An Hour at Karen Blixen Museum.

Karen Blixen-Finecke was a Danish author who wrote works in Danish and English. She is best known under her pen names Isak Dinesen, used in English-speaking countries, and Tania Blixen, used in German-speaking countries. But thats not all, her early years started here, when she arrived in Kenya to join her husband Baron Bror Fredrik von Blixen-Finecke, a swedish born writer who was a passionate hunter.

Baron had sold his land to settle here, at the foot of Ngong hills, with the hope that he would farm coffee and become a millionaire. Over 4,000 hectares of this land then was filled with coffee, workers quitters, a coffee factory built by Karen’s brother and the house they used to live in. Karen fell in love with this place, having been born in the flat danish landscape, she loved to wake up and enjoy the view of Ngong hills.

The last years of Karen in Kenya were not rosy, she had divorced from her husband, lost her lover and lost interest in farming. Part of the land was subdivided in 20 hectares and sold. She had to arrange the resettlement of her workers and later sold the house to her friend and left the country. Later, out of Africa was born, her first book published in 1937, now translated to seven languages and a famous movie filmed in 1985. Its her writing career that made her famous.

The danish government later bought the house, which they later gifted to the government of Kenya and now its a museum managed by National Museum of Kenya. Some of her household items were also bought and others were donated, noticeable are the pictures she painted while she lived here, and some personal collection of chest cabinets some imported.  When standing at the main door, Karens favorite spot….sitting on her make shift table made from grinding stones imported from India, here she sat and treated her workers as she marvelled at the site of Ngong Hills. The trees have grown but the hills still conquer.

Some of the machines used during those early years of farming still rest here in the field. The oxen plough and the wagon they used to transport coffee from the farm to Nairobi before it could be send to mombasa then shipped for processing.  The old tractor with metal tyres still fights for its survival in the modern world of the ignition key. The kitchen is intact though not factional, with a picture of her chef, who cooked for the Prince of Wales when he visited and for all this years cooked for her. It is here in this house that Karen entertained her guest prince of wales twice.

Karen loved to paint, she loved to write and she loved people. When she lived here, there was no running water, her metal bathtub was filled with water that was boiled from the kitchen adjacent to the house. She did not have electricity either, the reason why the kitchen had to be a few steps from the main house because they used wood to cook and lanterns for light.

Karen and her friend dreamed of one day owning a ship and when the dream took long to mature, she bought two ship lights, one green and one red which she placed on top of her house and got the satisfaction of her house being turned into a ship, at least for a night. Today, the house is surrounded with nature trail, which gives a peaceful walk and being lost in a cold and peaceful natures embrace.

This is a good place to come and unwind, learn something and enjoy just being away from the troubles of the city. In Denmark, part of the house where Karen lived when she left Kenya is also a museum, its a place am looking forward to visit one of this days. Her picture was used on the postal stamp of Denmark on the 50 Danish Kroner note. If you are in Denmark, I hope it will be on your list ‘of places to visit’ the museum and am sure you will enjoy.

Karen’s writing career was very fruitful, she went on to publish other books after Out of Africa’s success with her last book being published after her death. For me her life is a true reflection of living life to the full, creating an impact and shaping the future in a very small way that has a bigger impact.

Welcome to Karen Blixen Museum – Nairobi.

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JoomlaDay Kenya Brings Exciting Times.

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JoomlaDay Kenya was held yesterday. The location of this event was ihub one of the best African support system for ICT focused tech entrepreneurs and individuals who aspire to create great companies that tackle some of our biggest challenges. iHub were amongst the sponsors for this event and they have been JoomlaDay partners for four years now.

The other sponsors were Open Source Matters, a non profit organization that provides financial, legal and organizational support for the Joomla! project. Open Source Matters (OSM) is a not-for-profit organisation, incorporated in the United States, created to serve the financial and legal interests of the Joomla project. OSM has been designed to be flexible and change as the needs of Joomla! expand.

At all times, OSM is fashioned to suit the needs of the Joomla project. OSM will also engage in regular self-assessment to ensure it is accountable to Joomla!, acting in Joomla!’s interest and ensuring that it is the right shape and size to support Joomla!.

CMS Africa an organization that supports and evangelizes the use of open source softwares also a JoomlaDay partner for a long time. CMS Africa also organizes the CMS Africa summit now on its 5th year. This years summit was held in Abuja Nigeria and we are looking forward to our next summit which will be held in Kigali Rwanda in March 2018.

Joomla Monster came too with amazing templet sponsorship. This is the second year they are supporting our JoomlaDay event. Joomla Monsters have good templates, Extensions and Themes that you can use with Joomla.

SasaHost a leading web host was coming in for the second year. SasaHost provide reliable and secure web hosting and dedicated servers. They are also 2015 award winning in customer support.

