21 things you can do in a Nairobi traffic jam.


It’s no secret that Nairobi traffic jams are worsening and everybody has their reasons… Some say that the growing middle class with a higher disposable income  are keen on flaunting their stuff with their imported Japanese cars.  I mean its quite obvious that the car or matatu in front of you is 90% of the time likely to be a Toyota  but lets not  go there for now. Others blame (insert name of elected representative or Serikali in general) for misappropriating funds  meant for improving  road infrastructure  and those  who decide  to say not so pleasant things about their  fellow road users.

From my own experience, there  have been  times when I have been stuck in a less than 50m stretch for three hours wondering what happened to all sanity.  At such times, I wished I was Inspector Gadget, so that I could fold up my car and just  walk to my  destination or even transform it to a chopper.

In a 2011 study, IBM Institute for Business Value calculated the commuter pain index which ranked Nairobi 4th out of 20 cities worldwide. See the study here. 42% of the  respondents  agreed that their  stress levels had increased due to traffic congestion and its related woes, since 91% of all the respondents  lost an average of 1.3 hours.


In light of this study, I thought of various ways that you and I could make use of the fringe hours and  hopefully reduce road rage:

  1. Ask the driver to loan you his newspaper so that you can catch up with the news at no extra cost.
  2. Sleep: This has can be done especially when you live on the outskirts of Nairobi (Rongai, Athi River, Kitengela) since some of them have curtains anyway but word of caution, ensure that don’t pass your stage or that you are not pick-pocketed,
  3. Go to that happy place that is devoid of all impatience and frustrating thoughts. You could actually come up with the next big idea!
  4. Plan your day and other things. Though we love the  good ol’ pen and paper  but mental notes or your smart phone  might do as well.
  5. Courtesy of the free WiFi in the matatu, update your Facebook status or gram or Snapchat or blog or tweet. Word of caution: beware which street you are on before you flash your smart phone.
  6. Catch up on all the articles that you have clipped to Evernote  or  bookmarked on your designated blog reader.
  7. Read that book or magazine that you have been carrying around for the last couple of weeks but have never gotten round to.
  8. If you are bright enough(and brave enough), you could have your breakfast especially if you own a thermo-mug.
  9. For the last-minute crammers, this would be a wonderful opportunity to go through those notes or even catch up on your homework.
  10. Chat up a stranger on the state of the economy, the matatu industry, the weather e.t.c. e.t.c. If you are lucky enough you might discover that he or she is the neighbour that you have never met.
  11. Chat up the conductor a.k.a makanga a.k.a concodi on how day in his life is like.
  12. If you are alone  you can have  your 60 seconds of fame and belt out  your favourite tunes orif you have company, then have your own version of carpool karaoke.
  13. Well, there’s always your indispensable earphones that are permanently attached to your smart device or listen to the car music player. Listen to that podcast or audiobook that you have been putting off.
  14. Listen to the local stations (By the way, does the Kenyan matatu industry have an MoU with Classic 105?)
  15. Call that person that you have been intending to talk for a long while. For pre-paid customers, don’t worry about running out of airtime, because you”ll find someone selling Bamba 50.
  16. Support the local economy. Buy some of the wares from our ever-entrepreneurial hawkers from newspapers to wall charts to scarves to vuvuzelas to peanuts to mobile chargers. You name it, they’ve got it.
  17. Get out of your vehicle, stretch and talk to other motorists
  18. Fiddle with the fancy gadgets in your car and discover how to actually use your GPS system.
  19. Clean out your compartments. I am sure that there are so many receipts, leaflets, flyers, broken CDs that you really don’t need.
  20. Go to your nearest coffee house, grab a cuppa  and wait for the traffic to subside.
  21. This would be the opportune time to pull out your sandals or ngomas and walk to your destination.

Any more ideas? Please  share them in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

New York Times “By the Book” Tag : Insights on My Reading Habits

Yesterday,  I enjoyed watching  Max of Well Done Books  do the New York Times  “By the Book ” tag  and I was dying stationery envy when  he flashed his beautiful  journal. The  tag was originally created by Danish Booktuber Marie Berg  based on By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review.  

You can watch Max’s  video here and Marie’s here.

But without much further ado,  here are my thoughts :

NYT Tag Collage

What book is on your night stand now?

The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley and The State of Africa by Martin Meredith. More on these in upcoming posts.

What was the last truly great book that you read?

I was  drawn to The Invention of Wings  By Sue Monk Kidd   because I  caught  The Secret of  Lives of Bees midway on TV some time in 2015.   Part historical fiction,  part biography showed the  relationship between  Handful, a Coloured slave  to  Sarah  Grimke  who was owner but  later became an abolitionist.  The book is well-researched and eye-opening.

So Long a  Letter by  Mariama Ba  proves that  dynamite comes in small packages. I  did  a full review here. But I have  to say  I was underlining every other line  because of the numerous lines that  were packed with punch.  I loved this missive between best friends and I ended up wishing that someone also write me one.

If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

Ruta Sepetys.  I am a History junkie  because I  believe that History is cyclical so its  better to get to learn them. I also resonated with Ruta Sepetys’ motivation for writing for Salt to the Sea.  (See my review here).  She says that one of the ways that we can  honour  the victims of the atrocities  is  by  sharing their  stories.I watched her in a couple of  videos and she seems to be a down to earth person that I could  hang out with. I would love to hear about her  travels  and her career .

