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Travel

10 Incredible Posts You’ve Probably Missed

Happy 2018!

 

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I moved from this WordPress platform, bought my own domain and have been blogging twice a week since. And since I know you enjoyed previous posts, here’s a list of posts you have missed on then new website since I moved

  1. Books I read in 2017 (updated version).
  2. My poetry Got published in the US (updated version.)
  3.  On the first weekend of Dec 2017, I visited Lake Elementaita and I made a post about it:  Lake Elementaita – Safari Facts and Guide
  4. I made a recap of How I spent an Evening in Milan, Italy back in December 2015.
  5. What have I been reading, watching and whom have I been following on social media? I took stock of all that in Taking Stock One.
  6. I know the holidays are over, but you could still use this list of 10 Frugal Ways to Spend your Leisure Time.
  7. Over the holidays, I visited the Murumbi Heritage Collection in Nairobi Kenya and wrote about it and other blog readers loved it. You probably will too.
  8. I have been practicing photography seriously for more than 2 years now, see this Portrait session I had with a dope lawyer from the Gambia.
  9. Besides being a poet, I also read a lot of poems. I decided to serve you the creme de la creme from my poetry reads and I made a post of my 12 favorite poems. 
  10. And just because I like sharing knowledge and the good things in life, I wrote 20 Internet Finds and Conversation Starters just for you!

Enjoy the reads and always catch me at www.daisymoraa.com!

A Virtual Tour of the Murumbi African Heritage Collections, Nairobi Kenya

Do you know the feeling you get, if you are a bibliophile that is, when you visit a friend’s house for the first time and you discover they have a bookshelf loaded with all manner of books with titles and authors that tickle your fancy – and when you get that feeling, how full your heart fills and your brain cannot possibly comprehend the intensity of that moment? You feel so much glee you cannot help but gasp, and instead of little screams/giggles of excitement you compose yourself and ran your fingers across the books and pick a book or two to diffuse the happiness?

That was the state I was in  when I discovered the Murumbi Art Gallery. One afternoon, sometime in late 2016,  I was walking from Upperhill down to Kenyatta Avenue when I saw this vintage looking building and my curious nature led me to go round the fence and to the gate to discover what is in there. (I have an immense interest in old colonial-period buildings in Nairobi, that explains the curiosity). I would later find out that it is a 1913 building, the oldest building in Nairobi, commonly known as the “Hatches, Matches and Dispatches” because of the births, marriages and deaths that were recorded there as it was the Old PC’s office way back then. Apparently, according to africanheritagehouse.info, the building is the Point Zero of Nairobi from where all measurements to other destinations in the world are taken.
The vintage building is now a National Monument that serves as a museum to the Murumbi Hertitage Collections, and the best part it, it is quite tiny and comprehensive in its model that one can go through the exhibition over a lunch break or a lazy afternoon in town.

But for the art lover, the Murumbi Heritage Collection, which has been open to the public since June 2013 and will likely come to a close in June 2018 (the exhibition was meant to last 5 years), will require more than just a lunch break visit. The Heritage Collection is monumental in that it is named after Joseph Murumbi, the 2nd Kenyan Vice President who served in the Jomo Kenyatta Government as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1964 to 1966, and as the Vice President from May 1966 to December 1966. He resigned from office in November 1966 citing ill-health after the murder of Pio Gama Pinto, fellow politician and friend, who objected the corruption in the Jomo Kenyatta government.
A child of a Goan Kenyan Asian and a Masai mother, Murumbi had spent the first 16 years of his life in India, and this would have been a likely influence in his interest in the arts. Through out his life, and even while in the political arena, and as the husband of his Liberian wife, Sheila, whom he met while in exile from Kenya in 1957 and when he came back, with whom he lived in Muthaiga, Murumbi collected art extensively.

According to public records, Murumbi acquired over 50,000 books and sheaves of official correspondence. 8000 of those rare books published before the 1900s were entrusted to the Kenya National Archives upon his death in 1990. To honor him, the Kenya National Archives created the Murumbi Gallery.

Thus at the Murumbi Art Gallery you find his collections. There are different rooms, 5 in number, and they hold different artifacts from his carefully curated collection. Upon entry to the gallery, there are some pieces on the corridor, among them the glass vase above, and on the adjacent room, a room with his stamp collections from different African countries that were majorly used during the colonial and post colonial period. The stamps are stuck to the wall. The other room next to the entry corridor, is like the currency room, that shows the different currencies that were used in the previous century.

