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?
No, not Jesus (but he is still coming), I’m talking about el niño! It’s all anyone’s talking about right now in Kenya. There is a drought in Kenya, and the meteorologists announced a few weeks ago that “el niño rains” will come to save the day. Well I think they’re here, because I just got home from walking around town and I’m soaked. I went to town with a few colleagues after work to drink a cup of coffee, but on the way home I was caught in a rain storm. It’s Friday so there are a million people in town enjoying the beginning of the weekend, all trying to catch matatus home. That’s nice and all but it means there’s no room for me to stand under the cover of the nearby shops while waiting for my matatu. I figured it just meant I’d be first to hop in the matatu when it came, albeit sopping wet.
I was in Nairobi for a few errands this weekend, one of which was to go shopping for some clothes. I realized recently that my wardrobe was in pretty bad shape. A few months ago my Che Guevara shirt was stolen from the laundry line and last week my bike accident destroyed my only pair of jeans and one of my nicer shirts. I decided it was time to invest in some clothes.
After spending about $30 on a pair of new jeans I walked over to Nairobi’s Ngara district, where a friend of mine had said there were lots of street vendors selling second-hand clothing. As I approached the line of hawkers they all panicked, picked up, and ran (in like ten seconds flat). I wasn’t sure what made them flee, but it didn’t matter because they were back after a few minutes. In the meantime I had stumbled into an Indian bulk retail store and picked up 100 grams of garam masala for real cheap. In walking back towards the hawkers my eyes started to water and I thought I had rubbed some spices in my eyes until…
Boom! And all the hawkers were running again. Down the street I saw some smoke but couldn’t make anything of it. As I kept walking a police officer ran past me with some canister and then boom! Tear gas! I briskly walked away from the action and saw a big truck full of police officers. I thought, “this is crazy” and, as I had already bought one shirt for about two dollars, headed back towards Nairobi’s town center.