Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'm not in America anymore

Tuesday morning! My first full day in Kenya! What are we going to accomplish today, I woke up wondering, as I wandered into the main room to see what was for breakfast. I wish I could tell you what was for breakfast, but I don’t remember.
Every morning around eight, our house mom, Momma Bishop, also called Momma Sally, brought in a thermos of hot milk. I know - ick. Most of the other volunteers dumped instant coffee or tea into their cup-full, and once in a while there was some powdered chocolate in the house. I just drank my hot milk straight each morning. This was something new to me, the girl from the dairy state who only drinks her milk ice-cold and preferably skim. But I can adapt.
And that’s what a trip to a third world country is most about. Adapting.
Along with the thermos of milk, Momma Bishop usually brought a couple loaves of store-bought bread. Some days she also brought French toast, scrambled eggs, or mandazi. Mandazi is considered an East African donut. Fried and sweet – I need to make me some of these sometime soon.
After breakfast (I think that first day I made toast and burned it), Val and I walked down to the corner to catch a matatu to Nakumatt Junction.
The road at the end of our driveway

I suppose you want that explained.
A matatu is a nasty form of public transportation, but they are cheap and they go all over. They are a twelve-passenger van. I’m at a loss as to how to describe it beyond that!
Ok, so you stand along the road, and this van whizzes up next to you. A guy jumps out, they call him the conductor. He’s not the driver. I only once really even saw the driver of one of these. He pretty much stays put behind the wheel and doesn’t get involved.
Anyway, so the conductor jumps out and asks where you are going. No matter what you say, he says he can take you there. And this is where you have to know what you are doing, because he will try to overcharge you, especially if you are white.
Val always told him 30 shillings, and sometimes he accepted that and sometimes he didn’t. I was always like, just pay him and don’t argue. It is not worth it.
By the way, 30 Kenyan shillings is about 35 cents.
So, you jump in this smelly little bus and music is usually blaring, it seemed like either offensive rap with lots of swearing or Christian music. It was weird. But no matter what was playing, it was too loud.
So off we go, down the road and the road is bumpy and the bus is crowded and it keeps stopping to pick up more people. Once in a while, when it was already full, the conductor seemed to ask some people to get off so someone else could get on. They spoke in Swahili, so I never was sure if this was really happening, but it sure looked that way.
When you get close to your stop, you beat on the side of the bus, and then the conductor beats on the roof too, and somehow with all the noise from the music, the driver actually hears this and usually stops. Not always. But usually.
The conductor and the driver must have this all orchestrated somehow. It all seems so chaotic, but somehow they know what they are doing. And no matter how crowded it was, and how many other people got on or off, the conductor knew where us white chicks were getting off. Or at least he did 80% of the time.

Oh, dear, that took up a lot of words. I think I will tell you about the Nakumatt next time. It is much easier to comprehend. 

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