Gary Stokes is a struggling young American, who then lands a job with a press bureau based in East Africa and an expatriate is born. Gary moves to Kenya, meets a fellow reporter, Guy, who helps him adjust to his new life. Cue in intimidating government officials, unmovable landlords, and incidents unfolding in snooty exclusive membership clubs left behind by settlers—, Gary and Guy become lifelong friends. In this new life, Gary soon discovers that life in East Africa requires an abundance of open-mindedness, patience and caution.
The Virgin Journey is an interesting perspective on life for an expatriate living in East Africa in the eighties. Through Gary, Wampamba takes us through heavy issues present in the eighties and even now, like the first HIV epidemic, unrest in Uganda, bribes in government offices and racism in South Africa. The change of perspective is refreshing, because she manages to make Gary’s immersion into these issues effortless, without seeming contrived, through experiences in Gary’s life.
At the core of Gary’s new life, is love: for his old home, his new home, his old girlfriend, and a new one. The struggle to reconcile all these parts of him is real, and Gary’s character emerges as just a man, doing what he can to earn a living, and find happiness…albeit in the real jungle that is Africa.
What did I love about this book?
The change Gary goes through from the negative mess he starts out as at the beginning. His quite uninformed view on our beloved East Africa made me remember a question I was once asked by an acquaintance…,
‘Do I live next to Lions in Africa? Are they right next door?’ No, they’re not right next door, thank you. They’d have me for dinner otherwise…
Gary’s character had this annoying factor at the beginning for me. However, that changes through the story, as he travels from one city to the next, experiencing the joys and beauties…as well as the bittersweet parts of East Africa, you find yourself sympathizing, rooting for him.
In all, this story is a great start to an unforgettable adventure in East Africa. Two reporters work to tell the East African story, the best they can. Wampamba stays true to the culture while adding her own zest into a growing love between two expatriates and their strong African princesses.
This writer has been taking detours from regular writing. It happens and I had a request to review a book recently. I love any books set in my corner of the world, love them even more when the author reaches out to me for some thoughts. So, my detour lately has to do with this book: The Virgin Journey. No, I haven’t finished reading it, but am eagerly turning the pages, and will share more on this story soon.
The Virgin Journey
by Mazzi Wampamba
Book One of The Reporter Trilogy
Gary Stokes, a young American from California, accepts a job that takes him to East Africa, a place he never imagined calling home. Loneliness confronts him as he struggles to understand his new, postcolonial environment and his role as an expatriate reporting in a foreign land. Gary, who promises his girlfriend in the U.S. that he will never let anything come between them, finds himself falling in love with a Kenyan native and relying on the help of Guy Woodward, his new expatriate friend, to help him navigate his way through the complicated love triangle.
Shiri Golan has found the perfect man at last, but one day skeletons start crawling out of his closet hauling with them betrayal, a dark past and deadly secrets.
Hurt, betrayed and seeking vengeance, Shiri finds herself caught between forgiveness and justice. As she lives on, she discovers that, oblivious to her, she is a commander of some secret movement whose ultimate aim is to control the whole world.
From the sensational love poet and author of Holy Innocence and Holy Crimes, Elove Poetry, comes the story of love, hate, betrayal and secrets.
Book Review “I’m a bachelorette, happy and enjoying it,” Shiri says at the start.
These words bring out the picture of a confident woman living in the city of Nairobi. She’s comfortable in her own skin, and knows what she wants in life. The Bachelorette Diaries: 2012 starts out as a personal recount of a woman who has it all, except for one thing. She wants to find herself a good man to love and who’ll love her. That right there brought Shiri upfront and center.
There begins the search for the ‘one’. The chapters where Shiri is combing through her social media account for that male friend that could turn into the one, were revealing…I wondered if Elove Poetry had CCTV at my area code. How many times do self-declared bachelorettes spend their nights stalking their male friends on social media, during that lonely period that strikes at low times?
Valentine’s Day draws near, and Shiri’s desperation goes in to high gear. I couldn’t help laughing when she contemplates that TV Ad….”Are you lonely? Do you want someone to talk to? SMS the word “Love” to 5454…” I know you wonder if that would work out if you tried it. So does Shiri…you know things are getting desperate if it’s come to thinking about that Ad.
Coming from that thought, Shiri jumps on to the first lifeboat that appears in the Village Market Mall. Smooth sailing ahead…not….when desperation blinds you to all but what you want, things are bound to get dicey. This moment starts a journey of a betrayal of her heart.
