It is on the 24th. Very early in the morning, let us say 5:45 in the a.m. You are walking down the streets with a bag pack on your back and clutching securely at your suitcase. It is the festive season, suitcases get stolen at a high rate, you make the assumption in your head. Maybe that is where the cheap January mitumba clothes come from. You are not willing to have your expensive coat that left you broke for a month get sold at a whooping 300 so you hold on tight. You are also holding a water bottle that you were gifted on your graduation because you might get thirsty along the way, or you just want to know what is so special about walking around with a water bottle.
A Matatu comes along and you quickly hop in. It is very full and hot and stuffy. Before you even get the chance to scan the seats and identify that there is none left for you, the Matatu is already moving. You almost feel confused for a moment with your suitcase and special water bottle in hand. The conductor decides to help you by taking the suitcase and instructing you to move over and stand on that famous pathway because you are in his space. Everyone in the Matatu is looking at you and there is almost always that feeling, that they are special because they have seats and you are the one, the one struggling to live life. You ignore the piercing eyes that you know will escort you for the rest of the journey and you feel your water bottle, as though to tell it ‘Hold on tight, we will make it’ and you hold on to the famous rod for support.
You get to CBD and you breathe a sigh of relief. You grab your belongings and get into the streets. It is 6:15 a.m. Everywhere you look at there are bags and suitcases and traces of families, obviously travelling home, wherever home is, for Christmas. At the back of your mind you think of how Kenyans are last minute people, but you remember that you are also here struggling to get home on the 24th. You think if you didn’t have a job, how different it would be. Anyway, you shrug and keep walking, counting the number of children you see carrying heavy luggage and with eye bags under their eyes. You pity them but their eye bags remind you how early it is, and this leads you to think you will not find any madness at the Bus Station. The thought is comforting but a part of you is already on the drawing table planning out Plan B.
You get to North Rift Bus Station and Plan A automatically cancels itself. It is 6:30 a.m. but the place is flooded from here to Timbuktu. Apparently, people planted themselves there as early as 5 in the a.m waiting for a bus to take them to their destination. You look around and you can feel the hopelessness. Luggage has been piled, owners of the luggage are sitting on them wearing depressed looks, others are walking up and down, leaving one person to watch the luggage, and if they find a better situation, they will quickly twangia the luggage-watcher telefon. The famous North Rift Mukorino has already arrived and is shouting orders here and there. You decide to pause for a moment to gather your thoughts. You are still clutching firmly at your suitcase. You move aside and decide to simply observe before making any move. You decide to call your sister, who should have arrived here with you but she receives with that sleepy voice so you blink away all the hope you had. You know you are all alone in this.
As you are still observing, a man beside you waves his hand and starts saying:
“Si mmpande ile gari pale! Kwani hamuoni?” (Board that bus over there! Can you not see?)
You have no idea where this man came from or how he knew that bus was to be leaving soon, but you involuntarily trust him, or maybe you just don’t want to listen to your inner self, an hour later, head hung in shame, telling you:
“Ungeskiza huyo mtu saizi ungekua Karibu Naivasha”. (If you had listened to that guy, you’d be close to Naivasha right now.)
You hold on even tighter to your suitcase and head over to the bus. The closer you get to the door, the higher your hopes get because you can literally see the space inside and you are already eyeing a seat. Your heart wants to jump with joy at this incredible luck but you contain yourself because, you know, the chicks have not yet hatched. You near the door and there is a whole flood of people behind you, and as you lift your leg to enter the bus your heart calms down and your mind can now pay attention to what is happening around you. You begin to hear conversations that go like this:
“Si hawa watu wapanteko hii kari haraka chameni, tutafika saa ngapi kweli?”
“Kama uko kwa muliango si usongeko haraka tafatsali. Tuko wengi huku nyuma na hii kari pato haichachaa mschm”
You then remember North Rift also carries to Bungoma. You want to kick yourself. There are many people behind you, muttering and complaining. You almost want to convince yourself to just go to Bungoma, I mean that is still home and it would be lovely to visit your roots this year, but you know that won’t scale. So you turn back and begin alighting, pushing and squeezing yourself in their midst, hearing them mumbling their khandis and khatses and aii pwana over the block you have caused. You finally detach yourself from the crowd in, not embarrassment, but almost embarrassment. You decide to give up on North Rift and find other means to dear Eldoret.
You begin walking up, or rather away from the Station towards Afya Center. Before you even make ten steps you see a pink Matatu. It looks like one of those rowdy Matatus that go somewhere in BuruBuru. The conductor is shouting:
You look at him twice, and you look at the Matatu. You are standing right at the door, but you know, once bitten manenos. You look inside, it is literally empty. You just stand there and hear the conductor say very clearly two more times ‘Kitale Beba’ then ask him:
he says ‘Madam ni Kitale direct, usiogope’
You look at him annoyed because he has called you Madam, and also in fear because he has just told you not to fear. Why would he tell you not to fear? There must be something to fear then. You begin threading thoughts in your mind. You are awakened from them when he comes and asks you politely to board the Matatu, at least he calls you ‘Mrembo’ this time.
You get in but you are still doubting from here to Limpopo. You sit, but you are very ready to alight at any second. You give it 10minutes, if the Matatu is not full, then you and your water bottle will be out of there. 5 minutes later the Matatu is full. You calm down but not too much, you are still not too sure. The conductor collects your 1500Kshs and you now feel robbed and uneasy, what if they are Cons? Thieves? The Matatu, which passed in front of North Rift by the way, that is how it filled up real quick, leaves the stage and goes down Haile Selassie Avenue. Soon you are on Waiyaki way and your heart has calmed down.
Suddenly, just opposite Villa Rosa Kempinski, it stops and the driver together with the two conductors alight. They begin having an animated conversation at the back of the vehicle, most probably about money. You sit there, because you are at the window, you observe Kempinski. You know February is two months away and you wonder if you can afford that Presidential offer that had been offered early this year. The more you look at it, like the luhya you are, you begin to wonder what really goes in that kitchen that makes a cup of tea cost over 1000Kshs. Before you delve more into that thought, the driver comes back and off the Matatu drives, to your beloved destination.