Say Cheeze!


Good food, engaging conversations with pleasant company are the most essential parts of an enjoyable and memorable time. My all time favourite moment. For this year’s Christmas do, I was put in charge of making one of the desserts – Pineapple crumble for twenty people. Correction, I requested to make it. It is my much loved dessert. It is easy to make and as it bakes, it fills the house with a scrumptious feel good aroma that lasts for days. The result is always perfect and I don’t just say so myself. (Smile and a wink)

Food moves the senses. You smell it from the kitchen where it is stewing or baking or steaming or frying or roasting or grilling. It could be in your kitchen or mum’s or Aunt’s or sisters or a friend’s backyard grill or a restaurant. Then the anticipation builds as the company expected begin to arrive. Warm hugs, kisses, smiles, laughter rings out –  cheerful faces, glowing faces, growing older faces, caring faces, new faces, blank faces, concerned faces, absent-minded faces, troubled faces; our stories written in plain sight.

Chinua Achebe in this book ‘Things Fall Apart’ says,

A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to redeem them from starving. They all have food in their own houses. When we gather together in the moonlight village ground, it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so. Let us find time to come together physically and enjoy the power of togetherness. Let’s smile not because we don’t have problems but because we are stronger than the problems.”

Yes indeed we don’t come together because our lives are perfect like my pineapple crumble. We come together because of the kinship we have with each other; one that makes us stronger together than apart. However in this global village we live in, who are our kin? Have we redefined what social means, what home means? Pico Iyer in an excerpt of his Ted Talk – Where is home? he illustrates the point in the best way.

“Where do you come from?” People are always asking me and they’re expecting me to say India, and they’re absolutely right insofar as 100 percent of my blood and ancestry does come from India. Except, I’ve never lived one day of my life there. I can’t speak even one word of its more than 22,000 dialects.

“Then where were you born and raised and educated” I’m entirely of that funny little country known as England, except I left England as soon as I completed my undergraduate education.

“Where do you come from? Where do you pay your taxes? Where do you see your doctor and your dentist?” I’m very much of the United States, and I have been for 48 years now. Except, for many of those years, I’ve had to carry around this funny little pink card with green lines running through my face identifying me as a permanent alien. I do actually feel more alien the longer I live there.

“Which place goes deepest inside you and where do you try to spend most of your time?” I’m Japanese, because I’ve been living as much as I can for the last 25 years in Japan. Except, all of those years I’ve been there on a tourist visa, and I’m fairly sure not many Japanese would want to consider me one of them.

“Where’s your home?” I think about my sweetheart or my closest friends or the songs that travel with me wherever I happen to be. And I’d always felt this way, but it really came home to me, some years ago when I was climbing up the stairs in my parent’s house in California, and I looked through the living room windows and I saw that we were encircled by 70-foot flames and three hours later, that fire had reduced my home and every last thing in it except for me to ash. And when I woke up the next morning, I was sleeping on a friend’s floor. If anybody asked me then, “Where is your home?” I literally couldn’t point to any physical construction. My home would have to be whatever I carried around inside me.

In so many ways, I think this is a terrific liberation. Because when my grandparents were born, they pretty much had their sense of home, their sense of community, even their sense of enmity, assigned to them at birth, and didn’t have much chance of stepping outside of that. And nowadays, at least some of us can choose our sense of home, create our sense of community, fashion our sense of self, and in so doing maybe step a little beyond some of the black and white divisions of our grandparents’ age.

The number of people living in countries not their own now comes to 220 million, and that’s an almost unimaginable number. This great floating tribe of us who live outside the old nation-state categories is increasing so quickly, by 64 million just in the last 12 years, that soon there will be more of us than there are Americans. Already, we represent the fifth-largest nation on Earth.

Where you come from now is much less important than where you’re going. More and more of us are rooted in the future or the present tense as much as in the past. And home, we know, is not just the place where you happen to be born. It’s the place where you become yourself.


The hours fly by fast. Food is eaten, drinks are had in plenty, dessert eaten scrumptiously, conversations had; deep, light, hard, feeling, uplifting ones. There has been singing and dancing in celebration of the season. The mood is tranquil and tender; like a warm blanket of love has engulfed us and in this moment all is well with the world. In this moment whichever crises one was facing; loss, fear, heartache, self-condemnation, uncertainty, illness, financial hardship, feels a little lighter – brighter. And before you know it the sun is setting signalling the end of the day. I see happy faces, loving faces, pleased faces, calm faces, renewed faces; new story is being written. As we begin to wrap up Nyokabi the host yells out,

“Let us take a photo and capture the moment!”

She could not be more right. This is a moment worth capturing. We arrange ourselves and the camera phones are whipped out. A good Samaritan offers to take the photos so that no one is left out.

“Say CHEEZE!” The cameras flash and we are all smiles.

“Now let us do a crazy-look one!” Someone says.“Say CHEEZE!” We twist ourselves into odd shapes and make funny faces. Click. Click. Click.

We will go back to our lives as they were in an imperfect world, but this picture perfect moment, frozen in time will carry its significance for a while longer – make its way to our social media outlets. We will share the photos with pride and glee. In the same way others will share theirs with us. This is because with all the challenges we have faced and overcome this year, with probably more to come, we will look back at the photos, smile and tally our blessings over and over again.

As I sign off, I leave you with Sandi Patti’s – Love will be our home. Click link and listen on YouTube.

If home is really where the heart is
Then home must be a place that we all share
for even with our difference our hearts are much the same
And where love is we come together there.

Wherever there is laughter ringing
Someone smiling, someone dreaming
We can live together there
Love will be our home.
Where there are children singing
Where a tender heart is beating

We can live together there
Love will be our home

With love our hearts can be a family
And hope can bring this family face to face
And though we may be far apart our hearts can be as one
When love brings us together in one place.

Wherever there is laughter ringing
Someone smiling, someone dreaming
We can live together there
Love will be our home.
Where there are words of kindness sp
Where a vow is never broken
We can live together there
Love will be our home

Love will, love will be our home
Love will, love will be our home
Love will, love will be our home
Love will, love will be our home

PS – I dedicate this blog post to my family in Toronto, Canada from me in Nairobi, Kenya. And though we may be far apart our hearts can be as one.


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