I saw something funny today — I see funny things most days actually, but I’ve been meaning to write about this one. According to the stickers on the window inside this matatu (minibus used for public transportation), not only is it driven well, it:
Does not carry excess passengers
Is operated by respectful, caring, and neat crew
Lucky me! But of course, who am I kidding? They can’t fool me: this matatu is dirty, slow, uncomfortable, and it is completely kama kawaida (as usual). Ok, it’s not hard to find a matatu obeying the watu 14 (14 people) law, but then you get whiplash because the driver thinks he’s qualifying for the Indy 500. Or, your driver is competent but the makanga (conductor) is rude and or over charges you. Let’s just be honest with each other: there is something wrong with every matatu in Kenya.
I deal with these guys every day. The other day I was waiting at the matatu stage nearest to my house (about 1.5 km) and a matutu going towards ILRI stopped to let off passengers. I was a bit far from where it had stopped so I started running to catch up. As I got closer the door dude told me, “Fasta fasta, wewe!” Excuse me? I’m already running! I just told him back, almost instinctively, “Usiniambie ‘fasta fasta,’ hakuna kitu kama hiyo. Nimekimbia, bwana (don’t tell me “fasta fasta,” there’s nothing such as that. I’ve run, man). I guess I’m a young whippersnapper so I can handle it, but it pisses me off because they do it to old ladies carrying babies and vegetables, etc.
Hiyo ni tabia mbaya lakini nimezoea (that is bad behavior but I am used to it)!
It’s been my observation over the last two years that you don’t go to a restaurant if you want to eat a tasty chapati. Much like the most delicious burritos in Southern California are found in “hole in the wall” Mexican food joints, the tastiest chapatis are found in vibanda (makeshift restaurants made from aluminum panels) all over Kenya. It’s a well-established fact: if you want a nice, hot, fresh chapati like you’ve never tasted before, it has to be cooked over a wood fire on a pan of questionable cleanliness by a lady on the side of the road.
I live in Westlands, an uppity suburb of Nairobi where there is a lot of work being done to make new housing and business complexes for upperclass Kenyans and expatriates. These shacks pop up to meet the demand of the day laborers who do work on the construction projects around the neighborhood. There was no food in the house this morning (and today was a public holiday, Kenyatta Day), so I walked over to the junction up the road and had a chapati and a cup of chai. People driving by must think I’m crazy, but everyone there knows me already — I buy milk every day from one dude, four chapati on Saturday mornings from one laday, and sometimes I even go there for lunch (greens, beans, etc, all for twenty shillings or so). The guys even shout Niaje?! (what’s up) when I walk by.
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.