(Written recently to add a Kenyan flavour to my set on tuesday).
From Karen I walk to Twiga Hill Road
the giraffe hill that stretches long in the sun.
My vision mottled as tarmac heatwaves undulating slow
Maasai mother hips slow, as a new born angel sleeps
head close to Motherland’s heart, bom boom, bom boom
each step a pulse beat in time; heartbeat of Kenya.
Beneath a power line charger I wait on the dry earth,
bushes green about my shoulders and the sun is still sky high.
Matatu, matatu, where are thou, matatu? Speeding and tilted leftside,
the dusty arms and thin legs of the conductor flailing from its open door,
shillings flapping between ashy fingers and I tell him where I am heading.
I have learned: Never tell where you are going. They are always going your way,
no, look him in the eye good when you hear, ‘you can get a connection!’
Kenya National Museum welcomes me, snake garden peaceful
and the river runs through. Stone faces to the sun, silent voices rest,
and I eat my red bean stew and ugali lunch.
Again I am walking, my footsteps fast, bom boom, bom boom,
I accompany the whir and rush of highway traffic and
I cross like a Kenyan, walk quickly, but do not run. I have become
an expert jay-walker as I pass the sign that says, “Pedestrians
must not walk on flyover.”
Bad planning or rapid growth? Commerce off the charts?
Three million Kenyans in X square miles of land?
One hundred thousand cars on X length of tarmac’d roads?
Questions? Questions? Matatu, matatu, where art thou matatu?
After fifteen minutes of hopeful walking the Rahimtulla Tower in my sights,
a leaping matatu finds me. He tells me destination town, when I ask.
One space left at the back, bom boom, bom boom, my backside
hits the riders left and right. I pay my thirty bob, as the work day ends.
The matatu crawls up over the curb
and like a sea monster empties its belly.
My feet touch the ground destination ‘Thorn Tree Café,’
but the route is a mystery. Blindly amid human traffic,
the book in my hand is a shield and as sea monster island fades
quickly from mind, the diesel scent still lingers.
I side step a couple dressed for business,
a young child with neck ties hanging from fingers, a girl, a guy,
a man pushing an iron trolley slaloms through gridlocked traffic,
a woman carrys shopping bags, bom boom, bom boom her pace is measured.
The scent of nyamo choma hits me, barbecue savoury the spell broken
and I’m playing it safe before I’m lost in the melee, before this vortex
of humanity swallows me whole. I spy a taxi rank outside a hotel.
He says 300 and I walk away pretending the purpose in my strut,
moments before I turn back and offer 200Ksh for the fare.
We agree on 220 and I take the 100 yard taxi ride.
At the entrance to Sarova Stanley five star hotel, temporarily
halted I pass through the metal detector, bag checked (I beeped)
and inside the restaurant cafe the welcome is warm, unlike
London where they will look me over to guage my star status.
Seated on the terrace the traffic rushes, bom boom, bom boom,
just the otherside of the stain-glassed screen. The waitress smiles
and I’m offered the menu. It’s not too long before gladly
a sip of white wine. For the day at least,
I’m done with my matatu life.
- VIDEO: Riding the matatu – Nairobi’s subway (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Where the red mud runs…. (internationaladvocate.wordpress.com)
- Christ on a Matatu (thebewilderblog.wordpress.com)