The adventure in The Bachelorette Diaries: 2012 came from the mysteries that crop up after months of bliss in one man’s arms. Suddenly, Shiri is confronted by questions that so often find us in real life. Do we really know the people we claim to love? How can we trust what they say about themselves? Perhaps it has become mandatory to get a friend like Gwen, as Shiri has, who is good at digging out those dirty little secrets hidden behind pretty words and intoxicating love.
Shiri finds herself in a mystery that includes murder, a secret ‘let’s take over the world’ club, and a disease she inherits from a distant relative that might shock you. She gets her heart broken, over and over, from the people she loves. In the end, I think the best relationship she had in this novel was the one she had with her three friends.
Reading through this novel, you get a glimpse into the life of an independent woman living in sunny Nairobi. The highs and the lows she goes through to carve out her position in the work environment, in business, as well as finding that partner she can accept and lean on. There are unexpected moments of impulsive behavior that lead to pleasant surprises, or rather nasty ones. And I find myself agreeing with Shiri when she seeks out an outlet for her many lows through her writing hobby.
The final chapters are filled with rapid action that at times is quite distracting as Shiri works to explain the mystery. For the most part it’s interesting trying to unwind the web, but I confess to getting bogged down just a little bit to the many twists and turns. However, I applaud Elove Poetry for having me glued to my reader for a solid three hours. The Bachelorette Diaries: 2012 is definitely a fascinating read.
A boy is born in the land of Leo. As the sound of the cattle horn is heard, everyone in the Kingdom celebrates the birth of not only a boy, but the Crown Prince. His name is Ustawi.
The hands that hold him foretell a prosperous future, but just like every dream has it’s valleys, so has Ustawi’s birth. One man has seen the evil that’s to befall the kingdom under the boy’s reign, his name is Ukweli. He is the Seer.
Fire begins the story of the Prince’s life and as you read through a story rich in culture and customs you can only ask yourself, can the Seer fight the gods? Can he avert the impending doom that’s to come?
Fire is a unique literature story, that focuses on East African folklore. Ms. Okeyo names her characters using the Swahili language. Each name, symbolizing what the character should be, what they could or should stand for. For example Ukweli in Swahili means Truth. I found this characterization quite insightful.
The story is quite simple, a Crown Prince is born into the land of Leo, the heir to his father’s throne, but instead of joy, the Seer, Ukweli is tormented by dreams of doom and darkness as he foresees the worst. According to Ukweli, the land of Leo is going to face hard and dark times under the rule of Crown Prince Ustawi. Tormented by this dreams, Ukweli goes on a journey hoping to find a solution, and on his journey, he finds more questions, and proof that Prince Ustawi’s reign will cause pain to the people of Leo.
Ms. Okeyo paints a great folklore tale, weaving in East African’s own culture into her story. You’re treated to scenes of palatial huts, cloaks made with animal skin, and elders in a circle, and that just made me smile. The genre is a different approach for Ms. Okeyo, I’ve only read romance stories from her before, but this is different and she’s set herself apart with Fire.
It did take me a lot longer to read. You really need to settle down and get through each page to understand why Ukweli is moving from one place to another, and enduring so much torment. This is not a complaint, more of a judgment of my own reading capabilities, I think. I need to hone them, or something…^_^!It reminded me of reading a literature set book, you gotta keep your focus to understand what’s going on. This is not your fast romantic tale, definitely requires undivided attention. Once you get going, Fire is a captivating read!
Nairobi City during Good Friday = Empty! Lolz, everyone has gone out of town for the four-day holiday. They left little ol’ me to walk around with plenty of space to play. So, I had an impromptu book shopping day.
I found this guy who’d dumped this pile of books outside Tusky’s Pioneer Branch and was selling them at Kshs. 100 each. I spent a few minutes sifting through it all. I wanted to bring them all home, but that would have broken my bank account for sure. I ended up with three only, (moan).
My Stash –
The books are old, they need work, but, they’ll look great after I get them hardcovers. I’m a huge Anne Rice fan and I’m trying to collect her books. So I buy her books when I can. I’ve never read Luanne Rice, so this is going to be a first, and of course the cookbook is to save me from the oblivion of eating the same three meals I’ve had the last few months. Here’s to Food Adventure!