The currencies are gold, silver, beads and old African currency. There is also another room , that is off limits to photography, with art from contemporary African artists on  sale. I have some few pieces I like in that room, especially one of a woman “made” from an old-old typewriter. The other room has things from his living room, and his bookshelf, and metal sculpting of flamingos (that I liked very much) and some young male children hand up the wall, that point to the distance like those in Catholic paintings of young angels.

Another room has textiles from Africa, and within that room, another room with books and wood carvings and seats from different areas in Africa. The materials of the textiles are unique to the region or location from which he collected them and their embroidery is intricate and you have to be keen to notice the difference.

Important to note is that Joseph Murumbi was the greatest private cultural collector in Africa. And my recollection does not do justice to the art gallery and you have to visit to see it all.
These photos were taken during my second visit there, this December Holiday. On the 28th I was in Nairobi, and I popped in to spend my afternoon there in between errands.

BONUS:
Making Of A Friend
While there I made the acquintance of Fatou, from the Gambia, a country boarded on all sides by Senegal except its shores that are the Atlantic Ocean. I also did some portraits of her, I will share them in the next post.

Art Shop
There is also an art shop, right at the exit/entrance of the gallery, depending on which side you choose to enter into the gallery, and it has paintings and art cards that can be purchased. The paintings are expensive and they range from 25000KES (250$ onward). The greeting cards are easily affordable though.

Coffee Shop
There is also a coffee shop with croissants and cakes that sells fresh coffee and tea, and is open to all. The waitresses are friendly and fast. Somehow the noise and bustle coming from the city center is hushed and you can hold a quiet meeting, or hold a poetry or  literary gathering, or even work with your laptop if you so wish. 

For more on Joseph Murumbi’s life, art collection, rates to the museum and opening times kindly visit the African Heritage Website for all relevant details (Click on this link.)
To read more on Joseph Murumbi and his life, Read this Wikipedia page.

How I Spent An Evening in Milan, Italy


December 2015 

Italy in December is cold and grey. Before the plane lands at Malpensa, all I see when from my window seat is misty weather, and I feel a chill come on once we get off the plane. Luckily, we are better prepared this time with appropriate apparels, and when Grace squeezes me with excitement, and tells me with that Ugandan accent of hers, that I have come to love so much, and as I write this, I feel a nostalgia for Kampala and the earthy warmth of most Ugandans –  “we are here”,  all that chill melts away and excitement eats at the vertigo and jet lag and the exhaustion of my three flights – the first very turbulent one hour fifteen minutes midnight flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, the almost-six-hours morning flight from Entebbe to Ataturk, and the two-hour late-afternoon flight from Ataturk to Malpensa at the periphery of Milan.
We spend the next half hour or so doing the usual custom checks at the airport, and  I especially like the scrutiny our faces and passports receive at the immigration check counters, as though 5 young African adults could not have possibly come all this way unaccompanied. We smile at them, pick our luggage, and almost miss seeing Simone rush towards us with his beaming smile, beside him a friend of his I have not met before. I am impressed by his hospitality, and the trip to Milan from Malpensa is filled with talk of – how are you? How was the flight? How is so and so? This is what we will do this evening – are you guys tired? Tell me more about your life since the last time we met. And as we go along, the gentle traffic to Milan and the music in his sister’s vehicle is drowned by the voices of Michelle and Grace and Arnold and Simone and me, talking and talking and catching up on how life has been – lives so varied, and oh, how so much changes and remains the same in a year.