This was a full day of learning, interaction and networking and for those attentive enough they managed to go home with some of the goodies from our sponsors. I started the day with an introduction to Joomla, who is Joomla. Shedy Serem coming in with Joomla 4, what to expect before breaking of for a healthy break by TranquilFoods. Joan of Sasahost talked about using Joomla as an eCommerce platform followed by Oduor Jagero’s creating for the user.

TranquilFoods also came in with a delicious lunch, Hungarian chicken, Rice, assorted stir fried vegetable and some gravy. The food was amazing. our afternoon session saw us learn about HikaShop and later accepting Mobile payments online by Patrick Mutwiri. We ended with a question and answers session and giveaways.

We want to thank our sponsors, Open Source Matters, iHub for the amazing space, CMS Africa for the support in expertise in organizing this event, SasaHost and Joomla Monsters our giveaway sponsors and for SasaHost who sent a speaker for this event.

One of our challenges this year was that this being an election year, JoomlaDay Ke was not organized as always scheduled. It has been really difficult, but we are happy that we were able to accomplish the mission.

Our next JoomlaDay event will be in September of 2018, the date will be communicated. We invite you to visit our facebook page and we will soon be posting the pictures and we hope to interact with you. See you then.

 

#jdayke17

 

How Netherlands is Reframing Accessibility.

If you ask a large group of people with different kinds of disabilities what they want to be called, you will get a large number of answers. Some prefer “people with disabilities,” some prefer “disabled people,” some prefer their specific situation be called out, some would rather not mention it at all.

For this essay, I chose “people with disabilities” because it’s what my friends call themselves. As always, you should ask a person what the prefer, and respect them by using it.

If we make the choice to consider everyone “a person on the ability spectrum” instead of separating the “able-bodied” from the “disabled,” we stop treating people with different abilities as members of an out-group, and we start treating them as part of our own diverse in-group.

What I have seen here in Netherlands has baffled me. The country has done well in making sure the people with disability are able to move around, be it by trail, bus or just on the streets. A typical street in Amsterdam is busy, with people walking, others cycling and cars. But a blind person with a little training can make their way around, while being safe.

The streets are paved with a special kind of tile with groves, with different patterns guiding to the bus door, crossing points, turnings etc. The country has done more to ensure that there wheelchair users can have access to and from the city. If you are arriving in Schiphol by train or flight, you can book for wheelchair assistance prior to your travel.

When intending to use a train, getting around Netherlands, you also have to book for wheelchair assistance. A platform which is mobile will be lowered on the platform for you to wheel yourself into the train and when you reach your destination, somebody will be waiting for you, to do the same thing. In buses and trains, there are places reserved for wheelchairs.

There are many restaurants and coffee house who have also taken this seriously. I dont know if your favorite restaurant in Amsterdam is accessible by wheelchair but if its not, then its not favorite anymore. My few hours there I managed to spot a few in Amsterdam and Daan Hang too.

I have travelled in many cities in europe and before I arrived in Netherlands i was in Rome. If you have visited Rome you will agree with me that there hills and some obstacles for wheelchair users unlike in Amsterdam with a fairly level ground. In some cities, the infrastructure is not maintained, rendering it very unfit for use.

 

A Roman Holiday.

Greetings from Rome. Home of the Pope and the Italian people. A place many of you have either visited or would like to visit. I am writing this blog to inspire you to continue desiring to visit this place. It will be worth it. A trip to Rome is as much about lapping up the dolce vita lifestyle as gorging on art and culture. Idling around picturesque streets, whiling away hours at streetside cafes, people-watching on pretty piazzas – these are all an integral part of the Roman experience.

The tempo rises as the heat of the day gives way to the evening cool and the fashionably dressed aperitivo (pre-dinner drinks) crowd descends on the city’s bars and cafes. Restaurants and trattorias hum with activity and cheerful hordes mill around popular haunts before heading off to cocktail bars and late-night clubs.

 

Rome’s great gladiatorial arena is the most thrilling of the city’s ancient sights. Inaugurated in AD 80, the 50,000-seat Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was clad in travertine and covered by a huge canvas awning held aloft by 240 masts. Inside, tiered seating encircled the arena, itself built over an underground complex (the hypogeum) where animals were caged and stage sets prepared. Games involved gladiators fighting wild animals or each other.

To enter, we cross the pronaos with its imposing granite column forest. There are sixteen, monoliths, more than 14 metres high, some grey others in pink granite from Aswan, the latter brought from ancient Egypt by transport that would be considered exceptional even today.

The Bronze door at the end of the columns is just as impressive in size, 7 metres high, a real record for the times.

