Cultural differences

I thought I might make it a whole 6 weeks in Kenya without ever having to ride the public taxi, but I was wrong. Let me first describe to you these taxis. They are 14 passenger vans with a driver. However they are not as big as our 15 passenger vans. No they are about the size of a mini van. There are 5 rows each with 3 seats. And the name of the game is fit as many Kenyans as you can in the taxi. So they will drive by and people are just stowed in there like sardines – it honestly looks painful.
Today I experienced it, and honestly it wasn’t awful, but it was definitely a means of transport everyone must take and experience before being truly African.
The ride started out with a piki piki ride (motorcycle) from the home we were staying in to the taxi. Unaware of our means of transport, I was in a skirt (rare for me unless it’s a sunday) and had packed a backpack and another small bag. Maneuvering myself onto the piki piki without 1. Tipping it over 2. Falling off or 3. Holding onto the driver was a feat which proved impossible. As I tried to straddle the bike while balancing my backpack and bag, I steadied myself on the shoulders of the driver – I don’t think he was too happy about that. (You don’t touch the driver..) so with my one “free” hand, I grabbed onto the back of the piki piki as we bounced along the rough roads to the taxi. Because we stopped at the wrong place, I was given a second opportunity to prove my “African-ness” by getting onto the piki piki without doing the 3 things I mentioned above. Sadly, I failed and basically hugged the man this time. After apologizing and receiving a grunt in reply, we finally reached the taxi.
Ah the taxi. I maneuvered myself and my two bags in the small space and climbed in next to Regina. I would come to find out that I did not have a prime spot. I was right next to the “aisle” – a space of about half a foot, and on the other side was the man who took the money and pressured people into catching a ride on the taxi. So we started on our journey from kakamega to busia. It seemed like every 500 yards we would stop and try to pressure people to get in. The first time the car was “full” there were 21 people in it. Keep in mind this van is about the size of a normal mini van. Granted 3 of the 20 were babies, but we were packed. It seemed as if there were no seats but the guy just kept motioning for people to get in. He pulled out a slab of wood and put it between my seat and his and set two people on that. One of the ladies had a baby. He then hovered over them and barely got the door shut. Meanwhile the lady started breastfeeding in that crowded car. That takes some nerve and skill haha. After we reached a town called mumias, we had to get off and get a new taxi. As I was trying to maneuver my way out quickly, I hit my head on the ceiling – it’s such a small vehicle. The next taxi we sat in a better row. In this one we had at one time 21 adults smashed into the taxi – it was honestly impressive. Thank God for windows so you could get slight air flow. One of the passengers who sat in the front brought a chicken on board – most likely a present from a family member. Another time, three women entered and the one older lady was sitting kinda on my lap, in the aisle between Regina and I. Her and the other two you could tell we’re talking about Sarah and I because they kept looking at us, and then later they asked if we wanted maize, and then a majority of the bus was talking about us.
Okay. The maize (corn) was roasted and being sold on the side of the road – fast food in Kenya. So at one of the stops these women bought maize from the man on the side of the road. Here we are shoved inside this taxi and they are eating their maize lol. After they left Regina told us they were talking about how we didn’t want the maize and then said they seem to understand what we are saying and Regina told them we could speak luhya and knew what they were saying haha.
At another time, the man trying to pressure people to get in the taxi disappeared for like 15 minutes. He’d gone down the road to drum up business. Finally we got him back in the vehicle and he brought no people with him haha. Due to that and all the stops the trip took around 3 hours. In America it probably would’ve taken around 1.5 hours. You got used to the ride and the flow of incoming and outgoing passengers and it proved to be an okay ride. I’m glad we took it so I could truly be immersed. Now, as I write this, I’m on a charter bus with Regina on my way to Kampala Uganda to visit Debbie 🙂 honestly crazy that I will be able to visit her at her home! I’m so excited!

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