Please excuse the huge silence. I am quite busy these days with my work in the field but the hot temperature here in the coast is hampering my ability to think things straight. Anyways, on nights when I get bored and only when there is a network signal, I check my mobile phone to see if my elder sister is online just to while away the time. Luckily, she’s online most of the times and talking to her eases the stress.
One time we got to talking about how I travel to and from work. Of course, there is the ever-reliable matatus. A matatu is the most common mode of transportation in Kenya; they are mini-vans (locals call them Nissans) or mini-buses that leaves several times daily to rural areas when it is already full. These matatus remind me of Toyota Camry taxis in Cambodia where I used to work. The vehicles used are second- (or third or fourth, you imagine that) hand , but don’t let it fool. A matatu is equipped with powerful car-stereo systems blaring hiphop and African favorites. This along with the shouts of the driver and conductor and the screeching of brakes, are enough to numb ones senses. Just like its Cambodian counterpart, a matatu, more often than not, is filled way beyond its capacity. When seats are full, you, unfortunately will have to stand with almost nothing to hold on to. Your body is pressed against others around you so close that you can smell what they had for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner, depending on the time). You begin to realize now how it is to be like a sardine inside a tin can.
Now, just like its Cambodian counterparts, a matatu ride is not for the faint-hearted. Matatu drivers, once they start driving, transform into pedal-pushing madmen – oh so very, very fast. Not to mention, matatus often compete for more passengers to be picked up along the way, I can only mutter a simple prayer and thank the heavens for the brakes to work properly. With this kind of driving everyday, I wonder how often these vehicles break down in the middle of the road and, if at all, these are sent for a regular auto repair, or perhaps, whether drivers take heed when the check engine light indicator is blinking for attention.
Every time I get on a matatu, I get mixed feelings. I feel that every matatu ride is a different experience and, despite the initial scare from the daredevil speed, it is helping me to see Kenya and Kenyans in another light. More on this later.
Photo from the internet.