Hundreds of people were at the boarding station. Half of these were there to wish their loved ones a safe trip and try to squeeze in a last word. Among them was a father and son duo or what looked like it. I stood next to them and eavesdropped on their conversation. They talked about school, work, family and life in general. The bus was late and the father urged his son to go on home before he missed the last matatu. He probably does not know that Nairobi is a bee hive, its population is always keen to make extra honey. After much coercing, the young man left. The bus roared into the station as the old man picked a call and I watched his son walk back into the station. A smile unfolded from both men. He gave the old man a hand in putting the new tires into the bus’ cargo hold. I enjoyed watching them. My eyes were on them still as they shook hands for the second time. With all the love between them I wondered why they did not hug for the second time. Then it occurred to me I have never hugged my old man. It’s not a way to express our love. Neither was it for these two.
My colleague and I settled into our seats fast. As he helped put my case away he muttered, “For a lady, you travel light.” I did not know whether to take it as a complement or as an insult. After everyone sat two ladies came in claiming our seats to be theirs. We were sorted of course after some panic and the journey began.
I started wondering about all the stories I have heard. Is it true about the witchcraft stories? Will I recognize myself after these ten days? Will I remember my name? Will I still write? As the bus heaved out of the station I could not get the stereotypes out of my head. I remembered how while packing my sister said “don’t carry anything fancy, you will attract attention”. This was in reference to a hat I badly wanted to carry. I slept. When we got to Duka Moja the tiny acacia trees suddenly looked like woven ropes and baskets sited on the side of the road waiting for dawn. I had just woken up and these were my sleepy eyes guiding my groggy brain.
At around 12:30 am we stopped at Narok to take a leek, eat dinner, stretch legs or whatever midnight activity you felt inclined to. I saw a nyama choma joint as I walked back from my walk. I walked to it and stood at the grill enjoying the aroma but mostly soaking up the heat from the charcoal. I was the only lady there. Ladies avoided the joint I did not care much as I was freezing. I stood their staring into the red charcoal. Blankly. A little boy joined me before his dad interrupted him, “Wewe ulikuja kujisaidia ama ni kuangalia makaa kama TV?” I felt bad for the boy as he scuttled away into the bus. The nyama choma guy kept looking at me and I kept staring him before swiftly moving my eyes back to the charcoal.
Twenty minutes later, I walked back into the bus and sat waiting for the driver to get back. For some reason, he was the only one yet to board! He got in, revved the engine. From the driver’s side it made as if to clear its throat. That happened about ten more times before the conductor came around explaining that the bus lights couldn’t come to life. I wished for a let there be light miracle to happen. After a few minutes he came back and said we had to wait for another bus from Nairobi. In my language we say ‘Mwiti atimumbikaga gikwa’, loosely translated to “a traveler does not start roasting a yam”. Everybody threw a tantrum but my colleague and I. We sat there listening to them and answering their ridiculous questions. We scratched a few nerves but they got the point. Accidents happen all the time so shut it and ooze off some positive vibes, my brain screamed to them.
I put my legs on my neighbor’s seat. After a few minutes my lower back felt as if someone was punching it. So much for comfort. I put my legs down immediately. Outside was still a beehive of activity with vendors roasting maize, popping corn, grilling meat and slicing potatoes. I saw a Chebarbar or two in a suit and running shoes. I bet twenty buses stopped by as we waited. If you can brave the cold and are not too big on your sleep then I suggest you open an eatery in Narok. It’s hard work but there is dough to be made. By 3:00a.m everyone was cleaning up. Butcheries have too much work to keep flies away. I discovered this when the meat place I was looking at was cleaned from the clear windows up to the verandah around it, for about two hours.
At around 4:00am another bus coughed its way into the transit station. By this time three quarters of the passengers had been moved to other buses. The next thing I saw was a Nyaribari Chache County offices sign board. It looked more like Meru though. The lush green grass by the roadside. The crooked tiny hills and valleys lining the landscape. The long green trees swaying away in the morning breeze. The farming blocks divided for different crops. The kiss of dew on vegetation. The one or two cows going for grazing. I felt at home. I forgot all the stereotypes and even begun romanticizing the idea of scoring a Mogaka.
My friend asked me to bring her a Mogaka. I have to go hunting and experience Kisii.