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.
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.
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.
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.