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Showing posts from 2009

My Pickpockets

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I stumbled out of the gates just over a year ago, my pockets full of laughter.  Until then I'd lived in a gated community, surrounded by familiar folk living happily ever after.

We were a fairy tale of characters, our lives led by the enchantment of our well-being.  Then one day, we were exposed and tempted by the taste of uncharted water.

And the spirit of those who came before, ghosts of time long past, shadows of dreams conjured up in youth, overcame us:  me, myself and I.   Among us we decided, the braver cut from the threesome.

So, I rose to the occasion, the delicate two remaining, shepherds in charge of lessons, matriarchs of refuge, and valuable sources of comfort.

And with merriment fitted for the moment and joy enough to feed hope, I stumbled out of the gate, my pockets full of laughter. 

On that date my life began in a Blog Land occupied by a colony of characters, brave and bold in this new world, foraging for nourishment.  And I have profited ever since, from the food of t…

All About Winning

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When your son's team loses a soccer match, do not ask "What happened?" in the car on the way home.

A follow up comment like "I mean, this was not the result we were looking for, but we can live with it" does not help. Your son already knows the truth. Soccer is all about scoring goals and winning matches. And you dear disappointed mom should know better than to behave like a devastated fan. Aren’t you the team player that schlepped your boy to all his practices, games and tournaments this past month because hubby was away on business:  attending the 2010 World Cup Draw in Cape Town, rubbing shoulders with FIFA’s crème de la crème and god knows who else, does not qualify as business in my book. Right now it is hay-in-the-making.



And speaking of turning opportunity into success, your son and this knot of boys, all tied up in a cheer as they prepare to steer their team to victory, they know that it takes focus, determination and maximum effort in order to s…

Beautiful Improvisation

This improvisation reminds me of my feelings, the goosebumps that traversed the lengths of both arms when my baby brother played piano for me when I visited home and our resuscitated gallery in Nairobi, Kenya, after being gone for so long.  The energy and honesty, the way he trusted himself and his fingers as they roamed the keys, allowing me a glimpse into his inner feelings.  On that day he played melodies created on the spot, that captured so beautifully what we were all feeling.

Have a good weekend.

Mama Shujaa.

The Peace Teacher

Here is my submission in the first monthly MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind Writing Contest; this month's topic is "Peace." I've been overloaded at my 9-5 and have not had much time in the blogosphere; otherwise I'd have seen this sooner, I'd have posted the announcement earlier, you see the deadline is tomorrow. I just could not resist penning on the topic. So, here goes, a little rushed but I hope you appreciate the message.

***

Edith was a tall girl with a bosom the boys admired.  Every day, the swish of her skirt lapped around her legs and stirred more than the boys' imaginations.  Every day she allowed her jet black hair to cascade freely around her neck, framing a brown face that revealed God's mastery; everything on it perfectly structured, and eyes that suggested.

Truthfully, that was the reason the Kenya Regional Peace Corps had dispatched her to Kasari Rehabilitation Center.  Of the entire graduating class, Edith had succeeded where most had fai…

Troubled

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Image One:The lovebirds are holding hands.   She is a head taller than him, and attractive, her skin is a rich dark brown.  She has a figure that is model material, not runway thin but unique, shapely, African.  She leads the way, her pointed chin tilted slightly upwards, as if proclaiming her innocence.  Blood is smeared on her left breast.



His eyes are downcast, praying for the ground to open up, swallow him whole.  Blood is trickling down his chest, beginning right below his heart, continuing down, little rivulets meander through to the creases in his groin; the source of his agony.

In the background, a dozen men, fully clothed, young and old, on foot, and on bicycles, advance towards the naked couple. On their faces is a sprinkled mix of scorn and pleasure, like a herd of hot, hungry, hyenas hankering for leftovers.

Image Two:   A hooligan is facing the lovers, his back is to the camera and the club in his right hand is raised.  It is freshly carved, and lacks attention to detail; …

Teamwork

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Vipi marafiki?

