Book review: The girl with seven names

I rarely read books more than once but this one I’ve read 3 times. That’s because the writing is so good and the story so jaw dropping it’s unbelievable that it’s based on a true story. If you’ve never read any literature about escaping from North Korea you need to read this book.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’ll just give a general outline. The book tells the story of how a young girl escapes from North Korea and eventually makes it into South Korea after having to live life on the run, taking on pseudonyms to avoid being tracked down and sent back, thus the seven names.

But its not merely the account of the escape which is of course fascinating. Its a very personal story of her family, living and surviving under the communist regime and what basically amounts to the cult of the ruling Kim family. I learnt a lot about what it means to live under this oppressive regime and about the politics that govern that part of the world.

The book is very well written and reads like an adventure story except in this case its very real. I googled the writer after I was done reading and listened to talks she’s given just to confirm that this could be something that actually happened.

The first time I finished reading the book I was like woah what did I just read? And I went right back to the beginning and re-read it immediately. Which I have never done before.

Its a great read! 5/5 stars.



I lost 10 kilos this year!

Yes I did! And how did I do it you ask? 3 words: Low carb diet.

Early this year I was in some distress over my weight after realizing that I was hovering near 80kgs. I had been generally weighing in at 79kgs and at my heaviest I touched 81kgs. I have no idea how I got back to this weight, yes back to this weight which I last weighed in about 2007, 10 years ago. At that time what made me realize that I was overweight was because I had to buy a size 18 pair of jeans and I was like whaaat?? Before that I had been wearing size 16 which I still considered big for me since I had been a size 14 most of my life. I had also gone on holiday around that time and we took many pictures which when I looked at them afterwards showed my weight gain, I looked positively fat. Those photos were the last straw,  I knew I had to do something about my weight.

At that time the approach I took was to strictly restrict my diet, I cut out most sugar and ate small portions, and I went to the gym religiously. And in 3 months I cut the 10 kilos. I was so focused on my regime that I didn’t even realize I had lost the weight until I started getting compliments from people, then I weighed myself and was like yaaaay!! I stopped going to the gym immediately lol! I maintained my diet restrictions for a while but of course they fell away with time and apparently 10 years later, I found myself here again, facing my weight gain on the scale.

Well, the idea of diet restriction and going to the gym was just too much for me this time round. Just the thought of it exhausted me. Besides which I’m in my forties now, so I probably needed a new approach. As I was mulling over how to go about it, trying to cut my sugar and doing some small workouts at home, I stumbled across articles on low carb high fat (lchf) diets.

The idea behind lchf is to train your body to use fat as a fuel for the body rather than sugar/glucose. You deprive your body of sugar and feed it fat. This means cutting out all sugar, so no sodas, juices etc. No sugar in your tea or coffee of course. You also cannot eat carbs, because feeding the body carbs is equivalent to feeding it sugar. It converts the carbs directly to glucose, which spikes your insulin, and insulin is the fat storage hormone, so your body is storing fat. Which of course you do not want. So no carbs. That means no bread, rice, potatoes, cookies, doughnuts, fries, pasta, pizza, cake, cereals etc

What can you eat since you have eliminated basically all the food groups you have been eating 🙂 ? You eat mostly protein, some vegetables and fat. Breakfast would typically be eggs, maybe bacon, some veggies and alot of avocado. For other meals you have a protein and salad. So chicken, fish or any kind of red meat accompanied by a salad. You can snack on nuts, but be careful of the amount because nuts are so high in calories. I also snack on popcorn occasionally.

Its not an easy transition to make because you most probably will have to first wipe out your whole pantry of all the carbs you have in there. You will have to change the way you do your shopping and will suffer from hunger pangs initially, maybe the first week. But after that your body adapts and you don’t even get hungry anymore, because you’re keeping your insulin levels low, and spiked insulin is what triggers hunger pangs. Its a good diet for diabetics because of this aspect.

The best news is that you don’t have to be on the diet all the time, you can do a month at a time, or 2 weeks at a time. I was doing about a month on and 2 months off lol! But because the diet is so effective, on the month I was on I was losing 5 kilos easy. I lost the 10 kilos by about October of this year. It took me 6 months or so because the first month I was able to get on the diet proper was in May.

