Trip in Kenya

A Word on Matatu’s

Matatu’s are Kenyan busses. They are the public transportation, and they get very full. By very full I mean Very. Full.

The average matatu fits 12-14 passangers. The average matatu squeezes in 18 to 20 (although Sue tells me she’s been in one with 24).

Saturday morning, Ms. Sue and I woke up bright and early at 7 am. I was not very happy because a certain mosquito had kept me up most of the night. We had dropped the visitors off at the airport around 10 pm the day before, and now it was time for us to return to Kerugoya. We walked down to the main road-well, we walked until we spotted a motorbike, which drove us down to the main road. Then we waited for a matatu to come by and hopped in. The matatu we got played loud music, and had a lively, somehow adventurous feel to it.

The music was pounding, the bus was moving quickly, and the driver had the unfortunate habit of starting to drive off before everyone had gotten in. There was a tag team of sorts. The driver-and then the guy who took the money, who sat next to the door. When we got to a corner where people were waiting, he would hop out and yell, “Room for 2!” or “Room for 1!” Then the people would jump in-or not- and he would run along side the matatu, grab the door, and jump in as it sped away.

I found the whole thing rather entertaining.

One time a customer wasn’t fast enough. It was a youngish man, whom I decided must have been fairly wealthy but is now in the down and out. He paid the guy who took money before he got on the bus, and then as the bus started moving he wasn’t quite fast enough to hop on. I watched him slow, pulling his cap low in embarrassment as we passed him. The guy who took the money pulled a bill from his fingers and let it flap in the wind a moment before letting it go, and sailing back down the road to the young man.

He kept the money between his fingers-he would fold it in half the long way, then loop it around his finger, and each finger had several bills so that it almost looked like he had brass knuckles made out of money. When he wanted the driver to stop, he would take the coins (for some people paid with coins) and rap it on the top of the car, making a long clanging noise.

I had a seat next to the window, and then there was a space for the people to get to the back of the van, and then two seats across from me. When the back had filled up, they gave us a board to set between my seat and the next, so that another person could sit between us.

When we reached the central bus station Ms. Sue and I grabbed another bus heading towards Kerugoya. He didn’t play loud music, and there weren’t 20 people squeezed in. It was all right though; I was afraid the loud music was going to give me a headache. But.

I still liked the first one better.

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