The matatu experience 

beach blue car combi
Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on

There at the trench lies a drunken man, struggling to get on his feet. His body covered with mud, urine and vomit. Next to him lies a woman, dressed in rags. In her arms lies a child. In front of her is a dirty faded yogurt container. In it are a few coins.

A scuffle ensues. A thief has been caught. Blows and kicks rain on him. A tyre and a bottle of gasoline are brought. You don’t want to see a man burnt alive so you walk away. You hear a gunshot, the crowd disperses. His life is saved but the touts and other idle youths are not happy. They wanted some action to break the long boring day.

“Madam, watu wawili ijae,” the tout tells you.

You board. One person alights. They call again wawili iende. Every time a new passenger boards another alights. You then realise you were the first person in the matatu the rest “walikuwa wamepiga set“. You are afraid of alighting because the hooligans calling out for passengers may hurl insults at you and may be hit you. The woman next to you is sweating profusely. Throwing a comment on about everything, “look at that dress. Isn’t it too short?” seeing you aren’t interested in her comments, she bring up a topic about vijana wa siku hizi. You wonder who this siku hizi is. You just mumble an affirmation to whatever she is saying. Not really concentrating. After waiting for what is seemed as a life time, the matatu leaves the stage. The conductor starts collecting money. You give him 500bob he doesn’t give back change. You ask for your change. He casually tells you “gari ni soo tano sister,”. You try to argue that he told you 300bob. But all efforts are futile since the rest of the passengers willingly oblige and give the amount.

The matatu then comes to a stop. Someone has flagged it down. They add several passengers. They tell you to move an create space for one more. You again protest, you say it is already full. “Nisonge wapi?” you ask. The other passengers strangely look at you. Surprised with your courage and stubbornness. You refuse to bulge. You tell the conductor if he wants you to move then he returns half of what you have paid. He gives up and bitterly murmurs, “nunua gari yako Madam.” You are happy that you have won this time. You couldn’t imagine yourself squeezed with the sweaty, huge Luo woman carrying a basket of

and smoked fish… You close your eyes and say a prayer. You pray that this old rickety and ill driven matatu will get you to your destination safely. That you will arrive alive and well.


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