I can’t think of any reason why a police officer in Kenya should get a free ride in a matatu (minibus use for public transport). As far as I know there’s no law that says, “If you see a cop walking, give him a ride.” It happens all the time, though: some cop walking on the side of the road flags down a matatu and the guy jumps in. For some reason every non-Kenyan person I complain to has the gut reaction to tell me that its because cops “serve the public.” Um, hello? Which Kenya do you live in?
You’d think knowing Kenya is in the midst of the long rains I’d carry my umbrella everywhere; alas, another day walking home in the rain without an umbrella. I did have a minor epiphany about umbrellas while sitting in the matatu on the way home, though. I had just run a kilometer through Uthiru to the bus stop in a thick drizzle, trying to get to a matatu before the rain picked up. By now it was raining properly, and some poor suckers who had reached their stops had no choice but to get out and face the elements. We even saw one jamaa (guy) slip and slide down a muddy slope, dropping all the fruits he was carrying. Pole sana (so sorry…).
Strangely there was no rain in Westi (Westlands, in sheng), which I assumed to be my good fortune. I alighted the matatu at ABC place (a few kilometers from my stop) to do some grocery shopping and then walk home, one of my weekly routines. By the time I was done it was raining again, go figure. My groceries and I set off on foot, in the rain. I just kept thinking how funny it must be to see a white guy walking in the dark, in the rain, without an umbrella.
Several people asked me, “Hauna mwavuli?” (you don’t have an umbrella?), and some others even laughed. Plenty of cars drove by and sprayed me, to which I said, “Wewe!” (you!) but thought, “Asshole!” It’s my fault, and I sealed my own fate when I looked out the window that morning at 7 am and, seeing a clear, blue sky, left without my umbrella.
Here’s a novel idea: it’s May, and there’s a high chance of it raining (regardless of the color of the sky in the morning), why don’t I carry my umbrella with me everywhere?
Something is seriously wrong in Kenya. I rarely have problems with people over charging me or being abusive to me, but lately I’ve noticed that if I’m with black Kenyans those problems occur more often than when I’m by myself. A few examples…
There’s a great second-hand, open-air market just outside of Nairobi’s business district, Kikomba. You can get good shoes, shirts, bed sheets, pants, etc for really cheap in “Gikosh!” Remember the gay marriage hat I saw there one time? I spotted that when I was there with my Dutch friend Renske. I’ve been with all sorts of people, and the experience is always different:
- With white girl: People generally impressed by our Swahili — a man even told me, “Swahili yako imenibamba” (your Swahili made me happy, or “jazzed” him)
- With black girl: Someone yells, “Umeshika mzungu!” (you’ve “caught” a white guy) to my friend.
- With black guy: Someone asked him if he was my tour guide…