Buru!!! Buru!!! Buru!!! Watu wanne gari inatoka. Madam unaishia? Ingia ni watu wanne tu wamebakia. Buru!!! Buru!!! Ingia kwa hii gari jamaa!!! Buru karibu tuishie!!! A fight-like encounter seems to be brooding between two matatu conductors. Now that is quite ‘normal’ around the bus station. I manage to push my way through, in between the conductors about to throw fists at each other. My whole body is drenched in sweat, sweat from the struggle that just ensued, sweat from the heat of the sun that is making matters even worse.
Inside the bus I notice that the number that is needed to start the ride is not less but more than four. I am forced to find me a seat, given I cannot alight, lest another fight starts, in the second row from where the driver’s seat is. The back seats seem already full. That should be a relief, but in a short while you will realize it is not. Outside, the conductors continue with their shouts, calling, beckoning and encouraging potential passengers to board, that only four people and the bus starts out. Inside is no different, only that the noise is from the booming speakers, some hip-hop is playing, old school hip hop. Being in the second row does not make matters any better, the seats being closer to the speakers just behind the driver’s compartment.
To keep me distracted I decide to stare out through the window. I crack open it, just small enough to enable me get some fresh air, and not too wide that can facilitate anyone planning to loot, loot on my phone. You know the stories right? Those incidences where unsuspecting passengers have their phones snatched. The street is busy, the street is always busy. That I know about most streets around Nairobi. How busy are the streets in your country, in your cities? Nairobi gets so busy sometimes you wonder where everyone is rushing to. Like it is some emergency call and everyone is running to respond. In Nairobi everyone seems to be always on the run, on the run after something. It is a fast city, Nairobi, until just taking a slow walk feels odd, like that is reserved for visitors. And Nairobi visitors seem to learn fast, a requirement that if you hesitate to pick you are left behind.
Around The Archives is no different. Hawkers with their merchandise looking for buyers, the city council askaris (kanjo) always on their back, people going for their own business, Passenger Service Vehicles and private cars hooting and rushing for small spaces to pack; guys packing cars and getting into shops, others inside the Ambassadeur Hotel; students standing, some getting inside the Stanbank House building. Given that it is a Tuesday, a crowd gathers in queue-like groupings in front of the Pizza Inn at the intersection between Mama Ngina Street and Moi Avenue for the Terrific Tuesday offer. This is all found in Nairobi, in a day, a Tuesday.
My attention is caught by a young woman trying to cross the road, baby in hand, probably looking for a bus to board. The conductors quickly notice her and they all go for the run, they bring traffic to a stand-still as they stop other road users to enable the lady cross the road. Now that should be a plus, it is actually. But what follows frightens me; the young lady is separated from her kid, who is snatched from her arm in a jiffy after crossing the road. Other conductors get hold of her arm which prompts the need for her to decide, to choose between going with those holding her arm or those having her kid. She struggles to break loose from the gripping arm of the conductor, who seems not to have a plan to release her for her kid, who by now is exposed to the scorching heat of the sun and crying his heart out!!! Matters get off-hand, people get excited; the mother for her kid, the kid for her mother, the conductors for almost losing their customer and me for them all; until another male passenger approaches who goes to the woman’s rescue. He goes for the kid, asks the lady the bus she wishes to board and he climbs in with the kid in his arms. The woman then follows and all is settled.
Just when we thought the bus is full and the journey could begin, a group of lads start moving from their seats at the back, and then alight from the bus. They walk out in good numbers, a number enough to occupy two rows at the rear end of the bus. By now the adrenaline rush I am experiencing is almost surpassing the roof of the bus, a roof decorated by pictures of some famous musicians and other celebrities, musicians mostly associated with rage and violence. I feel a hot burning ball roll in my pack-less belly that start climbing up my throat. I do not want to talk. That is when the lady seated next to me says hi. I respond in a rush then behave as if too occupied with the happenings on the streets. I stare at my watch. In less than half an hour I should be in class, teaching/tutoring kids, giving back to the society by helping fight illiteracy. Moments later other passengers aboard the bus and we are finally ready to go.
Time runs fast. Slightly more than fifteen minutes before class begins. I do not want my class to be taken by someone else, because that is what I will probably encounter if I get to school late. Maybe I should get something straight before we proceed. I am not a teacher by profession, but a volunteer with a group aiming to contribute in reducing the illiteracy levels in schools and communities around the fast-city. We work with primary schools and community centres encouraging kids to develop a positive attitude towards books and in the process hope that the result is that they find the hidden treasures contained in books. We facilitate in the provision of books where they are lacking by assembling and bringing them closer to the kids and all those willing to learn. So this is a narration of the experiences of a ‘teacher/tutor’ on transit to school.
I maintain my stare outside the window, maybe to distract myself from the blaring music that I suspect is now set on the maximum volume. I feel it, the music not only in my ears but also in my heart that is almost popping out of my rib cage. I feel it on my posterior shaking the seat almost plunging it from the screws holding it on the floor of the bus. I feel and see it on the screen where the music videos are showing, ladies strutting their tooshie like it is the only thing that matters, cleavage popping out like a black cloud in the sky carrying thunderstorm that the fast-city has not seen in a long time; men exposing their chest and six-packed belly that makes me feel envious, just the six-pack, I am straight. Huh!!
I am hoping that the road, Jogoo Road is free of traffic, just like it was on Thursday and that the traffic police at the Nyayo Stadium roundabout woke up on the right side of bed, and if they did not that the bus is having the required documentation. I am hoping that we do not find the lady cop who according to the conductors due to her frequent ‘nagging’ is forever experiencing cramp pains. I once while not in a hurry asked, probing to know more and they, the conductors even had proof, ‘’the swelling on her face,’’ which according to them is an indication of being in that time of the month. Even my adding that maybe the lady cop developed a liking to them did not change their theory and perception
Five minutes to time and I alight at the Tuskys Buruburu Bus Stand and take a quick walk to school. I rush through the gates and throw a hand in the air as a greeting gesture to the guards standing by the gate. They probably notice that I am in a rush and so they let the searching part slip. Twelve finds me outside the classroom door waiting for the lesson already started earlier to come to a close. I exchange greetings with the kids and we start doing our thing. We learn together, we grow together. We sing together, a part I need to work on. I ask questions and get to be asked questions. The fun is when either of us cannot figure out an answer to a question. When I ask a question and the kids are wondering why in God’s name I had to ask a question that I know too well has no answer only to later find out that the answer was the simplest. Or when they talk in their language or call me in that name that they have bequeathed me and I cannot connect and they wonder from which planet I come.
Interaction with the kids immediately makes me forget all the noise and the hustle I experienced on my way to school. I realize that occasionally we have to put our not-so pleasant experiences aside to enjoy the present moment we are in. Forty minutes seem too short since the lesson comes to the end only when I notice the bell ring and other kids running to take their lunch. I want to sulk but the contentment that I feel will not let me. I release the kids and start packing and wait for another day. That is when a kid comes forth, a drawing in hand and thrusts it in my already spread arm. She says that it is a present for me. I ask what she drew and she says it is a Chinese city with a dragon hovering in mid-air. I say thanks and she rushes out to join other kids for lunch. I finish my packing and head to the bus stand, this time feeling like I can take on everything, including the noise and the marauding conductors just so that I can join the kids for another class and interaction.