Traveling tales

Last week I stayed in Nairobi for a few days while I had a few medical appointments. This visit to Nairobi was different from my other visits, though, because for most of it I was the only one from my group – which was kinda boring. But the food was good, and it was awesome to hang out with Jenny for a few days and see a movie. As usual, I was overwhelmed by Nairobi and daydreamed about staying there forever. It is almost impossible to fathom that Nairobi is part of Kenya, especially when my home in Siaya is stuck in medieval era.

Anyways, all good things must come to an end, and Thursday was the day for the time warp. These occasions always remind me of where I actually am and why living in Kenya forever would be challenging (even if I did decide to stay in Nairobi): traveling is insanely unpredictable.

A cab picked me around 8:30 to take me to the bus stage. Traffic wasn’t too bad, and it only took about 45 minutes to get from the hotel to the Easycoach stage, where I waited for almost 2 hours before boarding the time machine, destined for a village trapped in the Stone Age. While I was waiting, I noticed a beautiful man getting a ticket to Kisumu as well. He didn’t really look totally Kenyan, had lighter skin and sharp facial features, dreads just past his shoulders – I thought maybe Indian/Kenyan or something, but definitely unique. So, he happened to get the seat right next to mine, with a billion kids surrounding us. It was a Rosa Parks kind of day, but at least I got the window seat.

About 15 minutes into our trip, he started up a conversation. He was from Mombasa, traveling to Ahero (near Kisumu) to look at some property. It was actually really refreshing to talk to him, because I could just talk normal – and I know Bruce, Terri and Bobby know what I mean – but it was actually natural, like my West Virginia voice. And, on top of being able to just use my own language, he was really open minded and we talked about religion, development of Kenya, politics, etc etc. Stuff that is normally way off limits here with Kenyans. He told me his dad was Italian and his mom is Luo. He is Rasta and is an artist/musician, inspired by Bob Marley. After a while he got pretty comfortable and informed me that I should feel honored, because the people in his village encourage him to seek presidency in the future. I was in the presence of a future Obama, obviously. After the initial shock of this announcement subsided, I decided to open my book and stare intently at the pages while I bounced in the air over 5 billion speed bumps.

Like leading a horse to the stable, the time machine picked up speed as we approached Kisumu. Normally I would not complain about a speedy bus, as they are notorious for being the slowest means of transportation in Kenya, but unfortunately there are MANY deviations (detours for several kilometers, cutting through the bush over large stones or dirt paths) surrounding Kisumu. Luggage flew out of the overhead racks and passengers were ejected from their seats on multiple occasions. The children beside of me in the Rosa Parks row even toppled onto the ground. It was impossible to remain in the seat, and eventually people up front started complaining to the driver. He compromised slightly, but it was still the most turbulent trip I’ve had.

My new friend, Frank, alighted in Ahero – before Kisumu. I finally arrived in Kisumu at almost 8, after the bus driver took out a metal fence surrounding the Easycoach parking lot. Relieved to be off of the bus, I quickly gathered my bags (easy to find, they are all pink) and sought out a tuk tuk to take me to the Kakamega matatu stage, which is not far at all – walking distance in the absence of luggage. Feeling a little stressed, I heatedly argued prices with two drivers for almost 10 minutes before agreeing on 30bob. I got in the tuk tuk and it wouldn’t start, which should have waved a flag in my head. He got out and went to the back, reached underneath it and fired it up. We bounced down a small back street for about a kilometer before reaching the main road, which was bulging with matatus, piki’s, tuk tuks and cars trying to reach home before dark. As soon as we merged, the tuk tuk died. Dead, right at the mouth of the round-about. After unsuccessfully trying to restart it with the Houdini move under the back, he decided to give it a push. We really just needed to go in the opposite direction maybe 50 meters, so I suggested/offered/begged to walk. He said it was safer for me to stay inside, so I waited. I assumed he was just going to push it off of the road and fix it or call another one or something, but I was wrong. He pushed it – in traffic – all the way around the roundabout, then the 50 meters in the opposite direction to the stage. A fanfare of hooting from irritated drivers announced my arrival at the stage, in case no one noticed the broken down tuk tuk carrying a mzungu – just like a princess in a carriage. He apologized, I gave him 30 bob and the matatu touts came to assist me. Before I was out of the tuk tuk, he asked where the rest of his money was. I was pissed because first of all, I KNOW the price for a tuk tuk, second – we agreed on 30, and last, it broke down! I kinda lost my temper and after giving him a diatribe about mzungu prices, I told him to rot in hell and gave him 50.

I boarded the matatu in the dark with my 4 bags blocking my view (fortunately) in the back row – again. We joined the throng of matatus leaving Kisumu shortly, heading to Kakamega. Before even passing the open air markets lining the road, I heard a “THUNK” and several people in the front shouted. We stopped. I attempted to shift my bags to get a better view, and a huge woman pulled herself up from the ground with the assistance of our tout and driver. People began crowding around and seemed to be arguing while others collected her belongings, which were strewn across the street. The passengers waited in the matatu until some of the men became impatient and started shouting out the windows at the driver. “Police” came, which appeared to be civilians carrying guns – no lights, no sirens, no uniforms. We waited a bit longer and then the tout came and opened the door and barked some orders – apparently to get out. I just follow the crowd.

A few minutes later, we boarded another matatu and continued the journey towards Kakamega. I called Father Lwangu, the preist at Claire’s compound who was to give me the key to her house. I told him that I was running late but would be there in about an hour. At 9:00 I finally arrived at Father Lwangu’s house to get the key. He had fixed some tea, stew and toast for me. I told him the story of my safari – the broken down tuk tuk, the woman we ran over, running out of fuel on the way to his house – and he responded with “ah, pole sana(very sorry), I hate it when that happens,” and gave me the key to Claire’s house.

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