Tunachukua Mathree, And Other Lessons Learned

I’ve got a new zinger for my Swahili street lingo arsenal: tunachukua mathree (we’re taking a matatu)! In Swahili tatu means “three”, so a matatu in sheng is a “mathree.” This new response is way better than getting upset because, in addition to leaving everyone in the vicinity laughing, it establishes several things all in one go:

  • I’m not a tourist
  • I know sheng
  • I don’t want a taxi

I guess it’s a new tactic I’ve developed in the last few weeks, just in time for Randi’s visit. One thing that peeves me about being white in Nairobi is that everyone thinks you want a taxi. I’m pretty sure I’m a statistical out lier, but I really hate taking taxis. Unless it’s late at night or someone is dying, I’d rather take a matatu. Maybe I’ve turned over a new leaf, or maybe I’m just in a good mood because Randi is here; in any case, I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson.

In other news, I think I made peace with the little girl I yelled at the other day. I still feel bad about the first encounter, but I think in the future I’ll be better. That little girl hangs around Mama Ngina street in Nairobi’s business district, which just so happens to be next to one of the coffee joints I frequent (Java House). She ran over as soon as she saw me:

Beggar girl: “Please buy for me something…
Me: “Ngoja, unanikumbuka?” (Wait, do you remember me?)
Beggar girl: “Hapana” (No)
Me: “Haujaniambie jina lako” (You didn’t tell me your name)
Beggar girl: “Ninaitwa Alice” (I’m called Alice)
Me: “Ulikuwa shule leo? (Were you in school today?)
Beggar girl: “Hapana, tulifunga 28th” (No, we closed on the 28th of November)
Me: “Oh, sawa” (Oh, ok)

I reached in my pocket to get some coins but all I had was ten shillings (enough for a cup of tea). I told her there were no more coins, and she asked me to go get change, or go buy her some flour or sugar in the grocery store. I just told her, Sorry, you’re just not lucky. Maybe another day!

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