Getting from Nairobi matatu (bus) station to the Karen district of Nairobi

I did it. I made it from Meru to Nairobi without a hitch. Boniface did hold my hand a bit by taking me to the matatu station in Meru and walking me to my matatu, which is public transportation in the form of a VW minibus-type of vehicle. My directions from Dick Moss were to ride the matatu to Nairobi, then take the 111 route to the Nakumatt (like Wal-Mart) to the Karen district of Nairobi. Seems clear enough. Shortly before arriving, I was supposed to call Boniface’s dad, who works close to the matatu station. Super nice of him… until I realized I had no idea when “shortly before arrival” would be. So I called him an HOUR before arriving, thinking I was almost there. Oops. Then, when we arrived at the matatu station, people started getting out of the matatu, one-by-one, until only 4 people were left. I asked someone where we were, and he looked at me like I was some kind of Chinese ditz and said, “We are in Nairobi now.” Duh. I knew that. I asked when the bus would stop, and he said we were just finding a parking space. So we wandered around for about 15 minutes among throngs of taxis, matatus, and charter buses. I asked the same guy, since I was on a roll, if he knew how to get to the Route 111 bus. Nope. Then the old man next to me, whose halitosis had been driving me nuts, said that he was going to Karen on the 111 bus. Fantastic! I could walk with him. Seems clear enough. I called Boniface’s dad, saying that I was ok and didn’t need help anymore.

As this old man and I were walking, I realized that I have just told him that I have no idea where I am going in a pretty dangerous town. I obviously have money, since not only am I American, but I kept flashing my iPhone during the trip to play music. I thought, “But does a man his age even know what an iPhone is? Probably not.” I did imagine, though, that he could be leading me to some dark alley where his old-man friends would either beat me up and steal my iPhone or else abduct me and find my dad’s phone number on my Kenyan cell phone to demand a ransom. I thought, “But does a man with a potato sack filled with things he probably wants to sell in Karen have old-man mafia friends? Probably not.” But then, I seriously actually thought, “What if those aren’t potatoes, but actually body parts?” Embarrassed at my own thought, I dismissed that one too.

As he was leading me through blocks and blocks of the city, I kept on telling myself I could probably trust this man, that he didn’t look capable of being the type of person to take advantage of a lost Korean-American. Nevertheless I kept on finding landmarks to find my way back in case I broke away in an escape. And I kept fingering my phone, contemplating whether to call back Boniface’s dad to just have him be the one to hold my hand. Of course, just like all the other stories, it turned out fine. But not without a fair amount of mental hemming and hawing. I paid for the old man’s bus fare when we got on the bus. Nice man. He waved to me and smiled when he got off the bus. I think we may have said five sentences to each other. Cost: $1.00 for old man’s fare and mine. Length: 15 minutes to walk from matatu (bus) station to the Karen bus.

This entry was posted in 2nd Kenya trip (Jun-Aug 2011), Kenyan transportation stories. Bookmark the permalink.

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