I ended up at Nakumatt Junction, and they also have a sale in their bookstore. At Books First, if you buy Any Three Books, you get a fourth one for free.
I was here for other business, so I didn’t get any books, but it was great checking out their book list. If you’re looking for Fifty Shades of Grey, they have it in stock. ^_^!!!!Buy Three copies and get one for free…lolz, that is if you haven’t watched the movie yet..
So That’s my Good Friday out on the town, I hope you have a wonderful Easter, and stay safe out there.
The last time I posted, I was caught up in the thick of the festival. The week after that, I was in an another expo. I’m finally getting a week to connect with the blog! Trust me, I’m not complaining. Busy is a good place to be. So, the Storymoja Hay Festival ended. If you came, you must have had a good time.
My highlights from the intern/volunteer side were:
Watching Joanne Ball-Burgess dance with the kids.
She’s so much fun, I sneaked time out from my daily post to go watch her. Her dances were a way to interpret poetry into movement. I loved the way she flowed, created a rhythm in poetry with just a simple movement. It was quite inspiring. It made me think we should definitely choose to dance more than we really do. A short conversation with her, and she confessed she loved dancing with kids. Mostly because they’re not uninhibited. They’ll move with her and enjoy the dance, fueling her own enjoyment. I think that’s just magical.
I loved watching Mistik Natural. The band plays the best music. They had these African Drums that they got the kids to drum. They’d also have a group of kids dancing to the beat of the drums. The session would turn into this fun experience with the kids drumming for other kids to dance. It was a lot of fun. I always hated it when I had to duck out in the middle of the performance to go do my duty…hehe…I had the urge to just stay and dance with the kids and teachers. I loved their music, and their transforming it into a fusion of African drums and dance. Powerful.
My personal favorite, was watching L-ness & Dizraeli perform. I love the roots of hip hop. Which is what Dizraeli and L-ness taught to their audience when they spoke. The rhythm, how it came about, the meaning behind their words, the interpretation. I couldn’t help wanting to keep watching them more, and more. Dizraeli’s poetry is real, his lyrics thought out as he speaks. Most times they have me thinking, no matter the context. I love that his performances were always so involved, he expresses his words with motion. L-ness’s strength is her ability to let a rap go in Swahili. I loved that she owns the stage when she starts rapping. Their sessions were so full of energy.
I sat in a talk held by Mathew Shenoda & Ladan Osman. They spoke of poetry. The differences in teaching it, and how people approach poetry. The highlight of this talk for me was when one teacher asked Mr. Shenoda how to make poetry fun in schools. His answer was perhaps it’s the way students are asked to approach the poetry. Which is always, tell us what you understand from the poetry. What do you get from it? Mr. Shenoda suggested teaching the basics of poetry first. Get the student to understand what Stanzas are, what the rhythm is, types of poems, and why they’re written that way. Once you get students to understand that, then the content of the poem starts to make sense. He made a good argument. Ladan Osman impressed me when she spoke of writing for eight hours straight, possibly more. I was happy to know I’m not the only one who ignores life outside the door and instead chooses life at the keyboard. She was an inspiration to me.
You Know I had to stay for the Saturday Night Concert! Sauti Sol was on that night, I had a Blast!! My sister and I had a moment we lost our heads when Sauti Sol did Nishike! All that man candy, it’s insane to act like a prude. Screaming, shouting, jumping, that’s appropriate reaction. I could have lost my voice that night. Yeah, I love me some Sauti Sol! A lot of exclamation marks in this one right!! Hehe. I think it was the biggest highlight in this festival for me. On a side note, they’re up for several awards. Vote for Sauti Sol Here:
The sessions I chose to enter were music oriented. I love listening to music, poetry, spoken word. It fuels my writing side, more than listening to people talk about writing. So, that’s where I spent most of my time. Dancing with Joanne, Drums with Mistik Natural, Poetry with Ladan and Concerts with Sauti Sol, Dizraeli, L-ness and Berry Heart. My soul was happy.
Elly in Nairobi’s Thoughts
I got a glimpse into this festival, both on the visitor’s side and staff side. I’d joined this festival primarily as a volunteer. People I know, understand the phrase Volunteering for a festival. Others I don’t know gave me the “Why-on-earth-would-you-volunteer-for-something-without-payment-or-getting-something-from-it-look.” You know, I love creativity, and I wanted to see what this festival was about and learn more about the concept of it. Yes, for the experience I had, It was a good choice to volunteer. I wish more people would volunteer for it.
