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October 27, 2012

One month in Kenya and transportation

My one month anniversary for living in Kenya was two days ago. I feel like my brain has gotten out of "what a crazy adventure I'm on" mode and it's more into "this is what my life is like now" mode. So in honor of that anniversary, I'm finishing this post about transportation that I started two weeks ago and never finished.

I've never made it a secret that I dislike New York City buses. They're confusing, undependable, and I can often walk faster than them.

So with that in mind, let me introduce you to the main form of Nairobi public transportation, the matatu:

That's what I take into work every day. If you think way back into your head of stereotypes of Africa, you might think of like twenty guys packed into a small van, maybe with a guy hanging out side. That's a matatu. They're usually pretty packed, sometimes smelly, sometimes with loud music, and very hard to get in and out of for anyone over six feet. The price to and from work varies a bit, from 20 shillings (a Kenyan shilling is about equal to a US cent, give or take), to 60 shillings. It depends on a number of things, time of day, which route I'm taking, and whether the guy taking the money decides to charge me extra because he figures I either don't know any better or that I can afford it and won't put up a fight for a few dimes.

Traffic here is chaos. I didn't see a stop sign or a traffic light for my first two weeks here. The first time I saw a traffic light was as my cabbie sped through a red light as if it weren't even there. A few years back, I remember there was a news item that there was a guy in the US who had to cross a six lane highway everyday to get to work, and one day got hit by a car. Because of where the matatu drops me off, I have to do the same thing, and so do a lot of other people, and it's a miracle that anyone survives. They just completed a huge green walkway over the street by my office so that you don't have to walk across all the traffic, but no one uses it, and everybody just runs across the street anyway.

I've also taken a boda-boda.

They're basically small motorcycle cabs that you ride on the back of and hang on for dear life, sometimes with a helmet, sometimes not. My first ride on one was my first ride on a motorcycle ever. I wasn't sure what to do with my hands. Wrapping them around the driver seemed a little intimate for someone I had just met, even though I wanted to. They go pretty fast and you really feel like you could just slide off at any moment. But I just held onto the seat, and was later told that was actually the safest thing to do.

That's it for now, this weekend is the Kenya Film Festival. I saw a one short and one feature documentary last night, I'll probably see one or two movies today. Toodles!

Posted by Will at October 27, 2012 12:30 PM

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