Zebra crossings Kenyan-style

I have recently returned from a trip back home to Kenya where I was able to spend time with the love of my life, my darling baby niece Ayzah. Of course the days of my brief sojourn there flew by all too fast.

I shan’t bore readers of this blog with pictures of Kenyan safaris, Mombasa beach holidays and ‘nyama choma‘ (the most delectable food in the whole wide world!) gatherings with family and friends, however, there is one particular picture of a lone ‘zebra crossing’ whilst my brother was driving that I cannot resist sharing.

zebra

(image source: personal picture)

The picture on the right was taken during a drive through Nairobi National Park one weekend. It is literally an example of some of the incredible experiences that are common place whilst living in Nairobi. Some true past examples of daily life in Nairobi of incidents that have actually happened to myself and my family include:

  • Having to stop the car as we waited patiently for a herd of giraffes to cross the Airport Road after my dad had picked me up from the airport when I was back home for the Easter holidays one year (side note: baby giraffes have the cutest ears!).
  • A pride of four lions causing mayhem in people’s gardens – this 2016 occurrence caused my brother to be stuck in traffic for five hours on the way back from work one day! The south side of Nairobi National park which is bordered by a tributary of Nairobi’s famous and gorgeous Athi River still remains unfenced, hence why we have frequent animal wanderings into residential areas.
  • An Aunt who ran over a (suicidal) monkey that leapt out onto the road as she had just left the house. She heard and felt a bump against the car as it hit the monkey, but then looked in her rearview mirror and didn’t see any dead monkey, so she assumed that it had managed to scamper away. Only when she got to school to pick up my cousin did they realise the now-dead monkey was caught in between the car wheel and the chassis! Only its tail could be seen dangling by the side – my poor cousin was mortified, and the episode was the subject of school chatter for quite some time.
  • Our pet dogs killing a spitting cobra (they usually used to kill porcupines that ventured into our property from the neighbouring forest). We didn’t know the snake’s species at the time, but as per law, my dad took the lifeless reptile over for identification to the Nairobi National Snake Park, where it was found to have been a female. My brother and I were immediately forbidden from venturing anywhere into the lush one-acre gardens of our house. Within hours, we had the Snake Park rangers over and they used some strange smoke-emitting machine and burning rubber that they poked all around various areas of the garden to kill any other spitting cobras or their potential babies that were lurking around the foliage.
  • Baboons almost-stealing my aunt’s handbag as we sat down to tea one weekend at a restaurant by the Thika Falls.  These famous sugar-loving mischievous baboons are the bane of adults and children alike, but no visit to the Falls is complete without some sort of light-hearted encounter with them.

There are countless other wonderful memories that I have of my country, Kenya. It is truly a land that one must visit in person to fully realise its awe-inspiring experiences. For now, if you don’t have the opportunity to plan a visit in the near future, and if you fancy bits of some touristy snapshots, the video below captures the vast and varied nuances of this unique country that I am proud to call my own:

Happy Watching and I wish you a siku njema (‘Good Day’ in Swahili!)

Saneeya Qureshi © 2018

Life is short, make it count

A friendly recently commented about the infrequency of my posts on this blog. Once I contained my excitement of actually having a loyal reader who’d noticed this (besides my dear mum of course), I got to thinking about the reasons why I post on this blog.

It started off as an exercise in writing for a different audience to the academics whom I normally write for in my day job. Away from work, my interests are vast and varied, and cover the spectrum from languages and cultures to current affairs. That is why it was difficult to narrow down the focus of this blog. Instead, I purposely sought to maintain it as a medium through which I write on any topic that tickles my fancy. In doing so, I have written posts on topics such as the ‘Grim Reaper of Football‘; my foray into amateur vexillology; and my mock indignation at public signage in Austria.

image source:

24_multipot

image source: http://qaspire.com/2015/11/09/emilie-wapnick-on-being-a-multipotentialite/ (click on image for larger version to open in a new window)

I’ve often wondered whether these diverse and varied interests (and related knowledge that I’ve subsequently picked up along the way) were a boon or a curse. This is particularly because it means that I am almost always interested in almost all aspects of new things around me – and I then absorb myself in learning as much as I can about them. A TED Talk (12:26 duration) by Emilie Wapnick, a Career Coach, celebrates the “multi-potentialite” — those of us with many interests and many interlocking potentials. Emilie’s talks resonated with me to such a degree, that for the first time in my life, I actually thought of my ‘multipotentiality’ as a unique advantage that I have; further evidenced by Tanmay Vora’s sketch (image on right) of the ‘super-powers’ that we multi-potentialites possess.

Another thing that I have learnt about myself in 2016, is that I should be proud to be a ‘multi-local’ person: a citizen of the multiple global identities in many senses. Taiye Selasi’s TED Talk (16:31 duration) on ‘Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local‘ made me realise that it’s alright not to have a straight answer when people ask me where I am from: I was born in one country; raised in a second;  spent my teen years in a third; travelled and volunteered in a fourth; realised my strengths in a fifth; and am currently working in a sixth – and those are just countries that I identify with by virtue of having lived in them for extended periods of time. There are still even more countries, cultures (and languages) that I associate with, such as the ones where my ancestors are from; and where my personal travels take me to the most!

