A Successful Guide to Visa Application to Rich Countries for the Hopeful African

For the last two months, I have been locked in an intense battle of wills with the Canadian Visa Processing Center officials (click link to see summary on Facebook). Previously, I have only traveled to Uganda and Rwanda, countries that are part of the East Africa Community so visas are not required for Kenyan citizens. When I came to Japan, I was (still am) under the Japanese government scholarship so the visa application process was a breeze.

In July, I have to go present an academic paper I wrote at a conference in Toronto, Canada. Having no family in Japan, I was planning on taking Jeremy along with me and took for granted I would get his visa as well as mine. They granted (grant is the right word for they are small lords with a lot of power to guard tightly the borders against unwanted individuals) me the visa and refused (their term) Jeremy. I fear 3 year old boys could cause crime or steal jobs over there. I tried to reapply so in total I made 4 applications and all 4 were rejected on grounds such as travel history (he is 3 years old and has already lived in 2 continents!), immigration status in Japan (should he have a working visa, he is 3!), purpose of travel (is he going to Canada to engage in work illegally perhaps), personal assets (unfortunately I don’t have a savings account in his name, neither does he have a trust fund), lack of proof of relationship, custody agreement, and birth certificate (finally, valid reasons for which I provided the documentation).. but I finally gave up. They won. Fear not, I found someone to look after him for the 1 week I will be gone, but I have learned a lot from that visa application process that I want to share that wisdom with other hopeful visa applicants.

Enjoy the flowchart. Click on it to open and then click again to make it a little bigger. Best viewed on a laptop, not phone. Apologies for typos, don’t have time to correct them.

For EACH question, provide NO LESS THAN 10 DOCUMENTS as proof, SIGNED, SEALED and AUTHENTICATED by the HIGHEST authority in the land. If any witnesses need to sign the documents, make sure they SIGN IN BLOOD. Then sprinkle the documents with a DRAGON’S TEARS to improve your chances of getting the visa.

By rich country, I mean the G7 – USA, Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan as well as Scandinavian Europe, Switzerland, Russia, China, Singapore or any other country that considers itself rich. And everyone considers themselves richer than Africans.

If at the end of the flowchart your answer is FORGET ABOUT IT, take my advice and invest that money you were going to use in a lottery, trust me your chances of winning the lottery are higher than the chance you’ll get a visa. You will be happier too. If you had prepared any documents, take the documents and all your visa dreams, dig the deepest hole you possibly can – until the Earth’s core is fine – throw the documents and dreams in it, watch them melt away and go live your life happily in your third world country.

A Successful Guide to Visa Application

A Successful Guide to Visa Application

How Celebrating the Holidays has Changed Over the Years?

Christmas is a special time. It’s a period where families get to spend precious time with their loved ones. In addition, plenty of gifts are given, and people’s dreams come true, even if it is just for one day.

But can you imagine in Japan, Christmas is not a public holiday and people still go to work? I mean, the decorations are up and people will tell you Merry Christmas but it’s like Valentine’s in Kenya. Somewhat celebrated but not official and is not really a family affair but a couple’s affair!

Central - Christmas Decorations #4

Photo Credit: Konrad Krajewski via Compfight cc

History
Looking back through history, there’s no actual evidence that Jesus was born on December 25 or that he and his disciples celebrated his birthday on said date. In a report by the World Bulletin, it was Valentinus, a Roman Christian scholar, who made the first documentation about the holiday being celebrated on December 25 in the year 354. During this era, a Greek Saint called Saint Nicolas, who is known for giving gifts to children, also became popular.

Common celebration
Currently, the most common way of celebrating the holidays worldwide is by erecting a Christmas tree with gifts aplenty surrounding it and having a traditional dinner with family members. Often, those living in far away places book their flights ahead of time so they can stay close to their family during the festive period.

It’s still traditional to sign Christmas carols to our neighbors. In fact, holiday songs are the most common signs that Christmas is just around the corner. In the Philippines and other countries, some stores start building their decorations and playing Christmas carols as early as September, according to the Discipleship Ministries.

