Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Matatu in the rain

The other day, I thought I’d beat the Kenyan traffic, so I left work at 3:15pm. Figured I’d be home before 4pm and I’d have a relaxing afternoon. So I caught the bus and about half way home, I got a call on my cell phone – an interview I’d been waiting for all day. So I pulled out my notebook and scribbled down notes while riding along. We spoke for about 15 minutes. Then I hung up and waited for my stop. It never came. After 15 minutes or so, I looked around and realized I really wasn’t anywhere near what I was used to. By this time it was close to 5pm. “Excuse me, do you know if the Yaya Centre is coming up?” I asked the guy next to me. “Oh we left it behind long ago,” he answered. Ha. So much for getting home early. I got out then and there and found myself in one of the "people’s" neighbourhoods, let’s say, where tin shacks grew out of the muddy, garbage-filled streets. Paths, I should call them, because there was no tarmac. Then, as I waited for a bus going back the other way, it started pouring rain. It's the rainy season in Kenya, meaning every other day it spontaneously starts pouring buckets! A jolly old guy next to me let me stand with him under his umbrella. All the buses coming through, as well as their smaller, ghettoer versions, the minivan Matatus, were full. I climbed around in the soggy red clay dirt with my high heels, looking totally out of place. We reached a place further up the hill where we caught a matatu. When you climb into one of these things, you feel you can never get out again because they are crammed with people so tightly and I always manage to put myself in the corner furthest from the door. Given the traffic on the main road, the matutu made a U-turn and drove off onto a side street, where we got stuck behind some car stuck in the middle of the road. The back door of the van kept flying open. When it didn't, the passenger door couldn't seem to close. Everytime we went over a bump, we all went flying in the air, our heads banging against the rickety sides of the van. I think I got home around 6pm...

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