Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 26. I become a Matatu driver

First let me tell you that internet access here in Kenya is extremely difficult, so if you don't hear from me in the next two weeks please don't worry.

So, one of the reasons why the traffic in Nairobi is so fierce is that they have gazillion passenger minivans, who like their counterparts all over the world drive like maniacs, cutting drivers off, encroaching on incoming traffic, and making traffic generally chaotic (remember the "lacras" of Mexico City or the Chug-Chug's of India?) Well, according to Kenyans, only a Kenyan driver can handle the matatu traffic. Little did they know what a Mexican driver can do with innocent African drivers! My hosts were at first terrified, but after a while they relaxed and enjoyed the ride, and I have now a standing invitation to come to Kenya after a retire to be a matatu driver :)

Anyway, today was spent trying to establish connections with my colleagues at the Kenya Water Institute, the University of Nairobi, the Ministry of Water Resources, and the Water Resources Management Authority. It was a good day, in which further meetings on Monday and Tuesday were arranged (yes, this is a country where people take their time thinking over things, so any hopes of getting anything accomplished on a first go around would be nothing but wishful thinking).

Going back to being a matatu driver, I am afraid I have seriously contaminated my host family with car disease. As I said before, at the start they were terrified, but now they are used to the fact that "we have a car", so I have been pressed into service for driving everyone to work, the hospital, the market, and even the pub! Yes, there is a pub about 100 m from the house, and my host suggested we went there to have the customary three "boma" or beer, but he insisted it was too far to walk. We of course made a big splash coming by car, and the collected company was suitably impressed when I was introduced to them. All were men (the idea of a woman coming into the pub is unthinkable), all claim to be professional drivers without whose services I could not possibly expect to survive Kenyan traffic, and all were very welcoming. Of course I had to buy a couple of rounds, so by now I am legend. The evening ended with some collective singing in Swahili and Spanish, and promises for a long lasting friendship.

Incidentally Gustav, one is still allowed to smoke in the pub! "Pub" may be a glorified name, since it is little more than a small stone hut, 3 m by 5 m, with benches along the sides and two small tables for customers to rest their mugs of "boma". Still, it is a merry place and I am glad I had the chance to go.

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