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

I recently  unhauled  some books so at the moment, there’s no “weird” book. But I  have to admit  that I had Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rodrick Rules and Cabin Fever .The author made stickmen look pretty good and it was pretty funny. I guess I am a  kid at  heart.  Plus,I got them for KES 100  (less £1)  each at  my local Inama Bookshops. Though, I am open to  reading  books outside my comfort zone, so please leave some recommendations below…

How do you organize your personal library?

I have divided my shelves between non-fiction and fiction. Due to limited space, I have put my  read books at the back and the TBR ones at the forefront.  I have put  series together e.g. Dear America and Christy Miller

What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?

Ahem! Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. I  have never picked up any of  their  works. Well I have  Hardy’s  Mayor of Casterbridge and  Tess of the D’Urbervilles  on my shelf and every time I have picked them up,  I was restless and perhaps I was not  ready for them. But I really  enjoyed  Far from the Madding Crowd  movie  and I have heard so many good things about Hardy so I am determined to get  through my  first Hardy  over the next six months.

I am also embarrassed that I have not read a lot of Kenyan literature  written  by Kenyans. I have  Dust on my shelf for a few years (*cringe*)  and hope that I will get to it soon enough. This was also the  motivation behind my #2016KEBookworm reading challenge

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Rising Strong by Brene Brown and Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.  I think that I  heard about these books  from every single  corner of the  internet so that by the  time I finally  got to read  them, I felt that they were lacklustre and that  I was not  learning  anything  new.   In the case of Rising Strong, I would like to read her earlier books, Gifts of Imperfection or Daring Greatly.  As for  books written by  comedians, next time I will go for audiobooks read by the actual  author  for that extra time

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

Coming of age, self-discovery, the-struggle-is-real with witty dialogue kinda stories and  a bit of  romance never  hurt anyone.

I stay  clear of stories with a  strong language  because I believe that  you can be authentic without having to cuss everybody out.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?  

Les Misérables.  This should not be a shocker.. I have  written about this  book in a previous post and mentioned it severally here. In short, its talks about class struggle, the law and redemption.

What do you plan to read next?

Between Shades of Grey, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and maybe Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.  This is all part of my conquering my  plan to read  books that I have on my shelves.

I would like to tag: Nnenna of Star Crossed Smile, Fifi at A Kenyan Bibliophile, Faroukh of  The Guy with the Book and  Diana from Voices in  My Head.

You might also enjoy Marie Berg’s video on Nordic Literature

 Note: All book pictures were from Goodreads and  edited in Pic Monkey. This post does not contain affiliate links.

On Being Homesick in Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn

Brooklyn Books

She was nobody here. It was not just that she has no friends and family; It was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the room, in the streets on the way to work on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything….the air. the light, the ground, it was all solid and part of her, even if she met no one familiar. Nothing here was part of her. It was false, empty, she thought. She closed her eyes and tried to think, as she had done so many times in her life, of something she was looking forward to, but there was nothing. Not the slightest thing. Not even Sunday. Nothing maybe except sleep…

Brooklyn is about Eilis Lacey’ comes from a small Irish town and was comfortable living with her older (spinster) sister, Rose and widowed mother while her brothers worked down south in England. With Father Flood’s help, Eilis moves to Brooklyn, New York to work at a department store and purse accounting qualifications. She struggles to find her place in a foreign, multicultural land while still trying to remain true to her Irish roots.

Apart from the running theme of  homesickness, I admired the fact that was he able to write from a  young woman’s perspective and  he highlighted the social  changes in America during the 1950s.  One of my favourite parts  apart from the  above paragraph that capture the essence of this book, is contrast between  working for Ms. Kelly’s  grocery   shop  in Ireland and  Ms. Bartocci’s department in  America  revealing the kind of people that you are likely to meet both home and away.

When I learned that Brooklyn was by an Irish author, I went thinking that  it would have the Irish “voice” but I was pleasantly surprised that the  language was  pretty  simple to read and follow. Since  I watched the 2015 movie adaptation I already had mental images of what to expect. However, the screenplay doesn’t not stay completely loyal to the novel  but I  swooned over the cinematography and  wardrobe.

From my own experience, no one REALLY prepares you for the loneliness you experience when you living abroad. Yes, I had spent the majority of  my teenage years in boarding  school  and I was used to being away from  my  family.  However, nothing prepared me for moving to a different continent.

When speaking of Australia, America, Europe most people emphasise on the choices and opportunities at your disposal. The clean streets. Reliable transport systems. The pleasures of online shopping and banking. and basically the good life. But they gloss over the difficulties that they face. The hole in your heart when you struggle to find something or anyone who mirrors home.  Just like Eilis, I am glad that I was able to get over that hump by keeping myself  busy ( well, there was school work and the library) . So I can appreciate Craving Yellow’s latest series 5 Countries in 7 Years

I would recommend this  book to anyone thinking of living  overseas and wonders what it feels like  being far away from home. I  purchased a used copy of Brooklyn at  Bookstop at Yaya Centre, Nairobi   but I would think that they  would have  brand new copies at the same store since I was pretty impressed by their stock. (No….I  have not been paid to write this).

Please feel free to share your experiences and/or advice for anyone living abroad. Also, let me know your thoughts on  the book and  movie adaptation.