I've been inundated with our fifth grader's homework assignments these past few days. And truth be told, I am definitely not smarter than a fifth grader. Last night I spent two hours trying to help him finish his math homework - Problem Solving Strategies - six problems consisting of three sentence questions involving the division of decimals.

The problems were so confusing, I was convinced they were trick questions. Thank God we have a recent college graduate now living and working in NYC. I told her I would just have him ask his teacher for help at school and she said, "No, mum don't give up so easily!!"

Then his Dad came to assist and further progress was made - this was about 9:50 pm last night. After reading the questions a few times, he used a strategy of elimination and with our daughter on a conference call, the two were able to come up with the correct answer.

Wow. All this time, I've been admiring his looks, you know, …

Trespassing Prohibited

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I couldn’t wait to tell Nadia. She lived on the other side of the bougainvillea lined path that separated our properties. I had not talked to her for a few days. And once or twice recently in the evenings, I caught a glimpse of her through the hedges as she walked alone towards the main road. I wondered where she was going and made a note to ask her, then decided to follow her the next time I saw her pass by and surprise her with the good news.

The opportunity presented itself easily enough, right after an early dinner that Saturday when she made her way through the path behind our house. I gave her a few minutes to get ahead and then set out after her.

It was not long before I realized that she had turned off the main road and was heading towards Sir Michael Blondell’s coffee farm. What was she doing? His was the colonial ranch to be feared, avoided. I followed stealthily behind, the double dose of excitement almost too much to bear.

It wasn’t long before I came upon her, …

Balancing Life

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This young man could very well be a college graduate or a high school graduate.

He may also not be a graduate at all.

Regardless, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Believe it or not, this young man is a tailor.

And balanced on his head is his workstation.

Due to the inability to find employment he has resorted to fulfilling a need. In all likelihood, his place of business is somewhere in Lagos, Nigeria.

What does he do? He walks the streets looking for customers that need this or that stitched, a button here, a button there, pants hemmed, a skirt stitched. And on a good day, he may be hired to design and sew trousers, a shirt, or a dress.

He has steady customers you know; it may seem an odd career but he is fulfilling a need.

If he was in America he could have a bunch of uniformed tailors walking the street like him, or driving brand name trucks – franchised!

Mama Shujaa.

Ponder Your Navel

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This post is dedicated to our ex.

Have you ever had the opportunity to tell someone, "Go jump in a lake!?" It's a plus when you can tell them exactly what lake too!

For instance, Lake Magadi, back home in Kenya's Rift Valley would work perfectly because in the dry season it is 80% full of soda ash, a.k.a. washing soda. Our ex can just jump in there and be cleansed thoroughly of the senseless behaviour that has been the source of such negative energy that has caused the untimely death of our vanpool.


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When someone sets out to kill a van, containing a load of professionals trying to get to and from work expeditiously, stress-free, while reducing traffic congestion and fuel consumption, that person needs to go jump in Lake Magadi!!


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In Lake Magadi they can scrub the toxins off the flesh, and then maybe, just maybe, they can return to reclaim their self-ascribed "salt of the earth" status.

I don't think we'd take them back on…

Teachable Moments

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This old man and this old woman, they played knick knack on my drum this weekend. And with the knick knack, they paddy whacked me. So much so, I ended up without a bone! I had to settle for a measly nanosecond of an opportunity to rise up; to beat my drums the way I was taught by Mama. African-style with rhythm and flair in remembrance of Bibi's [grandma's] teachings.

This old man and this old woman, played knick knack on my drum this weekend, in Greenville, South Carolina, whose State motto incidentally, is the Latin proverb, Dum Spiro Spero, "While I breathe, I hope."

It was our first visit to the city; our kitindamimba [last born] was playing in an elite youth soccer tournament. And play well he did; he turned it on, gave his team the striker mmpphh! they needed up front, for four convincing wins and a terrific Final Championship game. Kudos to the boys for winning, through the rain!

The rain was like a dance, this weekend. It came and went, and except for the…

English as a Second Language

An English grammar session in the Nigerian House of Representatives. Listen keenly to the third politician, you might need your dictionary...:-)



Enjoy the weekend.

