Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Things That Go!"

Buses. Matatus. Motorcycles. Let me share my experiences with you about three of Kenyas most popular forms of transportation.
There is nothing in America that can compare to a stick shift charter bus barreling down a rocky dirt road. Recently I spent 14 hours on one of these monsters to get from my village to Nairobi. The bus left Sori at 4:30pm. On the roof top were bins of omena (sardines) on their way to the markets in Nairobi. The bus stops about every 400 meters dropping off and picking up people. With each stop a new scent permeates the bus. Smells range from fish to body odor to over powering cologne. Fours hours into the trip we make it to the town of Kisii which is really only two hours away. Then it begins to rain. Water seeps through the cracks of my closed window. With each bump and turn water pours onto my lap. I cover myself with a plastic bag to prevent my jeans from becoming more soaked. At midnight we take a 30 minute stop at a roadside cafĂ©, just as I’m falling asleep we arrive there. I head to the bathroom. There are no toilets, just stalls with a hole in the ground, a common finding in Kenya. I’m fully awakened by the putrid smell coming from the hole. Back on the bus I doze off again enjoying the smooth paved roads for the rest of the journey. I toss and turn trying to get comfortable but really there is no point in trying to sleep because the old women in front of me is singing to herself. In a screeching, off-key voice she sings Duhluo hymns, and “I love Jesus.” That’s great you love Jesus, I do too! But for the love of Jesus its 2am! Please stop singing! At 3:30am we roll into the desolate streets of Nairobi. We pull into the bus station and nobody gets off, everyone sits there until the sun comes up when it is safe to get off. I finally get some sleep because the singing grandma has also fallen asleep. But at 5:45am just as the sun is starting to rise I’m poked by the bus driver, “Muzungu, twende.” (White man, let’s go) Half asleep I start my day in Nairobi. Suddenly, Greyhound is looking like first class!
Matatus. Imagine a 14 passenger minivan stuffed with 20 adults, add some massive speakers, and a huge decal of Brittney Spears, Obama, or Jesus on the back window and you have yourself a typical Kenyan matatu. Personal space is nonsexist in these crammed vans driven by lunatic drivers. It is a competition to see how many people can cram in. Arm pits are in people’s faces, half of your butt cheek is in your neighbor’s lap, and elbows are jabbed into your side with every bump. Here are a few of my most memorable matatu moments. A passenger in the front seat becomes sick, and starts puking out the window. The driver doesn’t want puke smeared down the side of the van so they decide to move him to the very back seat right next to me. So I am sitting next to this man with his head out the window barfing going 50mph. Another time I sat next to a man carrying a live chicken with him. He kept in on the floor between his feet. I smelled something and realize the chicken has pooped on the floor. Yuck! A few minutes later I feel something on my ankle. It is the chicken, apparently my white skin looks like chicken feed. How do I politely tell this man, “Um, your cock is pecking my ankle!”
Motorcycles are the most common transport around the hospital. It works like a taxi service taking people to other nearby villages. However, some of these motorcycles think they are moving trucks. They carry 3 passengers at one time. I’ve seen everything from beds, chairs, lumber, and suitcases carried on these things. These reckless drivers keep the x-ray department busy. I’ve seen way too many fractured arms, legs, and skulls because of them. Walking along the road isn’t much safer either. Pedestrians don’t have the right a way, and these drivers have no fear. Yesterday we had a woman who was hit my a motorcycle while walking along the road. She arrived at the hospital in her makeshift brace of twigs and twine with a compound fracture. The tibia and tendons were hanging out covered in dirt. Of course the man who hit her didn’t stop. Not because for fear of the cops, but fearing mob violence.
My favorite form of transportation? Walking….far, far, away from the road.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mzungu = White Person

By: Christy Stutsman
March 10, 2009

“Mzungu! Mzungu” you yell out to me,
your eyes brightly shining, your face lit with glee.

“Ciao! Ciao!” the toddlers chorus,
a greeting of the missioners who came here before us.

“America! America!” Lauren and I shout in reply,
we’re not European, we say “hi” or “good-bye.”

Warm greetings are common, a nod or a wave,
more often a handshake, it’s their absolute fave.

Wet hands, sticky hands, hands dripping nasal goo,
oh yes, what a pleasure, it’s nice to see you too.

We part and move on, striding down a dirt path,
by the lake there are children enjoying a bath.

No matter where we go, the landscape doesn’t change,
deep brown to vivid green spans the full color range.

Cows, donkeys, goats, dogs, and pigs,
a multitude of creatures wandering about on four legs.

African animals are harder to spot,
well…except for the hippo that Lauren just fought!

Both knees are gashed, left arm is achy,
but I’m the one who knows her story’s a fakey.

She was running with me when she tripped on a rock,
the blood began to drip in a jagged line to her sock.

Kenyans had to gawk, on Doc Balient’s door we did knock,
he gave a tetanus booster so her jaw would not lock.

We joked about ways to get out of here,
we were doubting survival in Karungu for a year.

But, our perspective is now brightening,
it no longer seems as frightening,

we’ll make it in this place
with just a little bit of grace.