I am full. I am tired. I am chatting a million people. Lol. Lie. I am chatting five people. One is hormonal. The other is still at work. The other is from shovelling snow. The other one is complaining of too much work. The other one is lamenting over unpaid work. Millennials. We have problems. I want to sleep. But I won’t until I do this.

The past few weeks have been pretty intense. I moved jobs thus I had to change my commute. I miss the glorious Waiyaki Way, full of splendour and roadworthy public service vehicles. I had never taken it for granted — the fact that the Waiyaki Way commute was awesome. But now I think I should have appreciated the matter a bit more. If you know me well enough, you know I was the girl who said she would rather not work away from Westlands. I would leave the house anywhere after 8 am and arrive right on time. Well, the universe has a funny way of making a point. I was thrown smack in the middle of Karen.

Right where it would be hardest to commute. But then again it was not the universe. I would have chosen to stick to Westlands just as simply but I made a choice. A choice to get out of my comfort zone. Here are eight things that January commuting has brought my way.

SACCOs, SACCOs and more SACCOs

DAKIKA SACCO. KIDAKI SACCO. KIDATHO SACCO. LANKANA SACCO. PAKIN ALICIA SACCO. DAKABO SACCO. KIDAGI SACCO. Man. Whoever told matatu owners that they had to join SACCOs clearly made their minds run wild. You can go ahead and complete the acronyms. What in the world is PAKIN ALICIA? Anyone? I will give you my most prized possession if you answer that one. I wish my phone camera was not hazy and whatnot, I would have documented these things better. (Also my most prized possession is that phone with a hazy camera, so you probably do not want it.) Honestly, there are too many matatus and SACCOs for such a short distance. There only 16 kilometres between home and work according to Google Maps. That is what happens when we are all hustling.

Appreciate the traffic police at the corner

I know, I know. They take bribes. But, my friend, that is the reason you will never be forced to sit in weird positions in a matatu, because that cop plays his role. You do not want to be part of my commute between Kikuyu and Karen. We are packed like chicken headed for slaughter. And no, the matatu will not set off until every nook and cranny is filled by a human being. So you can complain all you want, you can stand beside the PSV for as long as you want, but the matatu will not move until four extra people are willing to board the already full matatu. Here, I found the planks of wood I first saw in my Eldoret-Kesses commute. The planks of wood that serve as extensions of the existing seats.

No hurry in Dagoretti

Meanwhile, the matatu crew will take tea offered by some girls from the market and huddle together in an empty matatu. Sometimes, there will be one kange who will want to express his opinion on your dressing over the window. There is this preacher guy at the market who likes to ‘preach’ while abusing random passengers. I find it hilarious. But I know I should not laugh. He was probably a fine chap before whatever happened to him messed up his mental capacity. Sigh. Sometimes, both the driver and his turnboy will completely disappear much to the chagrin of my fellow passengers.

Kai matoi mokire wira? (Don’t they know that they came to work?)

Ni tuonio iria irathie! (Let us be shown the one that is leaving!)

Who knows where they go to? All I know is that they surface in no time and get in the business of getting the ramshackle vehicle to make it to Dagoretti market or Karen in one piece. The fifteen minutes wasted are enough to bring a drunkard in the half a seat next to you (yes, some people in Dagoretti drink that early), a Maasai dude with a toothpick in his mouth at that time of day or a random chick just trying to get by like you. I now have permanent mates I see every day. Pretty soon, we’ll be pals.

Did you say old? You have no idea what an old matatu looks like.

If you have never sat in a matatu and waited for it to be pushed by the kange before you set off, you know nothing. If you have never got out of a matatu looking like you just walked through a sandstorm in the Kalahari, shut up. I can hardly recycle jeans these days. If you have never had to hang on to dear life as the metallic contraption that resembles a door failed to close for you to sit right, then you have got to listen to me.

I have travelled in a matatu with the door wide open, because it would not budge when the kange tried to open it. So he figured we’d all enjoy the breeze between Dagoretti and Karen. I mean, the air out there is fresh, homey. They do not call them leafy suburbs for nothing. Also, people who live in leafy suburbs don’t need matatus. They have their own cars. Thus we, the travellers coming from dormitory lands, end up in the rejects masquerading as matatus. I have sat at the back of a matatu where the back door was not quite locked and the seat was not firmly held on to the floor.

And there’s nothing you can do about it. Unless you learn how to drive, Shiku.

I’m sweet but not today

That was a matatu sticker that was staring me in the face today. This is the most interesting thing about these matatus; stickers. The messages range from bible verses to mchongoano and weird quips about women.

Hugs ni za konda, kisses wachia dere.

Mbona ya nje ni tamu?

Hata uwe fundi aje huwezi unda breaking news.

Kaa square.

I had actually written most of them down, but then I forgot I had saved them in a memo and reset my phone. I think the reason these mats have so many stickers that we saw in earlier years is because they are the rejects of main roads. They were new and cool, plying cool routes and then they broke down and escaped to these roads where no one regulates anything. Between laughing at these stickers made by hand and daydreaming about how this landscape looked like in the days of Karen Blixen, I have little time to do anything else. You cannot sleep during such short trips or even read a book right. I will stick to reading the matatu stickers.