High-tech holidays
Some families have relatives living abroad, who aren’t capable of leaving their work or homes during the holiday period. Making it almost impossible to enjoy Christmas the way they used to when they were younger. Thankfully, technology has made it easier for us to stay in touch with our loved ones even if we are thousands of miles away from them. Skype and other video calling services allow people to stay connected. Smartphones also have the same features, which help to keep family members close and connected.

Ownership of mobile devices has increased over time, outdoing other computing devices. In fact, Gaming Realms, the developer of Spin Genie states smartphone usage has now accounted for up to 50 percent of the overall tech consumption worldwide. This is mainly due to people now being highly dependent on mobile devices in their daily lives and even at work through the bring your own device (BYOD) scheme. So, it’s not at all surprising to know that we now rely on incorporating technology to stay connected with our loved ones during the holiday season.

Hopefully in 2016, technology will help to keep us close to our families regardless of distance. Make sure to keep up to date with the latest tech trends so that you never lose sight of family members during the holidays throughout 2016.

Motherhood

Pregnancy

This is certainly the easiest part of the motherhood journey. Being pregnant is a glorious, life changing experience, although some women would differ with the ‘glorious’ part. If ever I have to choose my gender during my reincarnation, I would choose female each time, just to experience special the journey of nurturing life inside of me.

Photoshoot at Arboretum at 39 weeks. I never realized my tummy was that big till afteward

Photoshoot at Arboretum at 39 weeks. I never realized my tummy was that big till afteward

Some people ask, how does it feel to be pregnant? It feels natural. Your body naturally adjusts as you go along, so you never realize just how big your tummy is, because it grows gradually. I had an app, which tracked the growth of the baby week by week, and I started to feel the kicks, I lived for them. I’d get to and from work in cramped matatus (how I fit through the doors and narrow spaces is another miracle 😀 ); and I’d just chill and watch my tummy make funny shapes (which scared my housemate!). Ah, I miss those times.

Also, pregnancy is easy because you don’t have to take care of the baby really, you only take care of yourself. The baby is never wet, never hungry, never cold.. he’s always fed, always warm, always with you.

Mother to newborn

The Swahili say, “kuzaa mwana si kazi, kazi ni kumlea” loosely translating to Giving birth is nothing, bringing up the child is the actual work. I agree completely.

My son J sleeping, 2 weeks old

My son J sleeping, 2 weeks old

Newborn babies are adorable, angelic, sweet-smelling, sleepy cherubs. But the few hours they are awake, they will cry maybe half the time. For a new mother, it was hard for me to know what to do. You are still recovering from the emotional and physical trauma of labour and childbirth, the baby is crying and you can’t remember the last time you slept or had a shower.

It’s at this point that many new mothers fall into post-natal depression. Suddenly, your sweet, sleeping baby is awake and no amount of changing, breastfeeding, cuddling, singing, swinging is calming him down. Do not be tempted to shake your baby! I am lucky I had support from my family, especially my mother. She was able to take care of him for a few hours so I could catch up on sleep. Let’s just say since he was born, I have had countable nights of 6-hour continuous sleep.

The breakthrough

The first few works are tough, the baby is tiny and delicate. Needs to be fed, changed, cleaned, breastfed, rocked, held (sometimes even when sleeping). The baby will sleep during the day and keep you awake at night. However, a magic moment happens. From around 6 weeks, my baby changed his pattern and started sleeping during the night. He cried less. He started smiling! That genuine, tear-jerking toothless smile. It makes worthwhile every decision that ever brought you to that particular moment. It’s a smile that everything will be alright mummy, it’s a smile that defines true happiness.

4 months old and jolly

4 months old and jolly

Now my son is almost 5 months old, and he hardly ever cries. He smiles, a lot. He laughs out loud. He wants to sit. He reaches for my S4, so he can put it in his mouth. He grabs at the newspaper, but only to tear it into pieces that he can put in his mouth. He kicks a lot when he’s lying on his back, he kicks when he’s on your lap- he’s literally a bouncing baby boy.

When I come home in the evening, he will suddenly realize it’s me and reach out for me.. he isn’t stretching his hands out yet, but if I don’t hold me in the next 5 minutes he will begin to complain.

And he's handsome too XD

And he’s handsome too XD

Visits to the clinic are routine, just to confirm he’s putting on weight, not losing it. Diaper changes are less often. 6-hour long stretches of sleep at night are possible.