2010 World Cup African Qualifiers

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Lovers of soccer, fanatics, Africans in the Diaspora, there is an outlet for your pent up demand for the good game. It is crunch time, qualifier matches for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and CAF's Cup of Nations (Angola 2010), are on this weekend. And AllSoccerAfrica in partnership with Sport Five and My African Football presents the matches to you LIVE online.

Will both Cameroon and Nigeria (the giants of the African game) get kicked out of contention? Can Ghana and Ivory lock-up their spots?

Click HERE for all the action this weekend as Africa's finest do battle.

Saturday Sept 5th.

Malawi v Guinea 8.30 am EST.
Rwanda v Egypt 9.30 am EST.
Gabon v Cameroon 10.30 am EST.
Ivory Coast v Burkina-Faso 1.00 pm EST.


Sunday Sept 6th.

Mozambique v Kenya 9.00am EST.
Benin v Mali 11.00am EST.
Togo v Morocco 11.30am, EST.
Nigeria v Tunisia 12.00 noon, EST.
Ghana v Sudan 1.00pm, EST.
Algeria v Zambia 5.00pm EST.

All matches streamed live at AllSoccerAfrica....yeah! Check your local listings for kick-off…

Two Steps Forward, One Step Backward

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I received these oldies from a friend recently. Take a look at some of Africa's matunda [fruits] of independence and the interesting headlines.

(Weekly Review, Oct. 1976)

Current President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, pictured above, two years before he was appointed Vice President by Daniel Arap Moi who had just taken over the Presidency, following the death of founding President, Jomo Kenyatta in August, 1978. Kibaki has over thirty-one years of experience in politics, as cabinet minister, Vice-President and then President.

(Drum Magazine, August 1986)

"Zimbabwe, along with Kenya, have become the success stories of Africa. There aren't many?" - a quote taken from the above article, click the snapshot to read in its entirety. President Robert Mugabe today at the ripe old age of 85 is still going strong after 29 years in public office, having served as Prime Minister, then President.

"Kibaki’s Challenge" and "The Men Who Must Make Peace." Here we are in…

Special Needs

My baby taught me a lesson last Sunday but one. A lesson so sweet it should be a dream summoned for sleepless nights and mundane days. When I think about the arm twisting that went on, what I promised in order for him to accompany me to the Christening’s after party - because he wanted to stay and watch Ogochukwu battle it out with aliens on the Xbox360 - I realize that kweli hindsight is 20-20 and he probably would not have given me such a hard time, had he been able to see into the future.

Since we had set out early we took the long route, driving down a windy road through lush neighborhoods with green lawns, some were large enough to graze horses and we saw a few lazily munching the balmy afternoon away. We arrived at the house promptly as was requested on the Evite - 3:00 pm, exactly fifteen minutes before the hostess and the food (thankfully some was already prepared, like the mind-blowing Jamaican Roti). Anyway, her groovy husband had graciously let us in, phoned to tell her …

Kenya Open 4 Business Dot Com

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The 2nd Kenya Diaspora International Conference, Building a Knowledged-Based Economy, is just two weeks away. As a member of the organizing committee I am thrilled to once again, share our phenomenal list of speakers.

I encourage you to attend this premier conference and business networking event!

The Kenya ICT Board has identified the Digital Content Industry as the most important area of growth in the ICT sector in the creation of a viable World Class knowledge-based economy. The Board therefore has developed this strategy to capitalise on this opportunity. Come and listen to Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information & Communications deliver the keynote address: Building a Knowledge-Based Society in Kenya.

In addition, Strathmore University-Strathmore Business School has teaching and consultancy positions. Come hear Dr. Mungai, Dean, Strathmore Business School and Dr. Marwanga, Dean, Faculty of Information Tech discuss the possibilities.

Kenya is positio…

Building a Knowledge-Based Economy In Kenya: The Role of the Diaspora

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You are invited to participate in the forthcoming second Kenyan Diaspora International Conference and Investment Forum to be held in Atlanta, Georgia from August 20, 2009 through August 22, 2009. The conference is a follow-up to the first Diaspora Conference and Investment Forum held in Atlanta in March, 2007 which was a resounding success.