* * *

Milan, just like last year, is a fury of activity. We arrived two hours ago – and in those two hours we dropped our bags at Simone’s family home – an apartment, where you have to key in a code to get in the compound, and when you do get in through the black gate, you find yourself ushered into a sizeable opening, such that 4 people can walk altogether at once, and just right across the compound, there is an elevator. You take the elevator, or climb up the flight of stairs. But the elevator is spoilt, so we take the stairs – carrying our full suitcases up two floors. Grace has an extra empty suitcase with which to carry food and other particulars back to Uganda. A whole suitcase, and it is humongous in size!
We nestle in and after a light snack, we step out into the Milan evening labyrinth. First, we head to Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, Milan’s oldest Church.  We find ourselves in front of the Church as though birthed from a couple of dimly lit alleys lodged between grey stoned buildings after crossing one or two busy roads. The traffic discipline is impressive – the pedestrians and motorists stop at the traffic lights appropriately, unlike the crazy Nairobi traffic and its unruly bodaboda and matatu motorists.
At Ambrosia, we visit almost all the mini-chapels. Simone takes us to see the remains of bishops who have been embalmed at the one of the “hidden” sections of the Church. We later split to make brief private devotions before we gather at the back of the Church – 4 Africans, and 2 Italians – and we light a candle and say the Angelus together to give thanks for the safe flight and the days before us – before we head out into the night that is fast falling.
We snake our way around the buildings, an unfamiliar road to us, and no doubt familiar to them – and we find ourselves nearing the gates of Cattolica del Sal Cuore, the Catholic University of Milan. Here Simone stops and talks to an African selling jewelry trinkets- from what I can now recall, he is either from Angola or Algeria, and judging by the fluency of his Italian, he has been here a while. This is something that I will note throughout my stay here – most of the Africans I see are hawking wares say bags at the metro, and they are doing it third world style. They have no permits, but they have to find a way to fend for themselves. It seems to me, that it dawns on them, that even in Europe, a man has to make a living, and by no means does changing countries of residence make the process easier, if anything, I access that they probably have it harder here. Looking at Simone chat with his acquaintance, I recall that last year, on our way home from dinner at an Ethopian restaurant I had seen well-dressed Italians scour through dustbins close to Simone’s house, and I, who had fallen behind for some reason,  increased my pace and stepped up to him, and asked – who are those people? And he told me – those are homeless people. No amount of documentaries about poverty and homelessness in America would have prepared me for the eventuality of seeing homeless white people in their own country – hungry and locked out from proper shelter and food.
* * *
The system here is harsh but that very same system has made the buildings and the culture what it is – polished and beautiful. That is what Catollica del Sacro Cuore is. Right next to the Virgin’s square, that is where we meet Piro and Giacomo. They emerge, as though from the nether world, from a room in the ground floor, their faces visibly worn from long hours of research and study for their theses. Giacomo’s studies are pressing and we leave him behind.
 We take a mini-tour through Cattolica – my favourite being a classroom that is partly modern, and partly made of ancient ruins, whose room is warm, as the temperatures are regulated to preserve the ruins. Despite the clear warnings from Piro and Simone, Michelle and I find ourselves on the other side of the boundary line between the classroom and the ruins, and Arnold is seated on the soft red chairs arranged in neat rows on the modern section laughing his head off. We enjoy the detour before we head out to the historical heartthrob and geographical centre of the city–the Duomo of Milano.
* * *
The rest walk ahead of us in the slow walk to the Duomo, while Piro and I catch up about our lives since he was last in Nairobi 5 months ago. He
has his plans and concerns about what he will do once he graduates later in the month, and I have my last undergraduate academic year waiting for me in January back in Nairobi. It is a pleasant conversation, and I am glad he is here with us.
Michelle, Grace, and Simone are hopping along the streets, happy to see each other, and Arnold is lagging behind because his terrible eyesight will not allow him to keep up. He is happy too.
