This weekend I went to visit my friends Bochi and Mette who are in Nanyuki (3 hour matatu ride out of Nairobi city centre). We had fun. More on that later. For now, here’s a few scenes from the journey back to Nairobi this afternoon:
Location: In a matatu. At a checkpoint somewhere on the road just out of Nanyuki
People involved: Matatu driver. Traffic police over
Events: Police pull matatu over. Walk over to driver window. Driver holds out hand to shake with police officer. Shilling notes exchanged. Police officer laughs. Driver says some words in Kiswahili, laughing. Police wave us off.
Initial thoughts: Why are they both laughing? Is it genuine? Does the driver dread being pulled over, or is it now normal for him?
Thoughts upon reflection: How on earth do you even begin to handle corruption when it’s on every single level? From incredibly poorly paid police officers right up to the very top of parliament. Racking my brains for a possible time when I’ve heard of a police officer refusing a bribe…nope, can’t think of one…
Location: Thika road, near Nairobi
People involved: Tourists. Tourist driver and van
Events: We drive past a safari van pulled up at the side of the road with tourists standing watching and photographing their driver change the wheel on their vehicle.
Initial thoughts: Ha! Welcome to Kenya, tourists!
Thoughts upon reflection: Ok, that was a bit mean. But seriously?! Taking photos of a tyre being changed?? Is it really that interesting???!! Do you have to photograph everything?!
Location: Down-town Nairobi
People involved: Street kid
Events: I walk past a street kid – maybe 7 or 8 years? – lying, seemingly asleep (i.e. face down, eyes closed) on the middle of a busy pavement with a plastic cup next to him, containing a few one shilling coins.
Initial thoughts: Is that kid really asleep? He looks really young. Why is no-one stopping? Of course, we’re in Kenya. People don’t stop
Thoughts upon reflection: Heck, why didn’t I stop? What would – could – I have done if I had? I can’t speak Swahili very well. What help could I have offered anyway. But are they real excuses? What a screwed up place I live in that it’s such the norm to see that noone stops to check he’s ok, and neither do I.
Location: Small shop near my home
People involved: Me. Shop keeper (a young Ethiopian lady) Events: I’m tired after 4 hours of travel on squashed public transport. In need of chocolate. Stop to buy some. As I pay and leave the shop, the shopkeeper says: ‘Thanks sweatheart. Come again sweetie!’ As I smile and say I will, she adds, as a passing thought: ‘Jesus loves you!’
Initial thoughts: Wow, cheesy!! Someone’s been to church this morning!
Thougts upon reflection: Yep, still a whole lot of cheese. But it made me smile, and I feel quite good now!