Monthly Archives: December 2014

Christmas away from home..

I’ll be spending my first Christmas away from East Africa, I’ve spent some in neighboring Tanzania some years back. This will be the first time I’m far away from family and friends in Kenya.

I made peace with it a long time ago. It’s the nature of travel and living abroad.

The weather in Houston is still nice outside. Not too cold but still hot enough to venture outside and even use air conditioning when driving. That might change in the next few weeks but for now I believe I made a good choice making Houston my home.

A pleasant surprise is I have 2 days off. I expected to be working in America on Christmas but that will not be the case, at least not at my place of work.

I’ll be spending the holidays with my Kenyan friends here in Houston. No concrete plans yet but you can bet there will be a barbeque somewhere or nyama choma as we call it. We did it over Thanksgiving and will be doing it again.

Gas or Petrol as we call it back home is really cheap right now here in Houston. I filled my car the other day with less than $35 for 16 gallons. It’s less than $2 dollars in some places. I’m not complaining at all. I’m filling up and driving around this city. Done over 1000 miles (1600Km) already in the 4 weeks I’ve had the Audi. It’s a huge city.

I’m grateful to my host for all that he’s done for me the 5 months I’ve been here and the friends I’ve made here. They’ve been my family away from home. I’m in good hands.

I look forward to 2015 and what it brings.

Happy holidays.

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Smartphone

My trusted Nokia E5 cannot continue being my primary phone. It’s lost the war. I have to admit I need a smart phone..Yes, I said it. It is working fine, it’s got data, I don’t mind it’s small screen but it’s time in America has come to an end. I need GPS on these complicated roads, I need some apps to send money back home on M-Pesa (our trusted mobile phone money transfer system) and guess what, the Nokia with it’s Symbian OS can’t hack it. So I’m headed the android way.

There is an app called Wave for my fellow country people to use to send money to M-Pesa that’s easy, cheaper than others (Poa pay, Western Union, Money-gram) and hassle free. Can’t wait to try it out when I get the smartphone.

I shopped online for a phone and got a HTC Inspire on Amazon. They shipped it and it keeps rebooting itself. So I have to return it and get my money back…little American ways. Return your phone back in Kenya and get your money back? You must be kidding 🙂

I’m still shopping for a HTC but don’t want to be bogged down by contracts. I don’t have credit anyway in this country so it’s not that I qualify anywhere.

Until then the Nokia is still in use.

I still have temporary plates on the Audi, the dealer was supposed to get the name changed on the title but hasn’t finished doing that. The plates expire today and I have to drive all the way across town to get new temporary plates for the next 4 weeks or so. I’m not complaining too much, just saying.

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The 1998 Audi A4 2.8 Sedan

I ran out of fuel the other day..Yes, in America of all places to run out of fuel..maaan!!!. I’m leaving work in the morning. I try to start the car, nothing, open up the hood, disconnect and connect back the battery, nothing. My Kenyan colleague finds me in the parking garage and we check out the ignition, then he suggests maybe I’ve run out of fuel. I thinking he’s joking but on closer inspection..guess what. That’s the truth.

Off we go to the nearest gas station near work. Buy a 2 gallon jerrycan, I load it up and back to the garage parking lot. Americans make life easy for everyone. The jerrycan had a mechanism to pour in the fuel without having to buy a funnel..Let’s just say my next stop was the gas station and I filled it up as much as I could..Apparently the gauge system is faulty. It shows I still have slightly over a quarter tank left. No worries, you live and learn. My trusted mechanic is going to look at it later in the week. Until then I’m using simple maths to see where I am on the fuel. I gallon doing roughly 20 miles. I put in 13 gallons. So I’ll keep checking the mile reader until I do about 200 miles then top it up.

Life in America continues..

Life continues..

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, what with working 7 days a week for the last 3 weeks. I work nights so I’m not missing out on much by working whenever there is overtime on the weekends. Getting enough sleep is the issue in this country. It’s hard to sleep a good 6-8 hours a day. I sleep during the day which is already hard enough, add a few errands and I’m lucky to get 5 hours. I’m not complaining, it’s just how it is.

I’ve been making trips to the junkyard to sort out my second hand car. It’s a DIY kinda thing, so I’ve a few tools (spanner,screwdrivers) and there are a few Audi’s in there (They are categorized as Imports). You basically pay a ‘entrance’ fee of $2, go in. Find your car of choice, strip it down, whatever you can, pay as you leave (like a supermarket) and you are on your way. Believe you me if you don’t have tools you’ll find enough kind mechanics in there to help you out. I didn’t like my front seats, so I went in there and got a mechanic to help me out for a fee. Half an hour later I was carting away my 2 front seats, engine cover and a few other miscellaneous items. All for about $70.

I’ve been shopping for warm clothes too. I just can’t seem to find my style here. Either the stuff is not good enough or the good enough stuff is too expensive. I don’t want to spend $100 on a winter jacket. So I finally found out Old Navy and Target store that stock quite reasonably priced quality stuff. They are not cheap but at least it’s reasonable.

I’ve checked up on the few flying schools around where I live. I’m yet to decide how to go about it but it’s a long process but foreign-born to get Transportation Security Administration (TSA) clearances. I’ll decide in the coming months on the way forward towards my flying goal here as costs vary greatly amongst different schools.

I’m grateful for the positive experiences so far. No negative experiences so far.

Ps. I’m loving driving a manual transmission car. I still don’t buy what my friends are saying about getting over that and getting an auto..Nope.

Buying a car

I bought a car recently. I’m mobile now which is a good thing in this city. You can’t survive without a car. I got a 1998 Audi A4 2.8. It’s manual transmission. It’s in OK condition. It needs work but the best thing for me is that I bought it cash. I don’t want to get into car debt. I’ll spend money on it to get it into top shape but I don’t mind that.

The next thing is to have the title in my name. The dealer is arranging that and in a few days I should have my Texas plates but it costs money to do that. I didn’t know that. Now I know.

Insurance is a requirement. I went online and somehow managed to get $48 Geico insurance. The minimum required by the state. It’s for 6 months then I’ll have to renew. Convenience at it’s best.

Gas or petrol is cheap currently. I fueled the other day for $2.37 per gallon which is not bad at all. I saw $2.34 this morning so that’s a good thing. I’m not complaining on that front at all.

I’ve had to get an EZ Tag which is a prepaid chip on the windshield that saves you time on tollways. I’ve paid cash the last few times I’ve used the freeway and it was tiring to say the least. The queues can be crazy at times. So I’m glad that is sorted.

The crazy thing in America or this city is that I have schedule an oil change or wheel alignment. I can’t just drive to my mechanic’s place like I used to in Kenya.

I got my car on craigslist.com Houston, I also checked cars.com. One of my friends is a dealer here in Houston and he took to the auction lot to see what they had. Nearly a thousand cars repossessed by financial institutions for non payment of sorts. They didn’t have many imports (Non American) that I was interested in. I was looking for a VW Golf. I didn’t get any all over. The ones available were too expensive for my starter budget. It is surprising the number of Toyota Camry’s on the roads here. Used ones are very affordable too.