Milan is alive. Everywhere you turn, there is a flurry of activity and you cannot possibly experience it all. Most shops are fashion shops with dressed mannequins whose price tags are worth a whole year’s income. Emotions are in the air. I recall last year at the Duomo plaza there were communists in red marching at the periphery of the Duomo, blowing their trumpets and singing while a little girl with her young parents was blowing bubbles that rose skyward like little imaginary kites and disappeared into the night sky much to their delight; there were people taking selfies at the Duomo and pictures of the Duomo, there was the hum of vehicles and motorbikes and the light rail in motion. I loved it all then, and I love it now.
We arrive at the Duomo with the taste of castagna (chestnuts) that Piro bought on our way here. They remind me so much of roasted sweet potatoes. (Recipe of Roasted Chestnuts here) This year we are lucky the 9 meters long doors of the Duomo are open to the public. The enormity of it all is baffling to the mind – and the intricate nature of the sculptures embedded in every inch of the Cathedral is impressive. The Cathedral is the largest Gothic Church in the world, and the third largest in the whole world. It is at the epicenter of the city as historically, cities were built around churches, as they were the symbol of God. The construction of the Cathedral that spans 157m long, 93 meters wide and 108 meters high began in 1386 under the commission of Archbishop Antonio da saluzzo. Its “completion” was in the 1800s under the patronage of Napoleon Bonaparte, the conqueror, whose statue was sculpted in one of the spires at the rooftop as a sign of gratitude for his accomplishments. He was also crowned King of Italy at the Duomo.
What impresses me most about the Duomo are the 9m long bronze doors on which the life of Christ is crafted from his infancy to his adulthood, and resurrection. The splendor of the massive organs on either side of the interior of the Church also impress me. We spend a considerable amount of time looking at the intricacies of the Cathedral before Grace leads us in a brief prayer before we head out. This year we do not have the luxury of time to make merry outside and dance and sing Ugandan songs with Simone in the middle.
* * *
The last squeeze of the night finds us at the Santa Maria presso San Satiro church. This is after seeing the then closed Biblioteca Ambrosiana (library of Ambrosia) that was closed at the time. (We are walking along the alleys and Simone’s friend, Giovanni, points at the building and tells us that the building houses some works by Leonardo da Vinci. And I am like – Leonardo, Leonardo? And, he is like – yes, Leonardo, Leonardo. Imagine that.)
To me, the Santa Maria church is the most impressive of the three we have visited this year. It is so small, yet at the altar section there is the trompe L’Oeil allusion (French for “deceive the eye”; this is an architectural technique that creates an optical illusion that depicts objects images in 3D) of an elongated altar designed by artist Donato Bramante in the 15th Century. This was because there was not much land for them to build a bigger church and they had to make do with what they had.
At the Santa Maria the Mass is well underway, and we kneel at the pews at the back and for the first time today, we are less tourists and more faithfuls while inside the Church. My heart is filled with gratitude – gratitude for my life – for Simone’s hospitality – for Grace whose heart is as wide as the ocean, and whose smile won’t let you see the life she has survived – for Michelle, from Rwanda, whose youthful face will be brighter when she gets engaged 2 years from now – for Arnold who in four days will be told that he will likely go blind at some point in his life – for Piro and his time and friendship. My heart is full for those who have made it possible for us to be here today, for a priest by the name of Don Guissani whose tomb we will visit in three days’ time at the Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, whose books and charisma have touched the lives of each one of us who are there together  –  for the uncommon privilege to travel at 23, for the second time to Italy, a country I used to trace in our only map when I read my father’s National Geographic’s about Roman sculptures even before I knew I could travel. Gratitude for life, for providence, for my parents who birthed me, for everything and everyone good in the universe. I feel such immense gratitude, such strong emotion, and here thousands of kilometers away from home, at the back pews of a small dimly lit church, I shed tears of joy.
EDITOR’S NOTE
1. I did not take photos on this segment of the trip, as I wanted to be fully present in the moment. I did, however, take photos when we visited Como.
2. The picture above was taken 3 days later as we were leaving the Cimitero Monumentale di Milano after we went to visit the tomb of Don Giussani.
3. To Read more about:
·         the Duomo (Cathedral) of Milan read:  The History of the Duomo // The Duomo Milan // Milan Cathedral – Wikipedia // Duomo Cathedral