 

Rome could not be imagined without the remarkable counterpoint of its squares and fountains. Enclosed in the fabric of the renaissance and baroque districts or designed as a spectacular backdrop for the most important roads, the squares of Rome scatter the city with numerous points of historical, architectural and tourist interest.

And there is not a square in Rome without a fountain. Water flows plentifully in the subsoil and gushes forth from the hundreds of small and large fountains, each with its own artistic value and history.

rome by night

St.Peter’s Basilica, this is a journey into the heart of Christianity where spiritual and artistic excellence is exemplified in the masterpieces of renowned artists such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Raphael.

Being in the history of currency.

Greetings from Rome. Rome, Italy’s capital, is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture on display. Ancient ruins such as the Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire. Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which house masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes.

It has taken me to come to Rome to learn about two currencies I knew nothing about. The Lira and US 2 dollar bill note. The lira was introduced in Europe by Charlemagne (c. 742–814), who based it on the pound (Latin: libra) of silver. No lira coins were struck during the Middle Ages, and the lira remained strictly a money of account.

By the 16th century several of the Italian states actually struck lira coins, but they varied considerably in weight. One of the states that used the lira was the kingdom of Sardinia, and this monetary unit was adopted in all of Italy when it became unified under Sardinian leadership.

In the United States, the story of the $2 bill starts in 1862, when the federal government printed its first nationalized paper bills, Bennardo says. The $2 bill was in that first printing, along with the $1 bill, but it took a while for paper money to catch on.

That’s because a lot of folks made less than $15 a month before the turn of the century. Inflation slowly brought the value of paper money down, but then the Great Depression hit. “This was a time when our country did not have much wealth, and a lot of things cost less than a dollar,” Bennardo says. “So the $2 bill really didn’t have much of a practical use.”

The economy recovered, but the $2 bill eventually found itself in a strange price point. It became the the perfect note for some rather nefarious purposes. “Politicians used to be known for bribing people for votes, and they would give them a $2 bill, so if you had one it meant that perhaps you’d been bribed by a politician,” Bennardo says. “Prostitution back in the day was $2 for a trick, so if you were spending $2 bills it might get you into trouble with your wife. $2 is the standard bet at a race track, so if you were betting $2 and you won, you might get a bunch of $2 bills back and that would show that you were gambling.”

My friend after giving me to note for the two dollar bill told me how rare the note is, that there are some US citizens who have never seen the bill and on many occasions calls have been made to the police, when making payments with the bills with the assumption that its a fake note. The Lira on the other hand has gone to its grave. Here in Rome, while I was on my morning run, I encountered two pieces on Lira notes.

Here in Italy, it’s not easy finding this notes and today was a lucky day for me because I get to see one. As a collector, this has revealed a lot about the Italian History. I am on my Roman holiday.

When in Rome, do what the Romans do.

Visa Duties…The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

schengen visa

Visa application is always a challenging process. I have never meet anyone, either a frequent or a first time traveller, who has gotten used to this tedious process. But there are countries that one doesn’t have to go through all this, but unfortunately they are few, so we can’t avoid it, and if you are doing business globally, touring or visiting family this, is a cake you must bake.

The most important thing to prepare for this day is to have a lot of luck. I have seen people who had their Paperwork right and still missed the visa. If you come from countries such as Kenya, having a stable job helps a lot. The trouble is that most people who would go through the visa process and still defile the same laws are people in stable employment.

When you are in business, depending on what kind you are doing. Sometimes you are ahead and sometimes you are behind. But my argument has always been that their is no way you will know the person who will want to defile the immigration law and the one who will not buy only looking at their faces. I agree that the information has to be accurate, but yes, if the person you are looking at has been travelling and never broken any immigration laws, then his passport should help you make a decision amongst other requirements.

We all agree that there are countries taking their fair share of their shit, be it economically, politically and socially. The life span difference between the African countries and western countries is like how far east from west. Kenya for example has a very challenging political environment and especially at this time.  And the same time I was planning my travel and if you looked at the situation at present, it will be very easy for you to overlook the big picture if you are the one with the authority to issue a visa.

So when I went for the visa, i realized that the Italian embassy has different requirements than other Schengen countries. They require you to have a eight days international insurance after you land back home. They need six months of bank statement and copy of identification of the person inviting you. After a lot of shuttling to meet the requirements, and fifteenth day of waiting, my visa was granted. Breathing a sigh of relief I walked to the bureau that processed my visa and pick my passport with my visa.

My itinerary had a ten hours layover in Abu Dhabi, something that needed a visa for me to be able to transit through Abu Dhabi International. So I went to the website where Etihad recommends for their passengers seeking visas. With all the documentations scanned, I filled in the online forms attaching my documents amongst them my bio page, Ticket that is confirmed, my hotel booking in Abu Dhabi and my earlier visa when I travelled to the United Arabs Emirates for business, my current schengen visa that I was travelling on.