The theme of the conference is "Building a Knowledge-Based Economy in Kenya: The Role of the Kenyan Diaspora." The conference will include an Information Communication Technology ("ICT") mini-conference, and an Investment Forum. Running parallel to the conference component will be an Expo and Career Fair. The conference will bring together policymakers from Kenya, scholars, entrepreneurs, business leaders, the Kenyan Diaspora, and the general public.

This biennial event presents an opportunity through which multiple stakeholders can engage the Kenyan Diaspora and potential foreign investors on effective initiatives to build produ…

Can you read my mind?

More importantly, do you want to read my mind? I think Facebook does, and I somewhat reluctantly, am acquiescing. I logged onto FB this evening and viola! my home page asks me what's on my mind and honest being my middle name, I say:

MJ is on my mind.

S.t.i.l.l.

I Know.

Blame It On The Boogie. :-)



Sambazaing you much love [sambaza=share]

Mama Shujaa

We Had Him

We Had Him by Maya Angelou

Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing,
now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind.

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace.
Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon.

In the instant that Michael is gone, we know nothing.
No clocks can tell time. No oceans can rush our tides with the abrupt absence of our treasure.

Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone.
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him.

He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.
Despite the anguish, his life was sheathed in mother love, family love, and survived and did more than that.

He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style. We had him whether we know who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his.

We had him, beautiful, delighting our eyes.
His hat, aslant over his…

Political Agility?

Ah, but if you have no expectations, You can never have a disappointment.
(Stephen Joshua Sondheim (1930- )

I am disappointed. It seems the politics did not stay out of this. We were contacted by the Kenya Embassy in Washington, D.C. and charged with nominating amongst us, Kenyans in the Diaspora (the US, Mexico and Columbia), ONE member of the Diaspora to participate in the July 29- Aug 2 conference in Nairobi.

The Ambassador gave us a mandate, with very little time to complete it. We volunteered hard-found time and energy to come up with a painstakingly transparent process. After numerous meetings, conference calls, and the review of writing samples, etc., we completed the process and communicated the selection of our nominee to the Embassy well within the given deadline, June 30, 2009.

After receiving no response from the Embassy, I made the phone call that would intimate that perhaps all of our hard work was for naught. Chronic Politics As Usual?! And while I'm not one …

The Magnitude of Michael Jackson

siwezi kuamini [i can't believe it] wala sina sauti ya kuongea. Lakini nitajaribu.

I am numbed by the news. Reading Anengiyefa's post helped me this morning.

His question nudged me to express a little, to process now that he is (supposedly) gone, the impact MJ had on my life. Here's a comment I left in response to his question:

Within seven minutes of my walking through the door from work, tired and starving. Having just washed my hands in the kitchen after popping some leftovers in the microwave - I had not eaten since breakfast. My husband walks out of the master bedroom, where he'd been watching the news, leans heavily on the interior balcony railing; and in a voice choked with emotion says "...Michael has died."

I was not hungry any more. Just sad. Really really sad.

Rock With You. That is the song that does it the most for me. The one that helps me remember things my soul wants to forget. Those things that make me who I am. Those occurences, the cockles…

Our Collective Voices

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I have been conducting some interesting work: selecting one candidate to represent the Kenya Diaspora at the upcoming Biennial Ambassadors/High Commissioners Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in July-August, 2009.

Just over a dozen of us were contacted by the Kenya Embassy in Washington, D.C. under three weeks ago. We were charged with nominating amongst us, Kenyans in the Diaspora (the US, Mexico and Columbia), ONE member of the Diaspora to participate in the conference. The original communique came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nairobi.

Exciting stuff. As a vetting committee member, I've especially enjoyed discovering our talented candidates and their commitment to moving Kenya's agenda forward.



My recommendations on who will make a candidate for the role include:

- an individual who is best able to represent the aspirations and needs of the Diaspora in such a meeting;
- an individual who is able to participate effectively in the meeting;
- someone who is an active membe…

Summer Is Here!