Money, money, money

Money! If you just sang that money, money song from The Apprentice, high five. Basically, I spend way more than I spent when I was in Westlands. It is safe to say I spend double. Hopefully I will finally gain weight, now that I have cut down a bit on my walking. Sometimes, you will meet with a bad kange who will want to hang on to your change. And he will pretend like he does not owe you anything. So I have perfected the art of sitting in the mat until I am given my due. To avoid this little drama, I make sure I have change all the time. Sometimes it is so hard to find change, I end up turning the house upside down looking for coins. One time I went round the entire Dagoretti looking for a KCB Mtaani agent since I had somehow ran out of cash. Yaani, I had never even bothered finding one before this. I saw one, but it was closed. Funny enough, everywhere you turn, you will see an Equity Agent. Anyway, I had to do bank to M-Pesa in those minutes I was walking around.

The good thing about good ol’ Dagoretti market touts is that they will never hike the fares. The real culprits are the 105 buses in the evening. Dude will decide to hike the fare to 30 bob for a distance I can walk. For that reason, I am not boarding buses home any more. I get on NNK matatus. They fill up faster in the evening anyway. That is the problem with a commute that is comprised of short trips. I get on four mats. Thank you, your astonishment has been recorded by the CCTV camera near you. You can close your mouth now. 🙂

Southern Bypass Things

This Southern Bypass will save us all a lot of time and money after it is done. But before that, we have to live with the traffic jams in Kikuyu town. The diversions are so many and different every day, if you were not a resident here, you would not know left from right. Sometimes, we sit through it right from Kikuyu Gardens. At the moment, that part of the road is under construction, so matatu crews have figured out a way to cut through the madness. Pay the security guards that man the closed sections. A 30 bob is enough to save you time in the jam. I do not get it myself. If you can go through it by paying security guards, why shouldn’t they just open the road? Anyway, I am not traffic police, neither do I work for China Bridge Corporation. They know better.

Kikuyu Town Jam - Southern Bypass

Kikuyu in the evening. Ignore the seat. 😀

All the same, this road is something. It has transformed the whole of Kikuyu, Thogoto and beyond. Hopefully, when it is complete and open to public transport, I will have nothing to blog about.

Bodabodas

A year ago, I fell off a bodaboda. Yes. I had to ensure I started this part with that background. So you can imagine my horror when I discovered I had to use one every single day from Karen shopping centre to the office. Sigh. I’m a pro now. I can literally raise my hands and have my non-existent hair sway in the wind during that ride. Plus boda guys are great at conversations. Most of them. When it gets to the part where he manoeuvres through the traffic, I imagine my knee cap flying off at the slightest impact with anything. Every single time. So I just hang on to my seat and hope we get there soon. And we always do. In one piece. And for that, I am grateful.

 

Today, I tried the Ngong Road route to get home. Needless to say, I did not like it much. Maybe it was just a bad day. I appreciated the fact that Dagoretti Road never ever has traffic jams. See, there is always a good side to most things, as dire as they may seem. So I still like the Dagoretti route better than the Kawangware one. The latter will let me board two mats as opposed to four but I think I will pass. Plus Google Maps says that is the shortest route, the one I have been using. I trust Google Maps with my life.

Na mtu ajaribu kunitajia Uber hapa. Tutakosana vibaya sana.

Ni hayo tu kwa sasa.

If you laughed at any moment while reading this, I will find you and I will… laugh with you.

Written by Shiku Ngigi

Mum and dad’s daughter. Shouting big sister. Learning to listen. Jesus freak. Recovering tomboy. Mouse potato. Bass addict. Waking up the writer in her.

    27 Comments

  1. ascofuatwork January 29, 2015 at 6:55 am Reply

    So many things to relate to hapa kwa hii article. Kwanza sometimes when I get on a boda boda, we almost topple over if the guy hasn’t balanced the bike as I get on. One good thing with matatus though, you don’t stay in jam too long. They know all vichorochoros.

    • Shiku Ngigi January 29, 2015 at 5:57 pm Reply

      Or when he starts the thing before you’ve composed yourself. We!

  2. Rachel January 29, 2015 at 8:39 am Reply

    Oh shiku! I have to use this exact same route EVERY day to work; the drama is endless. Kwanza having to sit four people in a row, or that sticker “men are like gold, you miss one you get none” and the tout mysteriously forgetting that you’ve already paid him, acha tu!

    Well written though and do tell when you find out what ‘Pakin Alicia’ means :).

    • Shiku Ngigi January 29, 2015 at 6:01 pm Reply

      Lol! Kindred spirit! Apparently Pakin Alicia is a person who owned lots of 102s from the beginning.