At some point the festival organizers turned our side into an internship program, where you get a letter of recommendation for participating. This drew a lot of university students, which is also good. I doubt they’d get many volunteers in my corner of the world. ^_^ lolz. I say that in a nice way. People would rather get paid for such things.
My job was assisting the many artists who came in, taking them to the various venues, and ensuring no one got lost on the way. The artists, that is, (writers, poets, filmmakers, musicians e.t.c) it was interesting talking to them on the way to the venue. I got a lot of insight from them, which was good. Others, I loved the reaction they’d have once a session was over. They’d be happy and excited from their discussions. That was really fun to see and experience.
Like any job I’ve had, there were challenges. I’d get this moments of trying to balance the ‘Everything is going to be fine‘, and the ‘Oh My God, I can’t believe we can’t solve this‘ moments.
We had two days of no wi-fi, in an artist lounge. You can imagine the unhappy looks one gets from no Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi, such an important thing I tell you. Vital. It makes people happy and very unhappy.
Downside to my job, my feet were killing me. Back and forth, back and forth, I think I can join the marathon now. I walked so much. It was anticipated, but not at that level. I take it as a losing weight thing. If you want to lose some weight, join the festival. ^_^
Biggest negative for me was negative corporate culture. You wonder why I mention this. I understand being the status of interns and volunteers means you’re basically an outsider coming in. I’ve had some wonderful experiences of this. Companies where volunteers keep returning back for more. I worked with one for four years, and I’d get to deal with volunteers coming in every year for the different experiences. The same people each time, it was exhilarating. I wish this experience was like that for me. I’d go back over time, because I do believe in the cause of getting people to meet for such a creative festival. And in my corner of the world, we need more of these types of festivals.
While helping out one of the days before the festival, I had someone tell me, “To stop bothering them and to go away.” I had asked one question. Instead of answering it, I get this answer. This is a small glimpse of some of the comments you’d hear. I liked my festival head, so I ignored it, but it had me thinking.
I told my sister, and she was like, “Why the hell didn’t you walk away right then?” Ohhh, I have the weakness of saying, well, I can ignore this,and continue on. She just shook her head at me. I should have walked away then, but I wanted to see the festival. So I trudged on.
I understand having a temper or a bad attitude, but you’d get someone going off on you because you picked flowers that are marked to go to the festival location. You’re loading them into the truck but this person is upset with you for some reason. While I won’t write out the details of the argument, the gist of it was that this individual had spent time before preparing the flowers. Now, we were loading the flowers to end up at the festival location. I don’t know whether we needed consent, or what, simply said, the argument sounded a tad childish to me. I kept quiet and effectively walked away. It solves a lot of arguments. Removing yourself from them works. That was day 2, going through to day 6, Sunday, I’d had various run-ins with the staff that left me wondering why I’d ever volunteered in the first place.
It’s understandable there are lot of pressures coming from different directions during such a situation. A lot of problems that crop up unexpectedly. There is, however, the need to watch who you take it out on. I think that interns/volunteers get the brunt of permanent staff outbursts. I feel that they take it because it’s expected of them. A right of passage if you will, but it’s not right, and shouldn’t be right. An intern shouldn’t have to take someone’s temper because they’re the permanent staff, and the intern needs a recommendation letter, so they have to listen and bear it. It’s not right. It builds a cycle, because then the intern will find their place,and if they’re bitter, they end up doing the same thing to their intern,and the cycle continues. Hence, the birth and eternal existence of negative corporate culture. Sadly, in some places I don’t think it goes away. It’s worse with women more than men. And I tell you, that’s a big thing since I’m all for women power. Yet, you’ll find it’s harder to get a long with women tempers than the men. I wish this could change.
The festival was a great chance, and I was proud to be part of it. I can’t explain. It was amazing to meet other writers, poets, musicians, and I got inspired to keep writing. My sister and I might be half-in-love with Dizraeli. We recorded all his sessions, say, “Obsessive much?” That’s right, we had a blast, even got his autograph.
As a Volunteer, my journey ended here. Next year, I’ll pay for my ticket. I’ll meet the new interns/volunteers and give them a huge hug. I’ll know what they’re going through, and a hug really helps.
So, on to other things..right?
My inspired inspiration is getting to work now….^_^ get it? No? Oh well….I’m off to write more picture perfect.