·         on Saint Ambrosia Church, the Santa Maria Church and Biblioteca Ambrosiana read, Basilica of St Ambrose (San’t Ambrogio) // other trompe l’oeil works of art in Italy and Biblioteca Ambrosiana respectively. 
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Lake Elementaita, Kenya – Safari Guide and Facts

Lake Elementaita Safari Facts
Lake Elementaita lies in the Great Rift Valley, and is between Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha. It is the shallowest lake in the Rift, going up to two meters deep. Without an identified outlet river, the lake, that upon my visit in Dec 2017 seemed dried up, is thus said to be salty/alkaline. But despite these features, it is an important lake that is considered a UNESCO heritage site as it boasts of an ecology of 450 birds – some of which are endangered species. According to the camp manager at the Oasis Eco Camp, a guide well known to him confirmed he has seen 370 of those birds. From the floor of the lake, one sees the rest of the Rift valley from a long way off, the hills seem to bulge off of the horizon, and the horizon itself is sort of misty so that one cannot see where the horizon ends and the sky starts. 
 

Guide: 

  • Bird Watching
  • Hot Springs
  • Views & Scenery


Bird Watching

A well-made acquaintance in the office offered me his binoculars for bird watching when I mentioned that I would be spending part of my weekend visiting the lake. He had visited earlier, and stayed at the Sunbird Lodge, and had seen various birds. I, on the other hand saw 5 types of birds, the pelicans, the flamingos, a black feathered bird, a white bird with black legs wading in the waters, and another white bird that was flying right across the lake close to the flamingos. I am sure there were other birds it is just that I missed them.
The water birds know their territory – and were more than a throw’s distance from the area where lots of humans were. The flamingos move in large groups, keeping each other company, stopping to peck into the water, no doubt looking for the algae food that turns their feathers and skin pink. Still at one point and moving at another, as though they though were floating right across the water, no doubt moved by so gentle a wind that you did not feel it but knew it was well and alive when the water rippled in waves in this direction or that. Rarely did they fly, but when they did, the flap of their pink and black wings has such an effect that one cannot help but be in awe at their beauty.

                                   
                                     

Hot Springs
Another important feature of the lake is the hot springs. They are at a segment of the lake, and we had to walk quite a distance from the Oasis Camp to reach them. When we got to the hot springs, there were other tourists and mostly local youth and children, washing their feet or bodies at the hot springs while being watched by their counterparts, who wer
e taking shade under acacia trees that have grown in parches sporadically across the land surrounding the lake. Some young boys ran into the lake, throwing their clothes off, and dived into the water and begun splashing about, much to the delight of their friends who were watching from the shores. 


Views & Surrounding Scenery
You cannot fail to miss some patches of lake rocks, dry and white washed, no doubt from the saline water, which at the time had receded a bit further that you could walk close enough to see them well, and even step on them. When one walks on the grass, there are whitish residues that remain on ones shoes or feet if one is sandaled. I was sandaled and washed the residue off in the hot springs on my way back.


When you sit to look at the flamingos, you can feel the vegetation cover that looks like grass but is not grass prick right through the trousers if they are made of cotton, and they do not make for very inviting seats. I did not ask, but made a wild assumption that it was Lake Floor vegetation cover, now laid bare under the hot African sun. (Even though there are some who refute the reality of global warming, it is there and it is real, and this is one of its effects.) The same African sun that saw us take shade under the acacia trees like the locals we saw earlier.  

One can do a variety of things at the shores.  We decided to play some adult games that kids could join into and sing some songs. One can also picnic, though we had earlier picnicked at the Oasis camp where the grass was well-taken care off – green and soft, and the tree shade there was actually worth our while.

On the walk back, the sun was setting, and we enjoyed the backdrop of the hills, now magnified by their nearness that always seemed like small ridges to me while on the Nakuru -Eldoret highway. The lake is a simple lake, that lets you unwind from the pressures of everyday life and the busy working life, while reminding you of how tiny you are in the expanse of the Universe, how beautiful the world is despite human drudgery and horrifying acts of nature, and quite profoundly how wonderful is The Hand that guides all of nature.


Thank you for reading!

Late Afternoon At Mama Ashanti, Kenya

Place & Location

Last week, my friend and I made our way to Mama Ashanti Restaurant, Nairobi. My friend, Faith, who is leaving this month for her Ms degree in the US, gave me a treat at the Ghanian restaurant given the nod by online reviews as the best outlet for West African food in Nairobi.

Located at Muthangari Gardens,Lavington, the ambience was cool, the tables and chairs well spaced for privacy and room for personal comfort.

The Food & Drinks

We had dawa – I still do not know what was in there, but for sure there was garlic and it had this sweet-sour taste that was tantalizing, and I still cannot find the right words to describe it. All I know it is good, and you have to try it to know it.

I have had plaintain before, cooked the Nigerian way by a Nigerian, so the plantain wasn’t knew to my palate. The meat though, was made differently – it was in between nyama choma and wet fried goat meat- in a way that I liked. (But I still like our Kenyan nyama choma more, sorry West Africa!)

The food below was eaten by us two, by the looks of it, it looks little but not so dear friend, we were full when we were 3/4 way done, and had to nudge each other to at least try and clear the plate.

Ratings

  • I loved the food, and will have to try out more dishes to give proper stars. But so far, so good. I would definitely recommend it.
  • What I found wanting was that we had to wait quite a while before we received service.

Mama Ashanti’s Facebook link is here.