I have the most reckless side when I try
I have the most beautiful darkside
I need to find some meaning
Something true to believe in
‘Cause left to my own devices
The beautiful darkside wins
Beautiful Darkside – The Classic Crime
28 years on my pilgrimage.
I guess you’d call it ‘life’, or the more clichéd ‘journey’. But more and more it does seem it’s a pilgrimage. Because it feels like I’m looking for something; looking for something more than just existence, more than just success… more than destiny? I’m looking for significance, I’m looking for meaning, I’m looking for the dots to join.
I’ve never been a ‘do it for the sake of doing it’ kinda person. Neither have I done anything with ‘reward’ or ‘result’ as the main goal. I’ve always felt that when doing something, it has to mean something first, and it has to be intentional. This ‘hard-wiring’ has got me through some ‘sticky’ situations other people usually succumb to; like I’ve never felt what you call ‘peer pressure’ or ‘desire to conform’ or ‘fit in’. I’m also very picky when it comes to friendships, or relationships in general, though not because I feel like you’d be wasting my time, rather I wouldn’t want to be wasting yours. This recipe does make for some interesting interactions and perceptions; like how people assume I’m shy when I just really don’t care for ‘in-the-moment’ conversations, or how I ‘never seem to talk’ but in reality if I did people wouldn’t know what to do with what my mouth would produce. Things that depress other people I can easily brush aside; but the things that put me in a hole are so ridiculously trivial that one would wonder what kind of mettle I’m made of.
See that’s the thing; you’d think that since we’re all human we share the same thoughts, and these thoughts should resonate among ourselves. Or even if the thoughts were different there would be some form of ‘accommodating mechanism’ that would merge all these different thoughts onto the same plane. But more and more it does feel that that doesn’t apply to me; almost as if I’m not human, almost as if I’m from another planet. It feels like I was on a journey from another inter-galactic community, and just made a stop here, at Earth, to search what I’m supposed to be looking for. And the differences aren’t just in terms of what I think would make for good conversation, or what (and who) should be remembered, or even what should be given priority. It goes beyond that; sometimes it’s in the ‘mundane’ stuff like respecting queues, or ‘doing the right thing’ without having to wonder ‘what’s in it for me’. Sometimes it’s in ‘carrying someone across the river’, because you’re ‘tall enough to wade through the water, while the other person would drown in it’. People are so focused on getting ahead; eyes front all the time, not even bothering to look those they are trampling over in their wake, or holding the hands of those who are looking for guidance, even though they’re heading in the same direction.
From my ‘journeyings’ it seems that when people want to do something it’s based on how they prioritize these three things: reward, convenience and necessity. The ‘ambitious’ prioritize ‘reward’, the laid-back (not lazy) prioritize ‘convenience’ and I (with probably most other INFPs) prioritize necessity. There’s nothing wrong with any of the three, only that people see someone doing something without ‘an agenda’ and they are quick to call it a ‘red flag’, a ‘ploy’; that something isn’t right. But I’ve never known any other way to live. Like I remember I was undercharged for some groceries, and when I reported the mistake I was ‘rewarded’ ? Interesting interesting world. And interestingly, the people who could be of least help to you when you need it are the most ambitious, and I’ve met some of the poorest people with the kindest souls. Maybe it’s because the ambitous credit their own strength for their success, and the poor know the feeling of having no one come to your aid when you need it most.
The sad part is that this is indeed a cruel world, and both good and bad people will always be looking for good people to use. No one uses bad people (why would you), and the good ones are in short supply – do the math. But surely all of it – yes, all of it has to mean something eventually.
Being selfless has its scars; you will move mountains, cross treacherous seas, because you felt it was the right thing to do, and in the end if you even ask for a drop of water to quench your thirst you may not get it. The worst response I’ve ever heard was ‘I never asked you in the first place’; how convenient. After all the only man who ever lived right was nailed to a Cross, by same people who were singing His praises a week before.
The thing with taking pieces of wood out of a fire to light paths for different people is that that fire begins to diminish, and if more wood isn’t added to it for replenishment, it could disappear altogether.
As I get closer to 30 I feel birthdays have become less of a celebration and more of ‘time-markers’ on this ‘great pilgrimage’. I’m beginning to ‘understand the locals’ and their patterns of behaviour. I’ve never been bothered about being different, but if birthday gifts are still a thing, it seems that the greatest gift I’ll ever receive from this world is the ‘gift of being understood’.
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.