This is part two of the tiry journey to school one day…in case you didn’t read it you can get it here.
The day at school went well; despite the ‘Plague of the Not So Common Cold’ and the exploitation of ‘Route 86’ (those are stories for another day) and home time couldn’t have come sooner. I got my friend Mish (remember him from ‘the Princess and the frog?’) and we headed for the stage to get a matatu. It was around 5.30 in the evening. And as expected, the stage was flocked with a lot of people eager to get home; most of who were casual laborers at Industrial Area. They didn’t have much money so they either decided to wait for cheaper matatus or bar anyone from entering any matatu that charge ten shillings above the normal fare of 20 bob. And when the cheap matatu arrived you either join the very intense battle of getting in or stand aside; lest these hefty men maraud you over. It almost happened to a friend of mine Kerry; he’s like Peter Crouch of the England team only shorter. Luckily we helped him get in. Anyway, we were not in a mood for a scramble so we opted to walk ahead, way ahead where some passengers would alight and we would get in for reduced fare.
But just as we were leaving the stage, there was a bit of commotion between two touts as one wanted to reduce the fare and one threatened to beat him up if he did. And the casual laborers ‘cheered’ on in anticipation of a reduced fare. It didn’t take long before the fight started; we were in South B but the rules of fighting in Ngummo still applied because they were Route 33 Ngumo matatus. The rules were two: the first being no one is to try peacemaking while fight went on, or the people fighting will turn on you instead. The second is silence should be observed and commenting is to be done only afterwards. And so we tarried a little, watching them knock the lights out of each other.
Unfortunately, the tout with the cheaper fare won. Yes, unfortunately. For now the tout who wanted to charge more will be laughed at and elicit very very crude comments from the laborers, no matter how red he was with blood; or rather how brown he was with dust. And so as the victorious tout resumed his job we managed to get seats as others fought to enter the matatu.
Funnily enough, we enjoyed the ride, mainly because people from Kibera usually take the most trivial of things and have a forum about it. Almost everyone was commenting on the fight an befriended the tout, telling him ‘Good job. You da man!’ Others gave him pointers on how to fight better next time as the whole matatu laughed the incident off. I call it the Wanjiku effect. Even the tout could afford a smile, with a bruised lip. But that smile was shortlived.
As we approached the final accent to home, the matatu seemed to weaken considerably. It could not climb the hill. “Yes!!” Im sure people said in the hearts. It is somewhat known that people who board Ngummo matatus pray for them to break down midway the journey so that they would get a refund and walk the rest of the way. The matatus were weak anyway, and so this one choked…real hard and stopped.
“Haiya, pesa zetu basi” Translation: ‘Alright, refund please.’ And the tout was no longer their (our) friend as he had to refund us half of the 20 bob we gave him. Sadly. Though most of the passengers could alight and get home before the accent, most wait to see if the matatu will break down so they get some extra cash [that they need so badly] and prefer using the long route, by alighting at the terminus.
I felt bad for the tout, he fought hard for the people to pay less; well, they did pay less, though much less than he had in mind. And the previously friendly laborers left him and his driver reeling in his own loss…with a broke down matatu and a cut lip.
Just another day in Ngumo..
*Matatu – a van used for public transport.
Based on a true story,….most of it.
You know, we had a van once..a Toyota Town Ace to be particular; I think it was a ’97. It had the nickname ‘bushbaby’; I dont know why but it did sound like an animal; a hyena. It saved our skin very many times, because it could tell you when it was coming. It would squeak and giggle; it choked once, and its aubidle from 200 metres. That way we could turn off the TV and resume our homework before the old man walked in. We were never caught thanks to it, and so we almost cried when it was sold.
That’s just one of the many unroadworthy vehicles to ‘drive’ the roads of Ngumo. *sigh* the Route No. 33. I was once told that they were ‘miracle mats’ – *matatus, that were once written off and given a second chance on the road. I was really late one day on my way to school, and there was no time to choose a decent matatu. And the first one I see is being harassed by the police for he is blocking the road. The club is really poking his head but he cant seem to get the van out of the way. I move closer and I hear him saying , “lakini afuande hii gari hainanga reverse…” Thats to say, “But officer, this vehicle has no reverse…” ??? I’d heard of them once, never saw them actually but I was surprised they existed. A car with no reverse.
I boarded the next one. At least it looked like it could reverse. I squeezed my long legs between the rows of seats and stretched my hand out to open the window before a gust of wind stopped me. The window was wide open – rather it wasn’t there. I maintained my composure and as the vehicle started to move, rather noisily and jerkily – if I may say. I later understood that the van’s first gear wasn’t too well, so he had to jump it to second. And this matatu needed no speed governor (a law in Kenya); that would be the same as putting a ‘No runnning’ sign in a Veterans’ Home. Pointless
Then we went down a hill, and the back part of the van was really wobbling; the back left wheel was just in place – and it was threatening to get away. But what surprised me most is how the driver switched off the matatu not to save fuel, but to prevent the engine from overheating…I believed him; for it once happended. The cap of the radiator gave way and steam was released into the front part of the van. And the driver was the first to jump out. I lived.
About 700m from my destination, we were met by a major snarlup. Usually I would alight and start walking but I’m not really the enthusiastic type for school (no one is anyway) so I decided to wait. And the driver decides to overlap the cars ahead. Though, he kept pumping his foot on the clutch pedal; it would not engage. He depressed it like 15 times. And before we knew it it engaged and the van jerked forward. But the time to react before he could fully depress the pedal and stop our vehicle from hitting the one infront was too small. And so we shattered the backside of this nice Toyota Vitz; i felt for it, and the owner, a 40 something year old mother taking her (hot!) daughter to school and evidently had problems of her own, came out like the devil from your dreams breathing fire and brimstone. I couldn’t blame her; the monster inside her that was waiting to come out…that’s when I remembered the song Monster by Skillet and giggled…and their attention turned to me. Damn
And so I was forced to take a side in the predicament and nodded like a thousand times to whatever they were saying; I actually can’t remember because I was busy making eyes at this gorgeous, beautiful..*ahem*… I alighted and prodded to school, tired..and I was 30 minutes late. Good thing the ‘raia’ (mutual friends who came to know one other by being late) were there, amassing their numbers to bypass the teacher on duty by stampeding through the parade grounds. It’s usually a 98% success..good enough though. And so I was forced to do another troublesome task. The crowd of high schoolers sped by Mrs. Ogenya, making a great deal of noise. It was imperative that I get away unnoticed. And as soon as i reached class I put my head on my desk, with my arms to cushion it, just hoping that the day would pause for a while. I think they knew. I wanted to be one of them. The clouds. So free… I was exhausted on arrival..
It’s just another day in a 33.