together say 3 or 4 families for a family or friends mini team building. The area also teams with wild herbivores eg zebras and impalas but those are not for roasting , sorry. Since its some distance from nairobi, it will take some time before all of us rush there and spoil your fun. By that time you shall have moved on again!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Being the Best, the Top, the First

Yesterday, the minister for education performed the annual ritual of announcing the best and the first among the top in KCPE. The very first exam that Kenyan children will use to determine their social status as adults. It showed like it always does just how competitive getting  the national cake is  becoming. Kids are working harder and smarter and the winner doesn't have much room. This time the top spot was occupied by two boys as was most other spots. In fact only 3 marks separate the very best and the the tenth kid! These kids have now been set on the path we all have traveled. That of fighting hard and smart for the little and diminishing world resources.

I hope though that they wont get into our madness of competition. Seemingly in this country people compete for everything from the great to the utterly mundane. Like on the road where drivers fight  to be ahead whether they have right of way or not. All you have to do is force your bonnet ahead and block anyone else. Or the competition for entry into a packed football stadium.

Some other competition which I found bizarre was when census results were declared and people from various places started complaining that their numbers were not as suggested. They declared the census biased (or political as they say) Indeed  our leaders often amuse me though when two aspects of competition are up. On the one hand they want their 'regions' to be declared among the wealthiest, with good education, infrastructure, health care etc because it shows the great leadership they have shown and provided for those areas. But on the other hand being declared thus means you get allocated less money for development, so the leaders go back to the press to state that their regions are the poorest etc. Its all about being the first and the top. Being the richest and poorest in equal measure!

But are the top guys having it nice and easy? A friend of mine who is a medical doctor by training and profession has decided to change her career because she says its a lie. She doesn't get the money and privilege she was promised. She had worked had , missed her holidays, play and party times to get the grades to first attend an 'ivy' league high school and then after take medicine in the university. Right now she says her age mates who took less prestigious courses are way ahead of her since for a medical doctor you need some more years of practice and more reading before money starts to know your GPS coordinate. well maybe her decision is also guided by the fact that she is a generation Y.

But thinking differently, I have always wanted to meet someone who attended St. Andrews Turi or anyone who took his kids there. If for nothing, just to satisfy a curiosity since I thought the school was ridiculously expensive. Well this past Saturday I did meet someone. A very kawaida someone! In fact we had a kawaida lunch at Galitos and he is not sending one kid there but 4 kids. They pay just about 0.5m per term per child aside from other requirements which go with your kids schooling in such an environment. And if going for an excursion in hells gate Naivasha was a game changer for me in high school, then for them its the grand canyon in the US! But then again they told me in Pembroke school, during visiting days, instead of top of the range four wheelers packed around the compound, its choppers of the parents who mostly reside at the coast. How is that for being at the top of the social stratum?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Talented Kenyans

I discovered last weekend that it has been long since I attended a wedding. Well at least not a live one since here in Kenya we have a choice (or none?) of watching weddings on TV every weekend. I had to attend this particular one since I was one of the singers during the mass. I was impressed to say the least. The style, the decor, the fashion of both the men and women was simple supa. The maids matched all the large clothes hung on the walls and they also had a hint of the men's suits. The choreography was splendid and the chick (soon to be turned into a wife) walked with purpose like they do in the cat walk.

However I found it funny that they had invited us to sing since our singing was constantly interrupted because "the couple had a special recorded music for this and  that part" they even employed the services of some folk singers to sing real cultural sounds in mother tongue. The whole thing was a very well coordinated show and I give big thumb to the organizers.

One area though that I hope more Kenyans will become talented is in keeping time. For this ceremony, we had been told of starting at 9AM so I duly planned my rest of day to start at 11AM when I hoped the two lovers would have finished promising to be loyal and true to each other. However the groom didn't arrive until that very 11AM with a bonus 30 minutes on top. The bride delayed till 12:30PM then when she appeared she took a century to get out of the car after which the cat walk of her maids started to one slow music and her to another even slower music. My day was lost.