You can check out this website for more info if you’re interested. I’m not paid to promote this site, its just a site I like especially because they post success stories which are motivating to read on those days when you’re on the diet and are tempted to have a soda. I also came across this article on the popularity of the diet in Silicon valley while writing this post.

I am so happy to have found this new way of losing weight that actually works, is good for my overall health, is easily doable, and I don’t have to permanently be on it, just on and off, its great!

I am now weighing in at an average of 72 kilos and on my light days I weigh in at 71 or 70kgs. At my height of 5’6″ (169cm) this puts my BMI around 25 which is still in the overweight range. I still need to lose about 5kgs more to get into the normal range which is 24 and below. But that will have to be in the new year since we’re now into the festive season where there shall be eating galore 🙂

Enjoy the season everyone and a very merry Christmas to all!!

Book review: When God winks on love

I absolutely love this book, its chicken soup for my soul so to speak. The author, Squire Rushnell, has a whole series of these books that concentrate on coincidences in our life which he says do not happen by accident but are orchestrated by God, thus Godwinks.

This one on love has absolutely heartwarming stories on how people from all walks of life found love in their life by “coincidence” including the author himself who found his happily ever after having gone through 2 divorces. Its an uplifting book and an easy read because its a series of short stories as opposed to one long novel. So if you’re looking for some light reading, this is the book for you.

RETURN TO EDEN: ‘Agrihoods’ Provide Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms – Not Golf Courses

Would love to see a development like this in Nairobi, we have way too many golf course developments going on.


Source –

– California’s first farm-to-table new home community just opened. Called “The Cannery,” it’s a residential project designed and put together by The New Home Company. Designed with a seven acre urban farm near the center of downtown Davis, this 100 acre project is considered to be the very first agrihood built on what used to be industrial land.

The community is also home to 547 houses, all of which are energy efficient; each one is solar-powered and comes equipped with electrical car power outlets.

This is great, initiatives like these need to start happening all over the world, and the fact that somebody has now done it shows the rest of the developed world that it’s possible. Instead of building normal residential communities, why not create something sustainable?

Earthships, tiny homes, weatherproof greenhouses, organic farming and more all seem to be part of a larger…

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Book Review: The emancipation of Robert Sadler

This is an amazing book about a man born in 1911 in South Carolina. He was sold into slavery not once but twice, by his own father at the age of 5. This despite the fact that the emancipation proclamation had already been issued many years earlier (about 1862).

The book takes us through his experiences in slavery from the age of 5 till 14 when he escaped. Then on to his life as a free man. He struggles with freedom and at one point even decides to go back, finding the free world too difficult and unfamiliar to navigate. He eventually becomes a preacher and lives a life of great faith, helping others.

What I found so captivating about the book is how it tells the story of Robert and God throughout. The reader is able to see how, through people and events in his life, God was slowly drawing him, showing him he cared. And how these events eventually lead to Robert becoming a man of great faith.

The book is very well written and easy to read, I could barely put it down. This despite the fact that I was reading it for the second time. I first read it about 20 years ago, a borrowed copy from a friend. I was reminded of it after watching the movie Amazing Grace, which tells the story of how William Wilberforce struggled over many years to get the bill outlawing slavery passed in the British parliament. I googled the title online and was pleasantly surprised to find it available on Amazon.

It has some underlying analogies to real life, in areas where we have become so accustomed or enslaved to certain ways of living and thinking. Change is difficult and we find ourselves wanting to go back to what is familiar, even though it is not beneficial to us and we need to go forward to better things. Think about an employee trying to become an entrepreneur. Or the Israelites on their way to the promised land, who frequently complained about the new challenges they were encountering and wished to go back to Egypt, to the familiar. Freedom has a price.

All in all the book is a great read!

Kenya doctors strike: My view

Today (17 Feb 2017) is day 75 of the ongoing doctors strike that has caused mayhem and raised temperatures everywhere. I thought I’d give my 2 cents worth.

My first instinct is to support the doctors because the public health sector is in serious need of overhaul.  The doctors have complained of understaffed and under equipped hospitals leading them to simply ‘preside over death’ in their own words. In some cases basic supplies like gloves are not available, endangering the doctors and patients lives. Medicines are not available so patients have prescriptions they cannot fill, or they have to go to private pharmacies which they may not afford.

