Before I continue… let’s check in with the stats:
(Changes marked in Red)
Police Searches: 1
Near Death Experiences: 1
Stomach Issues: 3
Bandwidth: 1.4 KB/sec
Kilometers Ran Without Injury: 5km
My Face, My Hair
I was visiting the fiancee of a friend who was in the hospital today, and on my way down the stairs I hear “Eh ya 3am”, which is an Egyptian friendly greeting literally meaning “Hey, Uncle!” (yea, don’t ask). And I look, and I was surprised to see the man who said this was African. So I said, “do i know you?” and he said “No, but I am from Egypt too.” And so I asked him “What makes you say that I am Egyptian?” He replied: “Your face says that your Egyptian, but your hair tells me you may be something else, so maybe you are not Egyptian”.
What does that mean?!
Today, I decided to use the matatus to get around. What is a matatu you ask? Here are a few facts about a matatu:
Capacity: 18 – 25
Music Selection: Loud / Bass
Colors: Loud / Grafitti (but the standard is white and yellow)
Stops: Whenever you stick your hand out (but there are some designated stopping points
Routes: Designated and unchanging
Schedule: Every minute or so, more accessible than a NYC Subway
Staff: 1 Driver, 1 Driver’s Friend who sits next to driver, 1 Money Collector / Signaller
How it works: You stand at a designated matatu stop (or close by) – the money collector will stick his hand out as the matatu quickly approaches, and you stick your hand out to let him know you want to get on. The matatu slows down enough so you can get a running start and hop on. There is an aisle, but its only wide enough to fit a small child, so you sit in the money collectors seat while he hangs outside the matatu, and then once you’ve settled, you have to find an empty seat, and squeeze your way through… if you have a bag with you, you will be a nuisance. When you’re ready to get off the matatu, if the money collector likes you, you can get off anywhere, but if he’s not so crazy about you, you have to wait till the next stop. When its time to stop, money collector hits the roof with a coin, signaling the driver to pull over. The matatu slows down enough so you can jump off without stumbling and tripping into a drainage system and making a complete ass of yourself.
I used the matatus pretty much all day. Quickest way to get around Nairobi.
The Close Call
After work today I headed over to Adam’s Arcade, a shopping center on Ngong Road halfway between Junction and Mimosa (which probably means nothing to most people reading this) so I could workout at the gym. I sat outside for a bit to get some air before I went in to workout, when I noticed a very shady looking character staring at me from across the way. Many times I get stared at, I usually break the stare by saying “Mambo” or “Sema” (casual Nairobi-slang greetings) and the starer usually smiles and responds with a “Poa” or “Freshi” or something of that nature. This time, the “Mambo” was returned by a deep and angry stare, that seemed like it pierced thru my soul.
I started to feel uncomfortable.
I basically decided to ignore the guy. But he kept pacing around, and would not keep his eyes off me. I’m not one to go walk into a building to feel safe (when maybe I should!) But I like to resolve things, I wasn’t going to go inside until I knew what this guy wanted.
After about 10 minutes of staring and me feeling very uncomfortable, I went inside.
I worked out for about an hour, when I got out, he was there waiting again. Pacing, staring, looking very angry and menacing. So finally I just looked at him and said “what?!?” and he turned around and walked away.
Basically Mena told me that he was scoping me out because he was planning to mug me, and was waiting for the right moment to do so. I just heard a story today of a friend of a friend, a student, was mugged in downtown Nairobi, the guy took his backpack, then the guy stabbed himself, and then cut the student with the same knife, grabbed his arm and made his blood mix with the student’s blood. He had to go on Post Exposure Prophylactic treatment for 3 months. That experienced rocked him, and rocked all of us who heard it.
You can’t live in fear around here, but you gotta be cautious. I love this country, and I love this town. One thing you can be sure of, if you shout “thief” against someone, everyone (and I mean everyone in the vicinity) will chase the guy you accused, and beat him till near death. Mob justice, is what it’s called, but I hope I never have to use it.
On that note, I’m gonna head over to Pavement, it’s salsa night, live music, and great food.