On another note, are men becoming women? These days I meet so many brothers in the kinyozi having their nails done and polished, hair dyed and decorated and all sorts of 'soft' treatments hitherto enjoyed only by the sisters. What is the motivation. I read one psychologists article that women aren't visual when it comes partner decision doesn't that mean that men's new obsession with grooming is all vanity?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Noblesse Oblige

From what I have heard people say and the comments I have seen in the media blogs, its clear that many are as perplexed as I am about one Francis Muthaura's inclusion in Ocampo's six. Even Ali may be a surprise inclusion. I have always sympathised with this Mr. Ali, he was plucked from a job he understood very well when he was well past his sell by date, taken to a very new area with its own 'impunity culture' , corruption, power struggle , the works and made to fail in every way possible by both his seniors and his juniors. The poor soft spoken soldier should have just been left to complete his duty in peace and move on with his head held high. In fact I think he will be arguing like he did during his time in the police that he was merely enforcing the law and obeying orders of his superiors. That I suspect will also be Muthaura's defence and indeed of many of his supports and sympathisers.

But the French say noblesse oblige. These two are probably in it for the purpose of their position and not really their active planning and involvement. Well at least that is my speculation. Still like catholics say, you sin by both omission and commission.  So probably by omitting to advice the president effectively, Muthaura may have sinned by omission. Ali also by not stopping use of live bullets on civilians he still committed sins of omission. However one thing I still dont understand is why Ali saw it prudent to release the killer police on Kisumu and Kibera only and not in the areas of Eldoret where people were being killed. This way he also failed in his obligation to protect the poor PNU supporters who were being murdered in parts of the Rift Valley.

On another note, am somehow quite surprised by the muted response from Kenyans after the much awaited announcement was made yesterday. Even looking at the nation web page, the usually enthusiastic bloggers who comment on every little bit of news in their hundreds are rather quiet. The biggest number of reactions is only 19!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Was It Worth It

Now that the shrubby faced prosecutor with a funny accent and lazy eyes has released his list of six (I was actually getting bored of his threats, or were they?). It doesn't look at all surprising save for one Mr. Sang. Am only looking at those 6 guys against what I know of their portfolio and wondering to myself was it really worth it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Of Wikileaks and security

I must admit , I am a bit confused with arguments on the wikileaks story. If I were a judge hearing this case, I would quickly disqualify myself. However I still find it quite intriguing. Who is at error here, is it Assange (whose name the west finds hard to pronounce) or is it the diplomats? On the one hand you could even say neither. Why because, everyone is entitled to his own opinion and the opinion of the diplomats about their missions is just that, their opinion. Wikileaks had no business leaking this to the world. Its in my view stupid, juvenile and outright irresponsible. Everyone has secret thoughts and its natural and God given. If God wanted all of us to know what others thought about us, he would have made us super people capable of this very thing. In fact I think the cables on what other diplomats think of US may be worse than what we have been reading so far. This story of Assange reminds me of my primary school days when some naughty boys would be carrying small broken mirrors to school for purposes of placing them under the girls skirts during assembly. The poor unsuspecting girls would then be the target of these boys and their cruel jokes. Well even in my high school there were boys who would carry cameras to school and target the female teachers when they dropped their guard even for a second and snap away. In short, Assange was and is probably a voyeur. Voyeurism is big business in the western world. to know just type that word in google.

But then again, how could the super power be so careless! I dont really care what they said and even how they said it. They could have been more blant if they so wish its their opinion. But please you know what goes on in the world today. You must protect your data! I am sure the guy in charge of  information security is having it hot on the collar. Maybe there is even some strong blame game going on right now. Maybe the vendor of the security software has already stated that protection from wikileaks was not in scope of the project or that the module was not purchased or that its coming in the next release. However what has happened now must open new efforts. Stronger efforts to stem this issue. It is actually good business for IT security vendors.

What wikileaks just did is both bad and good. bad in the sense that at a time when we are beginning to depend so much on the web and remote administration, work and even  health care, he has just cast doubts on that ability. Strong doubts. But those doubts are the good he did, because by opening them up to the public he makes us more secure. It would have been worse if only a handful of enemies of humanity had this information and used it for their own good. Now we know our soft underbelly and we can put some effort to protect it!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Feuerzangenbowle , Eierpunsch and Glühwein

Yesterday we went the Christmas market to try out the seasons top favorite Glühwein. Imagine the ingredients: wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. The other was Feuerzangenbowle  prepared by setting rum-soaked sugar loaf on fire and letting it drip into mulled wine. Eierpunsch is made with egg yolks, sugar, white wine and vanilla.  you can imagine the taste! It was freezing at -5 C so the warm alcoholic drinks were more than welcome and it was quite interesting to see all those people in the Christmas all lined up e crazy for those crazy drinks

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Fearless!

I find this little video quite an inspiration. What a shockingly fearless small mammal that an African honey badger is! So when am on the low side I just watch this seemingly small man's courage and audacity.