  3. Jafya January 29, 2015 at 8:55 am Reply

    I feel you!
    There’s this time I had to commute from Presbyterian Uni. in Kikuyu to Karen Hospital. Wueh!
    It began with a bodaboda to hapo UoN, then a fairly average mathree to Daggo alafu the rest makes me grimace!
    An old mathree that I remember to this day..five years on.
    Pole dada, one day we’ll be vrooming in our own ‘personals’ hahaa na mimi ntakuwa na Blue Subari ndio Njoki wa Chege a-catch mafeelings zaidi.

  4. Ebrah January 29, 2015 at 9:26 am Reply

    Lol..those matatus have made my day

    • Shiku Ngigi January 29, 2015 at 6:18 pm Reply

      😀 laughing with you.

    • hannahakinyi January 29, 2015 at 11:06 pm Reply

      haha! I agree… I can testify! They truly exist

      • Shiku Ngigi January 30, 2015 at 10:51 am Reply

        Yeah. I really should learn how to drive, Hannah.

  5. Gertrude Nyenyeshi January 29, 2015 at 12:16 pm Reply

    Hahaha. I believe I am about to join you. Yes, I laughed, very hard for that matter. Love the article.

    • Shiku Ngigi January 29, 2015 at 6:06 pm Reply

      Karibu!

  6. asingwa January 29, 2015 at 5:22 pm Reply

    Oh how I laughed, my dear. I laughed hard. Especially the having to hold on for dear life because the doors won’t close and the ensuring every nook and cranny is filled. Hahaha. I am sure you saw the Kapsoya matatus when you were in Eldoret. That’s what I kept thinking of.

    Congratulations on the new job by the way. Here is to new and enjoyable experiences.

    PS: Is anything ever mundane to you? You seem to find the interesting bits to event the most boring situations. I am not complaining. Just saying don’t ever stop. 🙂

    • Shiku Ngigi January 29, 2015 at 6:21 pm Reply

      Like I’ve always said, I was accused of sensationalism. Having said that, I am not about to stop. 🙂 Thank you!

  7. Des January 30, 2015 at 11:31 am Reply

    ROTFL…. Great Piece!! I can totally relate, I guess the prevalence of lock jaw disease is higher on the route where matatus come to die! I am still swearing that I will quit them and cycle to work daily….until then, wave when I whizz past you! 😉

    • Shiku Ngigi January 30, 2015 at 11:50 am Reply

      Where matatus come to die. Haha! I love that one. Wave back!

  8. Dickson Otieno January 30, 2015 at 10:20 pm Reply

    Thank you, your astonishment has been recorded by the CCTV camera near you. You can close your mouth now. 🙂

    • Shiku Ngigi January 31, 2015 at 8:35 am Reply

      Finally, someone has noticed that one! I can now retire. 😀

  9. Chrenyan January 31, 2015 at 9:30 pm Reply

    Kikuyu has endelead! There used to be some mats called ngothis plying the Gikambura and Daggo Market routes. There was no way these collections of metal could go to town, it would be an affront to the Traffic Police. The sitting arrangement was a combination of a Face-Me-Brother and a kawa mat. I once saw one where the fuel tank had been zibwad with a kifuniko for Kiwi. But everyone knew everyone else and they were safer (less prone to hijacking) than other mats which were headed to tao.

    • Shiku Ngigi January 31, 2015 at 11:09 pm Reply

      Haha! I remember tungothis well from my childhood.

  10. anna njuguna February 3, 2015 at 11:03 am Reply

    lool this is just the story of my life.
    i have to board those dakabo sacco cars daily alafu zinakosa kupanda mlima pale nyumbani.
    hahahhaaa

    • Shiku Ngigi February 3, 2015 at 4:18 pm Reply

      Haha! I am telling you faith has a lot to do with getting us home.

  11. Akisa February 3, 2015 at 11:50 am Reply

    So now,,,I used to live in Muthiga (please note Muthiga NOT Muthaiga, just saying),,now we huku Highrise,,,i soo feel you..saccos galore,,,corner cops,,as in,,,n the fare,,,so i’m being charged the same as the guy going to langata? from Kenyatta?,,,sigh,,Okey,,,i can deal, i think oO.
    This has made my day,,,thanks:)

    • Shiku Ngigi February 3, 2015 at 4:20 pm Reply

      Haha! We have to hang in there. You gotta admit it is never a dull day with matatus. Thanks for passing by! 🙂

  12. Alex Chim March 12, 2015 at 10:20 pm Reply

    Oh my Gaaaad….” If you have never got out of a matatu looking like you just walked through a sandstorm in the Kalahari”…. lol that made my night…. keep rocking 🙂

    • Shiku Ngigi March 13, 2015 at 7:59 pm Reply

      Keep reading. 🙂

  13. Njeri February 4, 2016 at 2:52 pm Reply

    So many months later, but I totally feel you. I also use the Kawangware- Ngong Road route since i recently got a job on Ngong road. Those matatus are rejects from other routes in Nairobi. Then, they are never really full even when there are extra people. I so miss Waiyaki way (Route latema sacco/star bus). Any time i am going to town a literally take time to enjoy the decent rides and the clear road! I never thought i’d appreciate matatus but now i do.

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