Then you realize that yes, motherhood is not easy, but you can do it. You have what it takes. You have the strength of a woman.

Working Mother

It’s the hardest thing to tear yourself away from your sleeping son in the morning. He’s not awake when you kiss him bye but you know he will be reaching for you when he wakes up.

Co-workers, friends, ask me how it feels to be a mother. It’s the most natural feeling in the world. When you make sacrifices, you don’t even realize that you are doing it. When you put your baby first in every decision you make, it’s not something you force yourself to do. It doesn’t take effort to be a mother, I guess you just have to listen to your instinct.

So it is counter-intuitive to leave your very young baby in the hands of someone else for the better part of the day, but in the world we are living in, you have to make a living. I have to go out there and work my best to secure a good future (and present) for us. I have to provide a good education and good life for him; but I also have to maximize my potential and realize my academic and professional goals. It’s a hard thing to leave him every morning, but I wouldn’t do it any other way.

meandHim

Perhaps if I ever have another child, I’ll plan way ahead, so I can work from home or have a flexible schedule for say, the first 3 years before the baby starts school and needs me less.

On Single Parenthood

There are many situations that lead to single motherhood, but all of them boil down to the fact the the father of the baby just isn’t there. It’s never the ideal situation, but this is not a perfect world, we make the most of what we have. Sure, it’s nice to have someone with whom to make decisions and share financial responsibilities with, whether to take the 2-dose Rotavirus vaccine or the 3-dose one; whether to buy size M or L Rompers, whether we just forget formula and give cow milk, and future decisions like which school should the baby be enrolled in. But while the law can force a man to pay child support, it can never force him to be a dad. And I will play the role of both parents to my best.

Single_Parent_jpg

Is Single Motherhood a Trend?
The Sunday Nation a week back talked about Single Motherhood, and while I am contributing to the statistics; I do wonder why there is such stigma associated with “single motherhood”. The stigma (and accusing finger) should be pointed at the errant fathers that abandon responsibility.

I do know a few single fathers too.. somebody care to do a study?

Anyway, this isn’t a forum for discussion on the trends of parenthood in this country; this is a post about a celebration of motherhood. That life changing experience that gives meaning to life for most women. And I’m loving it.

Always Platinum – Why You Should Get It

Always Platinum was launched in Kenya at a colourful event at Sankara, where yours truly made an appearance. While everybody was in dresses and heels, I missed the memo on dress code and appeared in jeans and flats hence you will not be seeing any pictures of me from that event!

P n G staff pose with the Always Platinum product

P n G staff pose with the Always Platinum product

So what’s so different with the new product? Well for once, the top sheet of the pad is made of a silk-like soft and dry material that feels great, not like the (sometimes sticky) plastic of the ordinary pads that’s precursor to the dreaded rash after long use.

In addition, it has new technology which locks odor and powerful core with specifically designed absorbed gelling material. And no, it doesn’t emit any scents like those scented pads do (while the scented pads emit a fairly pleasant smell, it’s a signature scent that lets everyone around you know it IS that time of the month).

Having used it, I can say that this product lives up to its expectations. It feels luxurious, and comfortable too. No more leakage, even for a heavy flow. (At this point, I feel like bursting into that check-check song). Always has always been superior on quality, and Always Platinum feels (and is) quality. If you’re going for pads really, this is the best there is in the market.

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The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky : Book Review

This is one among the many free e-books available in the Aldiko reader installed on my Samsung S4 (just saying). I made several attempts at starting the book; the setting is strange at least to me, since I don’t know much about Russia except their notoriety at emotional coldness, (especially to Africans), their love for vodka and Leo Tolstoy (whom I am yet to read). The characters had hard-to-pronounce names and they (the characters) were numerous and seemed to be introduced all at once. However, one thing about me is that once I get a book started, I have to make sure I finish it. I am glad I persevered with this one.

The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

The book revolves around the story of three brothers: the tempestuous first born Mitya, the philosophical Ivan and the last of the brothers, Alyosha, whose character is, I would say, saintly. Their father, who is a big (non)influence in their lives is also a central character.

