Thursday, April 24, 2014

This was the thing that was not supposed to happen. And all of a sudden it happened so fast.

Tragedy, and there really isn't any other word for it, has occurred in our family. My beautiful cousin, 33 years old, passed away this easter after a two-year battle with cancer.

Like I said, tragedy. No other word will do.

I've been debating with myself whether or not to write about it. My gut feeling hasn't been clear, still isn't. And yet, I feel this is a loss too immense and colossal to bypass here, even though I know any attempt at putting this, all of it, into words, will be futile.

A few weeks before she passed away, she wrote me that she was starting to feel that she wasn't going to win this battle. I understood exactly what she meant, sadly. Yet, I feel - I think we all feel - that she won that battle a thousand times over. Through every single step of it, she fought so hard, insisted that no one waste time feeling sad, and consistently chose life over and over again.

To me, my cousin was always the outdoorsy type. A do'er. When I channel her now, I see her stepping into the kitchen of her childhood home, tall, proud and unapologetic, dressed head to toe in her riding gear after a full day out. And that's what everyone living close to her recounts. Throughout her illness, she's been riding horses, going cycling, skiing, vacationing with her kids, husband, family and friends, staying busy being, what I'll always remember her for being, a homemaker - meant not in the traditional sense of the word, because my cousin was anything but a stay-at-home wife, but rather in the most awe-inspiring sense. I think home, with all the people, places and love that constitute it, was her life's project. And she was home to so many.

The last time I hugged her was at my sister's wedding in March, which she traveled to from Sweden despite her great pain - another testament to her unconquerable zest for life. I regret not hugging her more, or very specifically, I regret not holding her hand at one point when I sat next to her during breakfast. That's the moment I play over and over in my mind, wondering in hindsight why I deemed it best to oppress those little signs of love and affection lest I remind her of what we were all fearing. That she suddenly not be there.

In the aftermath of her passing, I can't help but think that the loss and pain that is felt when a young person is bereft of life is somehow the accumulated hurt of all the bereaved. My cousin was somebody's mother, somebody's wife. A daughter, a sister, a sister-in-law. A granddaughter. A best friend. She was family. She was so much, to so many, and that just makes this feel unbearable.

She has requested we all wear something light green and rosy for her service. No black. I think that's such a generous gesture, so symptomatic of her mindset. I love that my cousin - a determined lady - is leading the way for how we should remember her, and for how to let her live on among us even though she's not physically here.

There are really few things as beautiful in life as being someone's home. She laid out the groundwork, nurtured it, and maintained it. Now we have to honor her by cherishing it.

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Two years ago, right about now

All the sakura photos that float around the interwebs these days are making me reminisce about our trip to Tokyo back in 2012, and if the travel-lords are listening, then let it be known that I'd very much like to go back.

Like so many people, I fell in love with the city within a nanosecond (who says nanosecond? Only annoying people, that's who;O), and as a person visiting it solely for recreational leisure, I couldn't find one, single fault with it.

As far as tourist traps go, I'm sure we visited plenty, but as Scandinavians, even the dingiest of places were such a novelty.

I remember once, as a kid, I was picnicking on our front lawn with two girlfriends when a japanese fella passed by and asked - or gestured, rather - if he could take a photo of us. We obliged and said cheese, but still I thought it was the oddest thing that this guy was out wandering the burbs and wasting film on such mundane things.

But of course, now I realize, that should I ever get the privilege of visiting Tokyo again, I'd happily take a train to the city's outskirts and look for picnicking, Japanese girls - in a totally, non-creepy way, of course.







Thursday, April 3, 2014

If giraffes and homegrown fennel are your jam, you definitely belong here

These photos have been sitting on my memory card for a full month, because just like last time we went to Olerai House by Lake Naivasha, I somehow wound up snapping close to a gazillion photos. And rather than sit down and edit them, I did what any sane person would do: I watched videos like this instead and refreshed my e-mail browser a thousand times over. So there.