These two profound realisations (aka my double boons), coupled with other personal milestones for me this year, have made me realise that my mantra for 2017 will be “Life is short, make it count.” And to make one’s life count, one cannot and should not discount the attributes that make one unique. So here’s to 2017 – may it be a year of more frequent posts on this blog, and may it be the year where I proudly stand up for my multi-potentialite and multi-localite identity!

And for you, my dear readers, I think it only fitting, having recently returned from a trip to Dublin, to leave you with an Irish blessing for a happy and prosperous New Year:

“May there always be work for your hands to do;
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.”

Saneeya Qureshi © 2016

Bombolulu, Kenya

I will shortly be travelling to Albania to attend a partner meeting about the EFESEIIS project, for which I am part of the Institute for Social Innovation and Impact‘s research team representing England. The project – about which we are collaborating with partners in nine other European countries – aims to develop an evolutionary theory and ecosystem of Social Entrepreneurship.

Whilst preparing for the meeting, I was reminded of a fabulous social enterprise that was a regular shopping spot during my formative years in Kenya. The Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre were always a favoured destination during family holidays in the beach town of Mombasa. Created and managed by the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK), Bombolulu, as it is commonly referred to (named for the Mombasa suburb where the facilities are located), consists of  several workshops and a cultural centre. The facilities offer a range of goods and services that provide social and economic rehabilitation and empowerment of people with disabilities.  (Alas, I have no pictures from my last visit).

Since 1968, the artisans at Bombolulu have attempted to tackle poverty through the creation and trading in handicrafts, producing jewellery, clothes, carvings and other crafts of a high standard. Vocational training is also provided to those with physical disabilities, and the cultural centre houses mock-ups of traditional Kenyan homesteads which visitors are invited to tour.

Their motto of “Disability is not inability” was further demonstrated in 2004 when the Bombolulu School of Promise was created to provide education to the children living in the slums of Mombasa. If you are ever in the vicinity, I would highly recommend a trip to both locations: the School and the Workshops and Cultural Centre to witness first-hand how the lives of those from impoverished families or those living with disabilities, are being impacted for the better.

My reason for blogging about Bombolulu today is that, whilst I am looking forward to learning about socially entrepreneurial initiatives around Europe at my meeting, I am also proud to highlight but just one such fabulous and well-established enterprise that exists in developing countries such as mine.

Do you know of any other exemplary social enterprises? I’d love to learn about them, so please do comment below.

Saneeya Qureshi © 2015

For the love of flags

A recent TED talk caught my attention, primarily because the presenter is seemingly as obsessed with flags as I am. Roman Mars waxes eloquent about design concepts as applied to flags, and talks about how banners are unifying instruments which can bring groups of people together in various situations. I have always loved learning about flags and their symbolism. Growing up, one of my favourite games during long car trips with my parents and my brother, was describing and guessing flags. Another one was guessing capital cities. There was also I-spy and another favourite – adding up the numbers on car registration plates, as a competition between my brother and I to see who was fastest at mental computations (I usually lost). Suffice to say though, with such an upbringing, it’s no surprise that I’ve gone on to have a career in academia. But I digress.

Back to the topic of flags. One of the most-thumbed encyclopaedias in my house is The World Encyclopedia of Flags: The Definitive Guide to International Flags, Banners, Standards and Ensigns. I remember spending hours upon hours pouring over the fascinating world of pennants, banners, standards, ensigns, streamers, and the symbolism associated with colours, emblems, representations and images. Who knows – I might very well have possibly grown up to become a vexillologist (from the Latin word vexillum, meaning flag or banner) were it not for the innate educationist in me. Nevertheless, vexillology still remains a hobby for me, and indeed others too. There are some fascinating resources for those who might be interested in funny trivia about flags, anecdotes of flag mix-ups and world records and historical overviews of the flags of British counties. Despite the vast array of flags that we as individuals align ourselves with – be they national, civil, provincial, diplomatic, social, religious, linguistic, professional or institutional – the main representation which most of us proudly associate with, is that of the country to which we belong.

The Kenyan flag, that I am proud to represent, was officially adopted on December 12, 1963. The colour black represents the indigenous people of the Republic of Kenya, red for the blood shed during the struggle for independence, green for the country’s natural resources and fertile landscape and the white fimbriation was added later to symbolize unity, peace and honesty. The black, red, and white traditional Maasai shield and two spears symbolize the defence of all the things mentioned above. Growing up in Kenya, I fondly recall, following the offical flag-hoisting ceremony and recitation of the National Anthem, chiming in collectively with the rest of the school during Friday morning assemblies to recite the (now-withdrawn) ‘Nyayo Philosophy of Peace Love and Unity and the Loyalty Pledge‘:

“I pledge my loyalty to the President and the nation of Kenya. My readiness and duty to defend the flag of our Republic. My devotion to the words of our National Anthem. My life and strength in the task of our Nation’s building. In the living spirit embodied in our national motto – Harambee!* And perpetuated in the Nyayo** philosophy of peace, love and unity.”

*Harambee: Kenya’s national motto; Swahili for “Let us all pull together”

**Nyayo: Motto for Kenyan’s original political party, KANU; Swahili word for “footsteps”

The pledge was withdrawn after Kenya evolved into a political multi-party state in the 90s. Nevertheless, the pride and self-identity instilled in me with respect to hoisting the flag of my country, and accompanied singing of the National Anthem whilst standing at attention, remains as indomitable as ever. I leave you with a rendition of it:

Saneeya Qureshi © 2015