Ordinary things that make life extraordinary.

Ordinary things that make life extraordinary.

Tag: matatu

Mellow Yellow Monday 014: Yellow-striped matatu

My new job is keeping me away from blogging… tsk.. tsk.. tsk. So, being a Monday, I’m in a manic mode as I’m supposed to be in the office in… two hours. I can only post photo memes for now. So this is going to be quick:

This was my ride to work when I was in Kenya a year ago. It is called a matatu. You can find my posts about matatus under the tag "matatu". I promise to update when I can.

A secret no more

I was rummaging through my old files the other night and found some of my pictures in Kenya that I thought were already deleted!

Specially that of matatus – they are common modes of transpo in Kenya and are actually second-hand (or older) mini-vans and/or mini-buses similar to what we have in the Philippines – and these pictures evoke a particular memory while I was in Kenya.

I regularly take a matatu ride, especially when coming from the town to the jumping point to the village where I work. Because these are already used cars, more often than not, they break down in the middle-of-nowhere. See this photo:

stranded and waiting

If we are lucky to have a driver who knows how to fix car problems, we get stranded only for a short time. Otherwise, we painstakingly wait for hours till someone arrives to take a look at the  vehicle. Times like this we wish there are RepairPal Mobile we can call right away for roadside assistance just like what they have in the US.

The drivers are notorious for driving very fast and there was one time that I had the misfortune of riding in one that had an accident. I think the driver was racing against the other matatu to pick up passengers several hundreds of meters away and could not control the vehicle anymore. Even though he stepped on the brakes, it was already too late; the car swerved to the left and rammed against a tree. The front side of the car was badly wrecked, especially the driver’s side… I was sitting next to the driver and my feet got jammed between the car’s floor and the dashboard. Thank God the injury wasn’t serious. I was probably dazed and in shock and came to my senses only when the driver and other passengers pulled me out… oh the pain on my left foot. Up to now I can still remember every detail — about how everything went into a slow motion up to the impact, to being carried away to the nearest clinic.

Anyhoo, without sounding dramatic but also not downplaying what happened, I was not seriously injured. Nothing broken, just twisted ankle, or so they said, no open wounds (thank God!) just bruises and scratches (I instinctively used my bag to cover my face). So anyway, after receiving treatment at the clinic, I and the other passengers were asked to go to the police station  to report the incident. In my mind I was thinking what to say to the driver. In the end, I told him that he should have his vehicle regularly checked even if it’s just a simple brake pads replacement but very important for safety. After formalities at the police station I went home to Lukore with my new “shoes”.

my new shoes Nobody knew what happened except my older sister Sreisaat. We were exchanging sms for days and I told her to keep mum about it.  It was our secret as I – we- could not bear telling our parents then for they would have been at their wits’ end. Of course, my parents now know.

Signs,signs 005: Road safety commitments

Signs,signs

This sign is required by the Kenyan government to be put up in all vehicles:

I saw this sign in a matatu on my way back to Lukore from Mombasa. I just don’t know how much success it is getting though because for one, matatu drivers still drive like maniacs and there are times I saw drivers on the phone while driving. Seatbelts? Huh. Helmets? Hmmm… occasionally. I wonder how these are being monitored…

Mellow Yellow Monday 004: Yellow Kenyan license

mellowyellow

This is the license of a matatu in Kenya. Matatus are the most common mode of transportation in most African countries. They are actually vans that ply routes  between towns and cities.

This was how I go around in Mombasa. Of course, there’s also the motorcycle – an equally terrifying ride to my area in Lukore. Prior to my departure for Kenya, I underwent motorcycle training as a requirement and received additional sessions when I arrived in Nairobi. However, I didn’t get to drive my own motorcycle as I thought it was better to commute and take the public transpo. In a way, I thought I was helping the locals earn something, but you can only imagine the nervousness and anxiety every single time I hopped on a moto or took the matatu for my longer distance travels :]

Here’s a post I made about the first time I took a matatu ride.

Wordless Wednesday 015: Matatu in Kenya

wordless2

Not really wordless today but please indulge me. This is how I go around in Kenya when I was there for a year. Although there are big buses and trains, the matatus, a local taxi, is the most common mode of transportation everywhere in Kenya.

A matatu ride is not for the faint-hearted though. For one, the drivers are madmen! They race against each other, competing for the next passenger they can pick up along the way. Reciting the rosary, I found out, could make one calm, I tell you. If you like to know more of my matatu experience, just click this link and it will take you to my previous post about matatus.

Matatu, Kenya :: Lan-taxi, Cambodia

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.
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Photo from the internet.