Anyway, Johan and I went to Olerai with his mom, and sweet lord, the place was just as amazing the second time around. You're gonna suspect this is a sponsored post, that's how lovey-dovey I'm gonna get about it. But then, look at these faces - I mean, that's real happiness right there.
And there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for that, because friends, this is how you take your after-lunch coffee at Olerai. With grazing zebras dispersed around you, while a young gentleman entertains you with what appears to be a very vivid story.


Hello baby zebra :)

If you feel inclined to look into the trees above, you're likely to find yourself looking up at Colobus monkeys, who, in turn, are likely to pee down on you. But I say what the heck, because these guys probably don't get into the city much, and if peeing on tourists makes their day, so be it.

If you're at home now thinking, "I too want to go to Olerai", then you might go online and find the prices a bit steep - but really, it's worth every penny, because a) It's full board and we're talking 3 meals, coffees, teas, cakes and snacks, and b) This is an extremely boutique-y (yet totally unpretentious) hotel with only five rooms - in fact, if you come mid-week, you're likely to have the entire place to yourself so you can scoot around and try every single seating arrangement available in their garden.
For example, if one wishes, one can retreat to a place like this and get some work done. (I feel like kind of an ass for sitting with my laptop in those beautiful surroundings, but in my defense, I had real work to do.)
And while you're there, you might as well enjoy tea for three.

By the way, their chef and I are totally on the same page: Two muffins is just the right amount per person :)
And while you're enjoying your tea, BAM! A giraffe steps up right next to you...

...and starts snacking on the bougainvilleas :)
This is how giraffes drink water, by the way:


Before dinner, you might ask a friendly samburu warrior to take you for a walk on the grounds. (I'm telling you, these guys are so savvy when it comes to nature and wildlife, patiently answering all your silly questions about what to do, say, if a buffalo charges after you.)
And on said pre-dinner walk, you can also have your boyfriend take a picture of you where it looks like you've grown a tiny penis. (But at least I look happy, tiny penis or not).

And then...this photos happened. I don't want to sound too full of myself or anything, but do you also find that I  look kind of...pretty? Yes?! Because that NEVER happens to me! My profile picture on Facebook is a plant for gods' sakes. Whenever I put my photo on my resume, employers never get back to me. You get the gist - this photo is kind of a BIG deal, so let's just sit around and enjoy this for a while:
(You know, mostly I look like this. And who in their right mind will hire that?)
Another thing I really like about Olerai is that they offer the kind of leveled luxury that you don't feel like an ass for consuming. For example, they grow all their own fruit and vegetables and raise their own poultry, which you then get to enjoy at every meal.

Here we are inspecting their fennel patch. (Remember, you should always bring a warrior with you if you venture into a fennel patch.)
And look, artichokes! Did you know they grow like this?
When night falls, dinner is served here:
If you're lucky, you get these two as your dinner companions:

After dinner, you may enjoy your tea by the fire place. And if your company takes to discussing politics in an animated manner, you can just sit back, relax and think about puppies instead.


Then you go to bed and sleep like a baby in a canopy bed, before you get up in the morning and do it all over again - because at Olerai they don't ask you to check out at 10 am. They're more like, stay, hang out, play some crocket - or walk around and chat with our staff while they make these insane flower decorations.


THE END :)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

So, THIS happened!

Yes, at one point during the past two weeks my sister went and got hitched, and Johan and I flew home to Denmark to witness it all go down.

Thomas is the name of my new brother in law, whom I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time (!) the evening before their wedding, which, by the way, pretty much turned into one giant love fest of family, friends, boozy dancing and a real. live. horse. parade. (Who says dramatic punctuation is outworn? Who?)

They've known each other for ages - 7 years if I'm not mistaken - fell in love right after new years (or perhaps 7 years ago, who knows?) and decided to tie the knot ASAP!

I know, right? I think I let out a real proper Oprah-scream, when she called me on Skype and asked us to prepone (is that even a word?) our flight home to Copenhagen for their March 22 wedding.

Apart from two blurry iPhone photos - one of Johan dancing (pretty much like this) and one of my beautiful cousins, I was a little too love-drunk on everything to pull out my camera during the event. So instead I went and snatched this off my sister's Facebook-page, courtesy of the wedding photographer Louise.

