Sunday was my first introduction to the convenient yet terrifying world of matatus. Not quite awake and on my way to church I looked death in the face and survived.
(T) Matatu crammed full of people(B) People just walk into oncoming traffic in the street. A little terrifying to say the least.
Matatus should hold about 14-20 people, but can be crammed with close to 20-30 strangers in a very confined space (see above). They drive manically through town cutting people off and nearly plowing into things with little regard for those around them much less those riding in the vehicle. Think soccer mom minivan plus 20-30 strangers sitting/standing in your personal space while being bounced over potholes and dodging pedestrians at 80 kilometers an hour (approximately 50 mph). Fortunately for me, it only cost ishirini shillings (about 27 cents) for our thrill ride. I’m sure in a matter of weeks I will be an old pro at hailing these death cabs, jumping in while it is still in motion without inflicting total disfigurement, and letting them know when I’d like to alight from the vehicle so as not to be forced to ride around town for hours on end.
Church was the destination of this joyride. Purity and Esther, Emily’s daughter who was home from college for the weekend, took me to the early “youth” (anyone under the age of 35-40 and not considered an old fogey) service at their church, Nairobi Pentecostal Church- Valley Road. For those of you who have known me awhile, you will remember that I grew up in an Assembly of God/non-denominational congregation in Plano. Since I’m not well versed in the varying beliefs of every sect of Christianity I cannot tell you the theological differences between non-denominational and Pentecostal, however this church felt like home (e.g. arm raising and dancing during worship and an invitational at the end of service). I didn’t even know that people don’t normally shout out “Amen” or “Praise the Lord” in affirmation of the pastor’s message or dance around during the praise and worship at other churches until I brought my boyfriend from college home one weekend and took him to a church service. It was a comfort to find some familiarity so far away from home.
On the other hand, on the way home from church I saw something completely different from home: Goats! After a second harrowing journey aboard a matatu I was greeted by these friendly creatures upon disembarking from the minibus. Sawa, we’ve all seen goats at one point or another, or at the very least tasted some of their yummy cheese at a wine tasting, but how many of you have seen them walking down the street grazing? That’s what I thought. The goat walking toward me in the picture on the right was particularly friendly and ventured closer when realizing it was being photographed.
Later in the day came my introduction to Kenyan weddings. No, unfortunately I cannot mark #17 off my list, but I did attend a play about Kenyan weddings, “It’s Not about the Bride: The Kenyan Wedding Story.” Imagine “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” meets Kenya. It was amusing, well what parts I could understand since about half of it was in Swahili. Their wedding process is quite a bit different than in the States. A guy proposes to a girl and some give engagement rings, but they do not typically include a diamond or any stone at all. Then the guy goes to the girl’s family and offers them a dowry for her. They barter her value with cows, goats, and chickens. However, instead of actually giving her parents these animals, the guy’s family pays them what these animals are worth. Next (insert audible sigh of relief by all parents in Kenya) the engaged couple raises the funds to pay for the wedding themselves. They form a committee of close, financially stable friends and their friends pledge money to help the couple pay for the event. The example they used as an outrageous lavish wedding in the play had the couple struggling to come up with about $12,000. Now, I’ve never been married, but from what I understand, it’s not easy to accomplish even a simple wedding for that amount in Dallas. I now know where my future wedding to my imaginary husband is going to take place!
Swahili words of the day:
Ishirini- twenty (20)