Hi!

Chidi here!

I just want to let you know that I am having fun with my mom and dad.

Mom will be back soon. I helped her with this video. I hope you like it.

Bye,
C.

Vipi Sasa?

I have not had a moment to come out to my front porch to chat.

My time-management skills have definitely been put to the test these past two weeks...

- year-end school activities and season-end soccer activities for our 10 year old.

- assisting with collecting book donations for the Books For Africa Atlanta warehouse grand opening on Thursday this week.

- preparing and sending correspondence to Kenya regarding AKPA's upcoming Kenyan Diaspora Conference and Investment Forum in August this year.

- preparing for and teaching a beginner's Kiswahili class in Atlanta this past weekend.

- assisting a friend with some PR work related to Delta's inaugural direct flight from Atlanta to Nairobi, on June 2, this year.

...all the while being a mama na mke nyumbani [mother and wife at home] and holding down my 9-5.

So, late this afternoon, when I received this video clip of a young Declan Galbraith, I thought I'd stop by, share and say Vipi Sasa [what's up]?



A beautiful voice and won…

Weekend Riding

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I can see Diana on the 800 pound vibrator she talks about, her weekend ride.

In full regalia, no less; two-toned black and red braided leather chaps, black boots, black vest, black gloves, and a partial face helmet.

It won't surprise me or fellow vanpoolers if underneath it all, she dons a thong (Size L) with my vibrator has two wheels emblazoned on it.

Routinely now with the good weather, she’ll announce to the van,

“I’m ridin’ this weekend.”

“Ridin’ dirty?” Martha will ask, on cue. She, of course would own one with a trailer large enough to fit her bag(s).

“Come, what may,” Diana will say, “I’m getting on that beast!”

To hear her describe the anticipated rides you’d think she was ringing in the New Year every weekend…with a bang! She certainly comes back on Monday looking brand new.

I listen keenly to her prep talk simply because I’m interested in folks and their ways and means to find thrills, and freedom. She’s certainly not an oddity in Atlanta, where bikers in unison regula…

Worthy Betrayal?

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It was tantalizing, my weekend.

Friday evening, we pull into the parking spot directly opposite his car.

“He’s already here, fellow vanpoolers.” I keep this observation to myself because there is no logical reason to boast.

Instead I blow him a kiss through the windshield. Martha and Monica (names changed to protect the horny) giggle at imagined pleasures in the offing.

Brown skin. Red and white striped shirt. Brown polka dot tie. I know those generous lips. And they are moving. His earpiece is on. Another conference call is my guess.

The three of us 'last stop' ladies disembark the van. He steps out to assist with my bags.

Handsome. Bow-legged. Clean shaven. Sweet lipped.

We watch as he carefully places my new running shoes in the trunk. Monica, in that ill-fitting dress she likes to wear on Fridays, looks like she could give him more than the current eyeful. But she has to settle for her husband, who is late. Martha steals a solid glance as she sashays her…

Our Reading Spaces

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These days my favorite reading space is on my front porch, in a fading white wicker chair, tucked in the corner. I think a mama bird is building a nest in the eaves of the porch. I try not to disrupt her early morning ritual on Saturday and Sunday, when I come out to read, and to listen to all of those songbirds singing songs of sunrise.

The two gold variegated Leyland Cypress trees flanking the entryway are running out of room to grow; but they look beautiful at Christmas time. And I like the way the two giants (Kibo and Mawenzi) dwarf the space, reaching beyond limits to a world of unlimited sunshine and red clay.

As a child, one of my favorite reading spaces was under one of the three large windows in our living-cum-dining room in the home that doubled as Paa Ya Paa Art Gallery.


Imagine what it looked like before the fire...

I also thoroughly enjoyed laying outside on a blanket under one of the many Jacaranda trees. I did not visit the Nairobi Public library much back then, as my h…

Passages of an Immigrant's Life

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Sunset in Freetown, Sierra Leone.


Sometimes

Life speaks a spontaneous language

at once personal, dynamic and formal.