Oh my gaawwwd, such a good night it was. Kind of want to put that party on repeat, if that's possible :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

A quiet girl's response to Sheryl Sandberg's Ban Bossy initiative

Just in case you've been feeling antsy and impatient to know my opinion on Sheryl Sandberg's most recent initiative, I thought I'd do the world a favor by finally sharing my two cents on this whole idea of banning the word bossy and thereby encouraging more girls with "leadership skills" to become, well, leaders.

And here, in a nutshell, is what I think: Why worry about the bossy girls? 

When I think back at the girls I went to school and high school with, or have worked with professionally for that matter, there were definitely a few of them that fit the category bossy. Some of them were quite smart too, and these girls and women, I'm sure have gone on to do great things in life, where their leadership skills come in handy.



But believe me, there were also bossy girls who were not particularly smart. Or particularly nice. Whose bossy-ness should never be confused with desirable leadership skills. Mean girls, I'm tempted to label them, because I'm pretty sure they're an institution. And honestly, the mere idea of giving girls like this free reign to dominate their peers - and under the auspices of feminism, at that - is just triple-o stooopid. I mean, these girls are the ones that so dominate the strange micro-cosmos that constitutes a school or workplace that they don't leave much social space for a segment, which I believe has far more potential than we give them credit for: The smart, quieter girls. And while we're at it, let's add the smart, quieter boys to that group too.


I honestly don't believe that we'll be doing these girls (or boys) a favor by banning the word bossy. Because they're not at all at risk of being labelled bossy. Don't even come close. In fact, this whole ban-bossy-hoolaballoo is more likely to do them a dis-favor, insofar that it confirms a, let's face it, very gender-biased and largely tautological idea of what constitutes a good leader. I mean, doesn't it strike you ass odd, that there is such a near-perfect fit between stereotypically "strong" male qualities and the qualities we have "agreed" make a good leader? Personally, I cry foul, and I bet if we adopted a more nuanced and analytical perspective on male and female successful leaders in different sectors, we'd find that their qualities can be articulated and accentuated in a whole bunch of novel and non-gendered ways.

I believe there are a lot of smart women and men out there whose leadership skills go unnoticed, because we're so set on the idea of what makes a good leader. Because their humbleness is somehow misconstrued as submissiveness. Because quiet reflection is decoded as a lack of stance and determination. Because their sensitivity is interpreted as an unproductive weakness. Because their disinclination to tell other people what to do is dismissed as an inability to lead. And that's just plain moronic.

I'm not saying banning bossy doesn't matter, because of course discourse matters and it matters that girls who feel inclined to speak up and stand their ground etc. etc. are encouraged to do so through positive, verbal recognition. I'm just saying that if we wanna start a real revolution, we should start valuing the smart, un-bossy, quiet girls.

Then we'd run the world. Only in a super nice and friendly way :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Day We Went Hiking At the Gorge

So, Johan's mom came for a visit last week, which meant we did a lot of exciting non-everyday stuff, such as hiking through a dramatic gorge in a friendly place called Hell's Gate.

When we arrived, a guard from The Kenya Wildlife Services stepped up to our car and declared: "You have to bring a guard to assist mama". Which, truth be told, was a little offensive considering the fact that Johan's mom was sitting right there in the passenger seat.

Anyway, once we got hiking, it turned out he hadn't exactly exaggerated about the ordeal awaiting us. In fact, on several occasions both Johan and I found ourselves reaching out for our guard's hand and asking for help.

Johan's mom, on the other hand, was totally bad ass, jumping off cliffs and into water puddles like it was no big deal.

Johan pestered the guard with lots of dad-questions underway about sedimentary rocks and stuff like that, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, thinking how one day he will make our teenage kids feel very embarrassed. They'll be like: "Daaad, we don't care about minerals and bedrock. Can't we just go to McDonalds?"

See? Here he is with his little man purse and hands at his waist :O) Aweeee!

On our way, Johan's mom spotted this really beautiful cave painting of a penis.

You know you hit the jackpot, if you've got a MIL who can appreciate a nice rendition of a penis, is what I've always said :)

We had the best guide ever, a guy named George, whom I'd really like to use as a personal coach whenever anxiety hits me, because this dude was so chill his mere presence lowered my heart rate.

