Nairobi – How another country changed my life

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It’s been quite a while since I checked in, school is wrapping up this week, for a couple weeks at least. I use the Timehop app to see how life has progressed and this week has been extra special. Two years ago, I flew to Nairobi, Kenya, Africa to visit a friend and help him settle into a new life, in a new country. It was a shifting point in my life, an absolutely eye-opening experience. This trip solidified my decision to pursue International Business as one of my majors.

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One of the first things I learned in Nairobi was that there is absolutely no point in being in a hurry. People park three deep and drive 6 across on 3-lane roads. It’s faster to walk somewhere then to drive, unless you can take the highway the entire way, but patience ends up being the most important.

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The second thing I learned was that simplicity is sometimes perfection. Kenyans don’t take their drinks very cold, unless it’s a Tusker, a favorite beer in Nairobi. Instead of dining out at the fanciest of places, I found that some of my favorite and most memorable meals cost less than $2 US, like the Chicken Sandwich and Krest (pictured) that I had from a local corner store/bakery, or the stew and Krest from the Baptist Church down the street.

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That isn’t to say that the fancier restaurants were off the list for the week, there was an awesome place just down the road from where I was staying that had amazing food. I tried not to repeat myself too much, but the Samosas were to die for, so I had them as an appetizer a few times that week.

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I didn’t go on any tour guided safaris. Instead I opted to have my driver for the week take me to Nairobi National Park with Josh and we took his little car that was barely meant to drive on flat terrain, and took it off-road through the park. The views were amazing, and we were able to drive so close to the animals, they were just as curious about us as we were amazed by them.

One of the biggest things I learned while on this trip was that nothing lasts forever. I learned this while flying home, and I learned this a few months later when the Westgate Mall was attacked by terrorists. I spent a lot of time at that mall, grocery shopping, dining, relaxing, and just roaming the stores, but a few months after my trip, the mall was no longer standing. Nothing lasts forever.

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I remember this trip like it was yesterday, and yes two years isn’t that long ago, so remembering such a trip shouldn’t be surprising. But it changed my mindset. Until I went on this trip, my international travel included Toronto and Blind River, Ontario, Canada. After this trip, I had been in Europe (Zurich & Brussels) on layovers and Africa where everything was different, but surprisingly familiar.

I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to take this trip, and as I plan for my next big trip in 2016, I get the same rush of excitement as I imagine flying to Germany, trying to decide where I want to go in the country and what I want to do. My check-ins may not be weekly, but I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy sharing them. This summer will be so busy with amusement parks, store openings for work, and food (lots of food!) I am bound to have some stories that I can’t wait to share.

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Ramen Rescue

I have been under the weather lately and this weekend is no exception. A week or so ago, I was off work hoping that this was merely a 24 bug that would come and go. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. It’s been a sort of come-and-go and this weekend it’s here, kicking and punching. But I have my own secret weapon; Ramen.

Everyone should be familiar with ramen, but in case you aren’t, it’s a plastic-wrapped noodle brick with seasoning. It’s full of sodium and over processed flour. It’s quite amazing, especially when you need a cheap replacement for Chicken Noodle Soup.

I won’t lie, every time I eat ramen, I find myself wishing that Netflix would bring back The Ramen Girl to streaming service. I love that movie so much, and when coupled with actually eating ramen, it’s a combo straight from god available from boil to bowl in three minutes.

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Today’s food. Really, all day.

I’m not one to just boil my ramen and seasoning and be happy. I like to add a little flavor to the dish. I’ve been playing with spice so much lately, that it only made sense to add some spice to my ramen as well. So today my ramen included garlic, red pepper flakes, turmeric, and masala. I’ve actually had two bowls today, so one had Garam Masala and the other had Mutton Masala. Both were quite delicious.

The heat of the pepper flakes help to clear my sinuses a bit, the garlic adds flavor, and the turmeric adds color with a light mustard taste. Blending that with water is saving my soul today. I’m a liter in and plan to drink a couple more before bed, hopefully it will knock this out by tomorrow. Thanks for your patience on my posts, I’ll be posting more often when I’m back to 100% and past my midterms.