Other times

Life dares to challenge it's sensitive students,

immigrants and their polite existence.



Most times

Life finds them elongated away from homelands

with the swift movement of time

a constant feature

moving them

through realms of expression

deeply involved in life

deeply involved in death.



At all times

Life speaks a natural language

rhythmically unfolding the story

of immigrants and their preoccupations

driven by an urge to live and

a will to survive aspects of their lives

they would rather forget

paths to permanent residence

defenses against permanent removal.



Then a loved one passes

far away in the homeland

in a world close to their spiritual habitations

where the traditional magic of

the village cock crow

echoes across the compound

and there’s never an end

to human drama and dance

where long, flowing fly-whisks

sweep the air and revive the spirit.



When a loved one passes

far away in t…

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai

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As you may know, I serve as Vice-Chairperson of The Association of Kenyan Professionals in Atlanta, (AKPA).

AKPA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the wellbeing of its members, through the mobilization of resources here in Atlanta.

Prior to my current term, I enjoyed a two-year spell as Chairperson of the Education Committee of AKPA. The committee is charged with sourcing scholarship funds for Kenyan students, facilitating the professional growth of the students and supporting them in their transition after graduation.

I am often asked where I find the time to fulfill my duties as a mother of three, a loving wife, a full-time employee, and an active board member of a non-profit.

I respond by saying that I make the time. I watch very few hours of television; a few select programs here and there, the news, and of course important football/soccer matches. I joined a vanpool, and this provides me with two extra hours per day, during which time I read, write or …

Introducing Iyeoka Okoawo...

The Ultimate Betrayal

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("Saving For Old Age," by my father Elimo Njau, co-founder of Paa Ya Paa Creative Arts Center in Nairobi (in the 1960s and it is still standing today).)

It does not matter whether or not we are among those who let it happen.

We are all guilty. Actors and spectators. Eye-witnesses and plunderers.

We recognize each other in our indifference, our slow poison, our greed for power.

African First Lady So-and-so, Professor of this-and-that. We profess our concern for the enterprise and culture of Africa.

Tell me, modern day Judas Iscariots, what have you done with the joy and the power of the land?

Witness, as the people of Mayotte, voted to be recolonized by France.

A vote, of no-confidence in Africa’s independent future. The death, of a sovereign nation, the despair in a continent wrought by corruption, cruelty and brutality. A harbinger of future recolonizations in Africa.

It is my prayer that Africa is liberated from the human tragedy playing out, fashioned by the hands…

That AMBI. Is it something special?

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Come look at this face...

Come,

even closer...

Now, check the skin.

Not bad, huh?

I use AMBI skin cream,

And you are looking at skin AMBI helped beautify.

You see, AMBI helps get rid of blotches, dark spots...the works!
AMBI conditions and softens your skin too. And AMBIblends your skin into one beautiful glowing tone, all over...

That AMBI. It is something special!


Credits
Text: From Hydroquinone (skin bleaching agent) advertisement regularly aired on Kenya Television in the 1970s-80s.
Illustration: Watercolor by Hana Njau-Okolo (Feb. 2007)

Tuongee? [Thoughts?]

Kwaheri.

Mama Shujaa.

All content, images Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Unending Thanks

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There was another barrier that was broken on November 5, 2008; it was inspired by the momentous cultural one for the United States of America. It rode on the back of the far-reaching importance of the election of the first African-American President. And with it's embodiment of a new dawn, it urged an awakening and unleashing of uncharacteristic courage. The launch of Mama Shujaa!

Since the launch, I have redirected my focus from thinking to doing; blogging, disciplining my writing; creating a habit that will eventually bring into being, bits and pieces of my soul. What has lain dormant in the somewhat robotic existence that has obstinately guarded my immigrant life for so many years.

I am thankful for the astounding amount of dynamism in this blogosphere, a meeting point of diverse minds and collective voices. I am thankful for the generosity of spirit I have encountered. I am thankful for the inspiration.

Exceptional thanks go to everyone who has read and followed my blog from…