Through the book, we get to see Russia in the 1880’s, as it changes from a traditional society to a modern one where ideas about religion and politics are challenged. We get to discover why Russians are so passionate about their country, you almost want to hop on a plane and take a tour of Russia.

The book has numerous side-characters who add charm to the story; there is a sad, brave boy called Ilusha who is dying (sob sob) and his school friends. Alyosha (the saintly brother) makes friends with them and that’s how they come to be a part of the story. There is Aloysha’s elder Zossima. An elder is someone with who you trusted your soul; see Alyosha lived in a monastery with the elder and other monks and monks-to-be. He wasn’t a monk really and isn’t going to be. The story of the elder is told in detail and his ideas on man, religion and God are told extensively. Of course, these are really the author’s ideas put forth through his characters but done so eloquently.

After the introduction of the characters, comes the real tragedy. There’s a woman whom both the first born son Mitya and the dad, Fyodor Pavlovitch are in love with. Then there is a murder, which in the end brings the brothers together in one of the saddest endings I’ve read.

This book is worth every effort it took to get past the first few pages. If you have a smartphone/e-book reader, get the Aldiko book reader; if you don’t do it the old school way, I’m sure it will be available in a bookshop somewhere.

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In Search of the Perfect Product: Always Platinum

I was shocked to find out that if you’re having your period you cannot take communion. That’s just absurd. Apparently you’re considered ‘unclean’. Is this the kind of thing we are teaching our young girls hitting puberty? You can just imagine what it does to their confidence, not only dealing with the physiological occurrences at this time, but now there are spiritual implications too? Sometimes I find myself arguing against patriarchal religions like Christianity and Islam; and yet other times I understand their importance in a society like ours. But this post isn’t about religion and my views about the same.

When a girl hits puberty, it should not be a time of shame but a time of celebration. Her first period should be celebrated as a welcome into womanhood, not something to feel dirty about or to be ashamed of. Heck it’s a sign of fertility and future propagation of species is guaranteed. (And this statement is no way a pro-teenage pregnancy advocacy) If I ever have a daughter I will take her out in this special day and we shop for feminine products.

I must admit that Always have done a great job of giving girls their confidence back and for most of us this was our introductory product. But sometimes you wonder if there’s a better product out there and I found it, Always Platinum. It might be a little pricier (Singles- Ksh 110, duo packs Ksh 200) but it’s definitely worth it. Try it out next time. I’ll await your feedback.

Always Platinum

Always Platinum

It’s a good thing Always is constantly improving. Plus I like the name, Platinum. Makes me feel like I’m special. Which I am so it more like reaffirms it.

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I Love My Job

When I try to ask myself who am I, and what am I doing on this earth and such like questions that have no real answers; it is usually because I’m trying to find direction and motivation on the way forward. As if such a thing is even possible. But perhaps on some level, you do find what you need to make you look forward to the future.

confused

confused

I think campus is the defining age, where character is etched in us. It’s the age where you decide what you will do in the future, not an exact definition but a general idea of where you will be as a young adult, a middle-aged person, an elderly person.

I have done my fair share of projects, sub-projects, contractual jobs, volunteer jobs etc Although all were IT-related, there is the matter of whether I was becoming a Jill of all trades and master of none. Sometime last year, when I finished the classwork of my master’s course, I decided I would go into stable employment. Regular salary at the end of the month.

I got a job at a company that was a start-up, paid little (money is always relative) but it was always on time. I lasted 3 months and left mostly because I was unhappy. I realized it wasn’t the place I wanted to be, I wasn’t proud of my job, I didn’t see a future, career advancement and growth. And so after 3 months, I quit. There might also have been the matter of bosses whom I couldn’t relate with (sure no one says you have to relate with your bosses but still there’s that level of confidence you should have in the people controlling your paycheck).

One month later, I had two exciting offers with relatively good pay. One was more exciting than the other but was riskier and had little room for growth (I was going to start at the top, per se), the second one was less exciting but more stable and I was starting out at the bottom rung of the ladder, so to speak. What really tipped the scale in favour of the second offer was the fact that I was then 5 months pregnant, and I knew I would get my maternity leave hassle free with the second option. Plus the stability is what I needed to settle down and raise my son without worry. At least for now.