A Little About Me

Thanks for stopping by. School is starting up for the spring semester and I was thinking now might be a good time to write a little bit about myself before digging into my coursework for the next eight weeks. My posting will not stop, I will still have the goal of a post once or twice a week at least, but I also want to make sure I’m posting things that people will want to read, this isn’t a diary after all.

If you haven’t gathered by the web address, my name is Aaron. I work full time in the footwear industry for Wolverine Worldwide as a Visual Merchandiser for the retail stores. Over the last couple years in my position, I have also worked to expand it into handling some of the marketing aspects outside of just banners in the windows. I like to work with the stores on events in their malls and try to find ways to drive business to the stores, it’s a fun challenge.

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Work encourages us to get outside and enjoy a bit of nature.

I also go to school full time. Luckily, my courses are online so I can adjust my studying as needed to accommodate my job. This was especially useful when I worked in retail at the store level. My field of study is actually a double major, Marketing and International Business Management. I have always wanted to go into marketing, but the International Business Management is a relatively recent development. As I have studied, I see that Marketing isn’t the glamorous world that so many portray it to be, it’s not all party planning, contests and giveaways. But as I have studied Marketing, I have still found myself so intoxicated by what it can be, I absolutely love it.

As I said before, the International Business Management major is a newer field of interest. Like many students I was studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, and I was happy with that, until my friend Josh moved to Nairobi for a year. He invited me to visit for a week and it was life altering. I know that sounds so cliche, but it changed my perspective on so many things that I knew immediately that a degree in Business Management wasn’t enough, it needed to be more, it needed to be global. If Josh had not invited me to Nairobi, I likely would not have come to this realization, a realization that only occurs when you break outside your borders. I’m not talking Canada or Mexico, they are neighbors, really getting outside of your comfort zone, that’s where you learn the most about yourself. More on that topic later, I promise.

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Nairobi National Museum February 2013

While working and studying occupy a majority of my time, I do my best to find time for friends and family, something I have learned recently is a lot easier than I realized. Over the last year, my time has become much more physical, as opposed to something mystical hanging out in the great beyond. I’ve really gotten into the swing of things. I used to not have a life outside of work and school, now I don’t have a life outside of work and school four days a week, but manage to have two full days, and an evening most weeks, when I play my cards right. After graduation next year, I don’t know what I will do with my time. Maybe I’ll get a job at Starbucks and learn how to make a latte, or work at the local amusement park on the weekends over the summer. Maybe I’ll just travel to Germany (a graduation present to myself) and then come home and get married, who’s to say for sure? But for now, I’m busy with work and school, but I have found a balance that works well for me.

So there is a little slice about me, work and school. I plan to share more as I continue forward with this blog, but for now, I have some Consumer Behavior to study.

No Need to Knead

I recently purchased a KitchenAid stand mixer, and while it is amazing, I found a recipe that skips the formality of a typical bread recipe, choosing to avoid the hook and spin of my mixer; a basic no-knead bread with only four ingredients. This recipe came with a lesson, one that I need as a regular reminder, perfection doesn’t come the first time, every time. Occasionally there may be a time when I get something right on the first try, but this bread was not one of those times. As I read the recipe, visions of artisan breads lined up on the shelves of a bakery populated my head. Instead, I ended up with a loaf that looked like a compressed map of Michigan.

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Sad Michigan Bread ~ although it did taste quite good

I like to succeed and this recipe has grown on me. In the last three weeks, I have baked at least half a dozen loaves of it, and I’ve had the pleasure of eating a couple slices myself. However friends and family eat it up so fast, I have a hard time grabbing a tiny end piece, let alone a full slice.

So I did learn that things get better with practice, and I’m quite excited that I have gotten as close to perfection as I think possible in regard to this bread. Ready to learn some patience with practice? This is the bread for you. Prep time is 14-26 hours. Yes, I am serious, and if you take the long road (26 hours), it will pay off immensely.

