The Recount continues as follows:
Sometimes I feel I shouldn’t recount all that transpired during the two years. But Anne Mogendi she persuaded me to. She insisted, asserting that a boy should share his experiences, my introverted nature notwithstanding. So I allowed I’d recount; I owe her so.
Listen; when I appeared in Nairobi, this evening of 26th January 2014, it drizzled. And cold weather reigned and grey clouds all across the sky, darkened the atmosphere; though I alighted few minutes to 5.00 p.m., you’d allow it’d clocked 7 pm. If live cities exist, Nairobi tops.
I called Fred Sang. And he, in a deep and cool voice, said:
“Hey, whatzup man! You’ve arrived already?”
I’d informed him morning, that I’d arrive evening.
“Yap,” I said.
“Where you at?”
“What? I can’t hear y—”
“I—I…I’m told…it is…it’s Afya Centre! I’m at the main entrance!”
“Yap!” I said, cupping my right palm around my phone to improve transmission within the noise; this noise from horning cars and shuffling feet and yelling hawkers and blasting music around.
“How does it look? The building!”
“Mnh…ah…” I said, stepping a stride from the building to examine its upper walls, “green! It is tall, not very tall though, like it has five or six floors, I think…mhn…”
“Ah, good! Now, listen, I’m busy with some project here…the owner wants it before 7—”
“—thanks man. I would’ve come to town to pick you but—”
“—it—it’s ok Fred. No problem!”
“—you understand man, right?”
“Ma man! Super,” he said, relieved, “I’ll just give you the directions to get here, ok?”
“Listen man, you said you’re at the main entrance?”
“Yap,” I said. Then my phone beeped; that warning beep of the battery a-dying.
“Ok, face away from the building…what do you see man?”
“Hehe, no, no! I mean a building, or a street sign or—”
“—oh, I see…Tom Mboya Street! This street is Tom Mboya Street—”
“Good! Good man.” “Now, I want you turn left, and then walk down the street—”
“Just move…just continue till you get to another road…it’s called Haile Selassie. Tom Mboya Street joins this road to make a ‘T’. You get what I mean man?”
“Then you will cross this road. On the other side, you will see Easy Coach Stage on your left, but you need to turn right and walk for half a minute or so, and ther—”
I didn’t hear him well, on account of the din. And my phone’s charge kept a-dwindling.
“—I’m saying…can you hear me?”
“And there you will see Railway Bus Station, you hear?”
“Use matatu number 02 or 126, I think, or any vehicles they say go to Wanye, Kabiria or Kawangware. Tell them to drop you at Shell Petr—”
My phone died.
I’d never toured Nairobi CBD with the intention of a-marking the streets and buildings. The closest I came, happened when we (as a Geography class in high school) visited KICC in 2005. That time, our teacher permitted us to take a bus ride within the city; and so privileged, I sighted Ambassadeur, and Kencom House, and National Archives—all along Moi Avenue, or Tom Mboya Street, I don’t remember; and Times Towers, and Hilton Hotel and Parliament.
Now, on this evening, this Fred directed me to navigate my way to Railway Station, and then board a matatu (bus ride) to Kanye? Or Nanye? Wanye? Or Kapirio? Or Gawangwa…? Jesus, would I accomplish?
Tales did abound, of visitors who asked for directions from strangers in this city, then ended up mugged, or misled into a forest for mutilation, or dead altogether. Reader, would I get home? Anyway, a boy must attempt.
I heaved my bag of cloths and some farm produce and smoked chicken onto my back. Recalling the instructions as Fred had stated, I plodded down Tom Mboya Street.
Reader, did pedestrians pack this street, shoving and squeezing along the curb, a-hurrying every which way? But the road remained passable. I elected to walk on the road, closer to the curb. Whenever a matatu or a speedy cart honked from behind, I’d leap onto the curb and cram with the citizens.
I’d never noticed a busy population. Along this curb, a man or a woman traded groceries. And young people sold cassettes and cloths and fruits. And others stationed themselves at shop entrances, advertising detergents or fertilizers or drugs or cockroach pesticides, via the aid of piercing and recurrent tapes they played. What with this my burdensome luggage, hustling, honks, matatu fumes, whistles and public racket, my ears ached and my head spun and my nostrils itched; and my skin developed goose bumps on account of the weather.
By and by, my street joined Haile Selassie at a ‘T’. Once I cross, did Fred say I turn left or right? I couldn’t recall. In this city, vehicles speed like cheetahs; only traffic tames them to a crawl, on weekdays. With the vital help of a group of pedestrians, I crossed the two lanes of Haile Selassie to the other side. Where we crossed, no zebra crossing existed. What they did, what these pedestrians did: as the vehicles raced by, these pedestrians congregated by the roadside; by and by, they inched a trifle into the road, like a gang. No vehicle would knock an organized group like such. Thus, oncoming vehicles would decelerate, and the group would cross. It happened so.
On the other side, I turned left and walked along the beat-up pavement. Before long, I sighted Easy Coach bus station. What did Fred say I do? Where did Railway Station exist?
To think and regain my strength, and to avoid this sustained shoving and squeezing, I shifted to the edge of the pavement and leaned on an electric pole. This massive building that housed Easy Coach offices erected a few meters from where I stood. High on its front wall, ‘EASY COACH’ appears in red.
What did Fred say I do? Mnh. And my phone is dead, I’d have called someone. Should I go farther along or turn back? But if I make many turns I’m sure I’ll lose direction, and this city will swallow me.
This Easy Coach station, though existing closer to the road, looked like a gated community. At the entrance, two guards frisked people, and searched inside and under incoming vehicles. Well, they are not strangers, they can’t mislead me. These guards, I went to them:
“Habari.” Hi, I said, in a low voice.
“Muzuri.” Fine, this tall and dark guard said, a-shifting his eyes all over me. Did he think I carried a bomb?
“I…I’m new here…and I want to go to Gawangwa…Gawangwari…I was told I go to Railway…but…I…I—”
“It is where you come from,” he pointed back over my shoulder, “there…just go straight.”
“Oh, asante. Which vehicles go to Gawangwar—”
“Kawangware. It’s called Kawangware. Climb matatu number 102.”
Inside the mat (matatu), having accepted to pay for my luggage—for it occupied another separate seat; I pleaded with the conductor to drop me at Shell Petrol Station (and not a different place) for I would die if he dropped me elsewhere. Once I alight, I schemed I’d borrow a phone from an attendant at the Shell Petrol Station to alert Fred—or she or he, that attendant, would call on my behalf, if I appeared ‘strange’.
Reader, my phone’s dead state notwithstanding, I closed my eyes and said a prayer. A thanks giving prayer. So it happened.
#To be continued…
A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.