I mean, see that puddle in the picture below? That was a bottomless puddle for all I know, and somehow he just made us plank ourselves between the two boulders and waddle across it. La-di-da.
I have no story to go with this picture, but I love how I look like a tombyish dare-devil - a thought that somehow appeals to me greatly even though I know it couldn't be farther from my true persona.


Also, hiking is super fun! It's like, you're so preoccupied with putting your feet in the right places and not falling into a ditch and getting stuck under a boulder for 127 hours so you have to amputate your own arm with a plastic knife and write a book about it and have James Franco play you in a movie, that you completely forget about the fact that you're exercising.

And here we are at the end of our hike. It looks kind of anticlimactic or awkwardly silent, but in reality it was kind of nice to just sit there and enjoy a coke and ponder: "Should I also get a banana?".

Friday, February 28, 2014

dog's balls, sex tapes and other such click bait

Thanks to the algorithms of Google, this blog space has inadvertently become the go-to source for a lot of people looking to get smarter on a true plethora of subjectsin particular dog's balls (as in, testicles) and the Pamela Anderson-Brett Michaels sex tape - both of them subjects, which I may or may not have blogged about once upon a time.

Anyway, a while back I started collecting some of the keywords that direct people to my little corner of the interweb, because guys, the stuff that drives traffic is interesting to say the least.

1) "Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe"
When people enter this, I'm pretty sure they're looking for Manet's 19th century masterpiece, and not the postmodern von Trapp family below by artist Pepe Smith, which I posted back in 2010. And yet, people seem to get all "forget Manet, let's check out this bent over naked dude" when they see my post.

(Speaking of which, don't you love how the mom is all: "Darling, what do you mean, this is not how kids at your school picnic?")

2) "Katie Holmes big legs"
Mowing on. To Katie Holmes big legs, to be exact. And it's true. I once blogged about Katie Holmes' big legs (in my defence, it comes up as one of Google's auto-complete options when you search for Katie Holmes) and I have thus contributed to the unhealthy internet obsession with this one, single imperfection to Katie Holmes' otherwise perfect physique.

Making other women feel bad about their bodies stinks, but here's a thought: I think it just surprises people that she has such good, sturdy legs when everything else about her is so dainty and Katherine Hepburn. And considering the body images dominating Hollywood, I say it's a welcome surprise. In fact, her legs make me like her even more :O)









3) "Show me a diagram of milk"
Interestingly, many people like to consult me on dairy, namely on what exactly makes whipped cream a colloid. Also, someone once commanded Google to "SHOW ME A DIAGRAM OF MILK" and Google was all "WTF, you're not the boss of us!" and just decided to send that person to my blog as punishment.




4) "Hand bra"
A hand bra? Does such a thing even exist? Yes, it does and Maria Carey once wore it with grace on the cover of OK magazine! A lot of people come to my blog looking for this and get rewarded, but come away empty-handed (pun intended) when they search for "Busty Sarah Carlson" and "Busty country girls", which also drives a lot of traffic.


5) "Chicken with no head survives"
Is that even possible, you wonder? Why, yes it is! Mike the headless chicken, whom I've blogged about at length here, did indeed live a good, long and healthy life after being decapitated.


6) "Man turned into panties" 
Was this person actually looking for a man who mysteriously transformed into a pair of panties, or was he a little hasty when he typed in his keywords in Google and meant simply "man turned on by panties"? Those are the kind of questions that keep me up at night.


7) "Just exactly how many are there?"
Which begs the question, how many what? I also wonder how "Fish holding plastic bags" is even possible. Can their fins withstand the weight?

8) "Cute Los Angeles souvenirs for toddler"
I sincerely doubt that whoever searched for this got any smarter after visiting my blog, so to prevent that from ever happening again, I'd like to propose these, which I find fully embody the city's driving under the influence/live strong and die young-glam kind of life style - while still being useful and suitable for your toddler.  






Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Now Believe That A Chinese Woman Was Actually Bit In Half

These are all from the National Geographic Found tumblr, where I accidentally spent a solid chunk of a full workday the other week. Oops.