I later received a message from the organisation that is tasked to processing the visas. The gentleman said that he is sure my visa request will be negative, and the reason is that because I am Kenyan and most Kenyan passport holders have been denied the visas to transit through Abu Dhabi. The weird thing you are thinking is that why would someone want you to pay him for flying in his place and deny you a place to rest your head. I took the chances and allowed the gentleman to go ahead with my application knowing very well that if it comes out negative, I would lose my visa fees.

It was a few hours, maybe two or three, after I had given a confirmation that I received an email from the same gentleman that my request had been denied. Yes, I also wondered how. For the rest of the day I nursed my devastated heart, went to bed feeling sad and lived to make new plans. As I said, I have never meet anyone who has this process covered for themselves. Maybe my circle is not of influence, but still my statements stands.

If you are a traveller, and you go through this every time, this is something that many travellers have to go through. The bureaucracy that many countries have put between countries and citizens to restrict movement. And this kind of stuff, affect many people who would wish to travel either for business or pleasure. The people enforcing them sometimes don’t do them well.

For me, I pray not to break any countries immigration laws, to respect my host, to be at my best behaviour while am being hosted in a foreign land. This is the right thing to do, and the wise thing if you intend to continue travelling……just like me.

Wherever your travel my take you, I hope it’s fun and profitable.

 

All Saints Celebrating 100 Years.

ALL SAINTS
Photo By Sebastian Wanzalla

I wake up today in the middle of the night to look on my phone screen, a colleague whom we serve with in the planning committee was picking the guest of honor, The Archbishop of Canterbury from the airport. Its been two years since we started sitting in different committees to plan for All Saints 100 years celebrations. We have come a long way, shaping up to make sure this day, which is finally here goes on smoothly.

To many Anglican faithful, the Cathedral, as its members like calling it, has been the fountain of spiritual nourishment, while to the men (and lately women) of the cloth, it has played the perfect venue to win souls for Christ, as they are called to do. The doors of the cathedral have been open to all, those who have needed spiritual nourishment, the lost and the captive. Those who have ruled over the land, those running away from brutal attacks. Those who have started a new life and those who have departed.

The iconic architectural masterpiece that has since been classified as a national monument gives the impression of a church that was built for posterity, with the provost projecting that it can only help the growth of ‘the body of Christ. It witnessed as Kenya, which was then the british colony…..as she slept silent in the arms of London. It watched as its sons went to fight wars, in Burma. The troops were raw, lacked combat experience, and were inadequately trained …some came home, wounded and lost while for others they died in the fields of war, it watched.

The cathedral watched as Kenya became a self governed state.  As sons and daughters of this land launched a resistance to their colonial master, so it watched. As our country finally achieved what it had long fought for, independence,  as Kenyans felt with humility the pride to govern themselves and run institutions. When the first African archbishop was elected, the cathedral watched. The second liberation, as a refuge for those who ren away from the bullets and tear gases, the cathedrals watched…providing refuge for those who were followed to the inside of the sanctuary. Some of the teargas canisters that were thrown into the cathedral on 7 July 1997 on the day now known as the Saba saba rests here today…..many years later, with the broken clubs.

Its has stood the test of time, while other cathedrals in the world have been a target of war, even brought down to ashes this cathedral has stood tall. The cathedral holds the history of our great nation with pride, and it has done so really well for the last 100 years. Just as many cathedrals all over the world have stood tall and been custodians of history of the world. Some of those I have had the honour of visiting, Cathedral De Barcelona, St Mary’s Cathedral in Krakow Poland, and many others.

But as the Anglican faithful from across the world led by the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, troop to Nairobi for the church’s centenary celebrations culminating in a major service on Sunday, some will be paying homage to a sanctuary that has also been a refuge to the oppressed and the downtrodden. It was a sanctuary for those fleeing brutal security forces sent to crush dissent. Then, The Anglican Church of Kenya was called The Church of the Province of Kenya. Sarcastically, people started referring to it as the church politics of Kenya, hence the change of name.

The Cathedral has been the gospel centre, a place of worship. But it has also been a place of refuge where many have run to in times of sorrow and trouble, like the case of Prof Wangari Maathai and the mothers of the political prisoners, and during the agitation for democracy in the 1980s and 1990s.

This pulpit has been used to preach the gospel and convert souls to salvation, but also for agitation, especially for the rights of the downtrodden and those under the brutality of State forces.Also it has been used by some of the fiercest critics of the Government, especially the archbishops and provosts who have served at the Cathedral This is part of what we celebrate.

We celebrate 100 years of All Saints Cathedral, of God’s faithfulness and even as we remember the past, we do not the opportunity to seize the future.