Here is what you need:

– 3 cups flour (some recipes say bread flour ONLY, but I’m a rebel and used All Purpose)

– 1 & 1/2 cups room-temperature water

– 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast

– 1 & 1/4 teaspoon salt

Simple enough, right? Mix the dry ingredients and add the water, stirring it all together until you have a sticky mound of dough. Solid enough for the spoon to stand, sticky enough to hang a picture on the wall.

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It’s ready… to rest

Transfer the dough to a lightly oil-coated bowl and loosely cover the bowl with some plastic wrap. Don’t go crazy and cut off the bread’s air supply, just rest the plastic wrap over the top of the bowl. Let it sit for 12-24 hours, and if you can help it I’ve found that a warmer room is better for the rising, my place is set to 70 and that seems warm enough, but it wouldn’t hurt to go a little warmer I am sure..

After 12-24 hours, place the dough on a lightly floured sheet and fold it twice, once vertically, once horizontally, then tuck the edges under to make a ball. Let it rest on lightly-floured parchment, loosely covered, for another hour.

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It looks good enough to eat, but wait!

after 40 minutes of resting, start heating the oven. You’ll want to pre-heat your dutch oven (seriously, go buy a dutch oven, you won’t regret it) before baking the bread. Set the heat your oven, with the dutch oven inside to 500 degrees F. I usually keep the top off for this process. Let it pre-heat for the last 20 minutes that the dough ball rises.

After the dutch oven has pre-heated transfer the dough ball to the dutch oven by flipping it over so the smooth side is down and the creases face up, it’ll make your bread look amazing when it’s baked. This flipping takes a little getting used to, so if you make a mess of it the first time or three, don’t worry. I do recommend that you have a wooden spoon nearby to quickly scrape the bread down, remember the dutch oven is 500 degrees so the bread will start baking as soon as it touches the surface.

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If it doesn’t settle right away, give it a little jiggle

Put the top on the dutch oven and place the entire container back into the oven, dropping the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake it for 40 minutes, remove the top and bake for another 20 minutes to brown the bread. That’s one hour of bake time total. Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a cooling rack for at least an hour.

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Listen to the bread crackle as it cools down

The smell will be so pleasant it will be tempting to cut into it immediately, but let the bread rest for an hour so that it doesn’t dry out. To help the time pass, I recommend listening to the crackling of the crust, it does this for about ten minutes. For the rest of the hour have a bottle of wine or two… Glass! Have a glass of wine or two and catch up on whatever is in your queue on tv.

We can all do with a lesson in patience with practice from time to time and this recipe will provide that with a delicious reward at the end. Have you made this kind of bread before? What was your experience? I hope that if you haven’t before, you’ll give this recipe a try and tell me how it goes!

Reflections and Resolutions

2014 was amazing. Really, it was filled with so many good things:

  • Hikes that carry into the night – thank goodness for phones that double as a flashlight!

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River view of High Rollaways with Ryan

  • New roller coasters to ride – I’ve always love roller coasters, but this year I was able to get some of the first rides on a few great new coasters.

 

  • New food and drinks – I love to think of myself as a foodie, grabbing photos I can “taste” just from the memory.

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Cheese inside a burger can’t be wrong            Photo Credit: http://www.stellasgr.com/

 

  • Driving/Flying around the country working with some amazing people – I’ve seen Illinois, California, New York, and Ohio just for work!

 

2015 has some big shoes to fill.

 

I thought of all the resolutions that I could make, but I want to keep things simple this year. I have two resolutions; disconnect and connect.

 

My resolution to disconnect will be a goal to shut my phone off, or at least in airplane mode, I need a camera after all. I want to create a “you had to be there” moment. Along those lines, I want to connect with friends and family more this year, to share those “you had to be there” moments.

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A day at Cedar Point

Continue reading Reflections and Resolutions