The doctors are demanding a pay increase which they say the government promised in their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed in 2013. This increase has been reported to be as high as 300%  in the media. The government has offered a 40% increase and insists no CBA was ever signed and therefore this is not a legal document. The increment has been refused by the doctors. Resulting in a stalemate with the public caught in between. Are the doctors greedy or is the government unreasonable?

The negotiating process is made more complicated by the fact of devolution which has been implemented starting 2013 in accordance with the new constitution voted in 2010. So who are the negotiating parties? Doctors and county governments? Or doctors and the national government?

This strike has made me look up all kinds of articles on unions, governance, civil society,politics and power. There is no government (or any employer) that will just give its people some kind of benefit without them demanding it. Thus the necessity of the existence of unions and civil society organizations. Power cannot go unchecked otherwise it will go to all sorts of extremes. As the famous saying goes, power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s why the executive always has to have checks on it’s power, mostly in form of the judiciary. But if the judiciary is compromised, it absconds this duty and starts behaving like an arm of the executive, enforcing its power against the hapless citizens.

When Judge Hellen of the labour court carried out her threat to jail the leaders of the doctors union, this is what it looked like to me. Fortunately enough everyone was horrified at this event which made its way into the international media. Ministry of Health officials relented, the decision was appealed at the Supreme court level and the union officials were released 2 days later. As it stands now the matter is in the Supreme court docket.

In retrospect I don’t fault her decision. She was acting in accordance with standard procedure that has been followed in these cases. We have seen this in cases of teachers union strikes and the ongoing lecturers strike. The governments MO is to take a hard stance, after a while salaries will not be paid, the strikers feel the pinch and eventually relent and go back to work with no or very little concession from the government.

My only prayer is that the public interest remains well represented so that at the end of this saga we don’t have well paid doctors going back to work in hospitals that are still not equipped to deliver the services required.

I must state that in this period my son fell sick at some point and being the middle class insured Kenyan that I am I was able to take him to a private hospital where he was promptly treated. So the people suffering in this whole scenario are poor Kenyans who compose a big section of the population. I pray for their sake,and mine also, that the resulting consensus provides a solution that will bring a much needed overhaul to the public health sector that will bring relief to all Kenyans.

Day 88 – 2nd March 2017

A scheduled update was given today in the Supreme court following the last mention on 15th February. Still no consensus has been arrived at. The faith based organisations are now involved in the mediating effort (taking over from the KNHCR and LSK) through an inter religious body known as the Inter Religious Council of Kenya. The presiding Judge Martha caused laughter when she expressed her relief at the involvement of the church, saying this is a matter that requires divine intervention.

The parties have asked for 2 more days to enable them reach a consensus and a mention date has been set for next Tuesday (7th March). Once again there was an emphasis on the unresolved issues being salary and training for the doctors. Where is the public’s interest in all this?

See local media coverage on this here.

Day 93 – 7th March 2017

Still no deal.There is a sense of exhaustion with the never ending process now. I did not see live coverage of the court proceedings as has happened before.

The inter religious council that was acting as mediator reported that the deal was 98% done and only one or two issues needed to be agreed on. Interestingly, this is the same thing the previous mediators had said. So they’re are some sticky issues that are apparently proving to be quite….sticky.

The government presents the issue to be all about the money but the doctors insist that its about more than that. The government has become increasingly hostile, accusing the doctors of taking them for fools. They have fired some doctors and threatened to replace them with foreigners.

I’m so disheartened to see how the negotiations have degenerated into power and ego plays, though I suppose that’s to be expected. What about the issue at hand, the health sector that needs reviving? There is of course a more over arching issue at hand which is what is more and more being described as a crisis of capitalism, described in this article here more eloquently than I ever could.

It reminds me of the famous illustration of wise King Solomon arbitrating between 2 women to decide who the child belonged to. He ordered that the child be killed so that the real mother could be revealed.

King Solomon

My fellow Kenyans, the child belongs to all of us and we need him/her to stay alive and grow for all our benefit. Let us come together and chart the best way forward for the good of all.

14 March 2017

Today is day 100 of the strike and it looks like there is a deal. Finally. The speculation is that the government’s hand was forced since the president is due to give a state of the nation address tomorrow.