The moment I started working at my current job, I knew I made the right choice. Sure, it’s an 8-5pm, suit-wearing kind of job. But it reminds of the TV show, Suits. Complete with partnership reward if you get to the very top. No, it’s not a law firm but it’s an international audit firm (I do IT audit, generally speaking). I’m proud when I say what I do, where I work. I can go literally anywhere in the world and be recognized as an employee of the firm. If my work is satisfactory, exceptional, there will be opportunities for growth in/out of the firm.

For now, I enjoy what I do. I am happy at the end of the day, I go home knowing I achieved something. How miserable would I be if I spent the best hours of my day doing something I don’t like?

job

But do I really love my job? Ask me this question in a year and I will have the real answer.

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Congratulations to the Final Winner of the Nokia Asha 205

And the winner from last week’s final giveaway is:

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Nyaboke with this comment:

I feel like this is finally my chance to experience a smartphone. I am currently using a Nokia mulika mwizi and would you believe it, it doesn’t even have music! It is held together by two rubber bands after centuries of use have rendered the back cover useless. The keypad is also hanging loosely, I fear one more day of use and the rubber casing will fall off! I am an embarrassment to the female, phone loving population and it is time that status changed! Noone needs this Nokia Asha 205 as much as I do.

Two of the comments were posted after the Friday mid-night deadline (I forgot to close the disqus thread). Anyway I am glad this phone is going to a lady, so please get in touch with me and I will deliver this phone to you.

In a summary, the Nokia Asha 205 is capable of using 2 SIM cards, has a QWERTY keypad, comes in many different colours, relatively wide screen for playing games, comes with an offer of 40 free games from the Ovi store, has a browser that can compress data up to 90% saving your costly MBs among other features.

Colourful Nokia Asha 205s

Colourful Nokia Asha 205s

I want to thank all readers who participated in this exciting give-away adventure. Till next time.

Remember if you didn’t get lucky, you can still buy this phone from the shops for only Ksh 5,000.

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The Final Nokia Asha 205 is up for Grabs!

In the last one month, 3 lucky winners have got themselves a Nokia Asha 205 Dual SIM each.

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All the first winner had to do was leave a comment describing the phone or what he/she would do with it if he/she got one.

The second winner was the first person to leave a comment, touching on the 40 free games offer available for East African Nokia Asha users.

The selection for the third winner was totally random.

Sometimes the phones are collected through proxies so I don’t have pictures of all the winners yet, but I will do a follow-up post to see how they have been enjoying their Nokia Asha 205s.

One thing I have noticed is that all the winners have been male. So today I am taking affirmative action. Dear female readers, this is your chance to get the last of the Nokia Asha 205s that I had to give away. Leave a comment below, express your opinion on how you think this phone will suit you as a female user. Be it the colourful styles, the rapid typing, the music, the dedicated facebook button.. And on Saturday I will announce the winner.

Competition is only open to Kenyan female readers. Comments close on Friday at midnight.

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Panasonic Plaza To Open Tomorrow

Good news to existing Panasonic customers, there is now a service center for your electronics. Panasonic are opening a showroom and service center in Nairobi tomorrow that will serve as the hub for East Africa. I don’t know where guys used to take their devices for servicing before, maybe it’s the local fundi down the block. Time now for professional service.

I must admit as much as I know of the Panasonic brand, what stands out for me are their professional camcorders. I’ve always wanted one for my secret dream career as a movie director/producer/camerawoman. Who knows, maybe I’ll take a walk to their new showroom, I love admiring new electronics.

A panasonic camcorder..

A panasonic camcorder..

Panasonic has a wide range of products from air conditioners to fridges and other kitchen appliances, to mobile phones. I’d say they are trying to give companies established in Kenya like Samsung a run for their money. Their mobile phones are not available locally just yet (or they are and I haven’t seen them) but I am sure we all appreciate diversity and do look forward to checking them out.

The Panasonic Eluga (waterproof they say)

The Panasonic Eluga range of phones (waterproof they say)

Healthy competition among electronic companies can only work for the good of the consumers (you and me) so their Showroom and Service Center located along Mpaka Road, Westlands, is quite welcome.

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