Speaking of the last photo, Johan told me a story about a Chinese lady out on a night safari who was bit in half by a hippopotamus - apparently because it was so upset she snagged a photo of it using flash. I found the story questionable to say the least - until, that is, I saw the size and texture of the pearly-whites on that thing. (!)







Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Story in Which Wooden Chips Drop From My Lady Parts (and I decide to share more trivial and personal news)

OK, so admittedly that is one misleading headline, because of course no wooden chips have actually dropped from my vag. Instead I dreamt it, and although I once listened to an episode on This American Life where they concluded that no one should ever recount their dreams to other people because, in short, nobody cares!, I will go ahead and tell you anyway. (In part, because Johan always thinks my dreams are so fascinating. Whenever I tell him about a dream I had, he goes: "This is so fascinating, tell me more!")

So, I was in a public bathroom stall, the kind where there's a gap beneath and above the door, and as I rose from the toilet seat and was about to pull up my panties, little wooden chips started to drop from my you know what.

As luck would have it, there was a broomstick and a dustpan in said bathroom stall, and seeing I felt a bit awkward about the thought of people outside being able to see all the wooden chips on the floor, I immediately started sweeping it all up and disposing it in the toilet bowl (which, at second thought I probably shouldn't have done because most likely wooden chips are floaters).

 THE END.


So what does this mean, you ask? I have no idea. At one point it occurred to me that it might be a symptom of a semi-conscious worry of being barren or missing my window of child conception. You know, my ovaries drying up and turning into wooden chips and yada yada. It could mean something even more weird, so if you're a dream interpreter by profession, please do not let me know what this means. I think I kinda prefer not to know.

In other news, we have a very beautiful bright red mango at our house, which I think is so fascinating I feel tempted to parade it around our compound and ask everyone: "Will you look at this bright red mango?!" But then I remind myself that to Kenyans, mangoes are pretty much the equivalent of, say, a dinner roll, and thus may not be equally fascinating to them.

In additional news, I've just finished Dave Eggers' The Circle, which is by far the most apocalyptic piece of writing I have ever read. (Believe me, Kafka's Metamorphosis is like a cute little story about a bug, in comparison.) In short, it's about this 20-something woman who takes a job at The Circle - a corporation that's some sort of future fusion of Google and Facebook, and if you ever want to feel depressed and anxious about the social media imperative of sharing and the consequences of BIG DATA, then this is your go to read. I love Eggers, but this, my friends, gave me nausea. Also, it did not end on a happy note, as few apocalyptic novels are wont to do.

Also, this just in: I bought flowers. I have reached that age, where flowers make me deliriously happy and I look at this bouquet something like 50 times a day and it makes me smile inside. In somewhat related news, Johan has reached the age where he has taken up golf.


In breaking news, I've started taking classes at my gym, and you know what, I love it! I always thought I'd hate it because I have such poor coordination skills, but it turns out that the ladies I exercise with are even worse off than me. We have the most amazing instructor who keeps asking "Ladies, are we together?!" until he has the entire mirrored room roaring "YES PRESTONE, WE ARE TOGETHER!"

In general, this guy has many words of wisdom to share, my favorite being:


Sure, there's something slightly tautological to his way of reasoning, but nonetheless it resonates with me.

In our last segment for tonight, I'd like to share that I recently took it upon me to manually remove 75% of the down in our duvets because they were just too damn heavy and hot to sleep under. As a result they're now superbly lightweight, but the process, oh my god the process! It looked like I had been in a bar fight with a chicken!

Think twice before you slit open a duvet and remove down, is all I can say, and if I can impart just a few piece of advice on you then it's:
1) Don't try this at home unless you have a hoover and/or a very large lint roller, and
2) Try not to breathe. I'm still waiting for THIS to happen because of all the down I inhaled.


So, where did this odd mix of tidbits post come from, you may or may not wonder. Well, it occurred to me that the blogs I really like are the ones that are personal and heavy on trivial, every-day stuff. I love seeing pictures of people's grandparents and their half-consumed breakfast plate, and on the contrary I sort of feel meh about all those curated wish lists and gluten-free recipes. So I thought I'd cut down on all the quinoa and unprocessed grains in this blog space and get a tad more wheat-y and personal too :O)