I went from Nairobi to Meru without ANY help from ANYONE! Plus, I totally was a badass when it came to dealing with someone trying to take advantage of me.
It started in Nairobi – I arranged for a cab to take me to the matatu station. Then I found a matatu that was to take me to Meru. I made sure that I wasn’t going to sit in the middle seat of ANY row, which made for a great ride. I was in the front seat, by myself, in a 7-person matatu. Cush! (On the drive, I was a total tourist, taking videos of half of the ride, which I hope to share later.)
As we rolled into Meru, I was asleep, so I was afraid that I missed the post office, where I wanted to be dropped off. So I quickly asked the driver if we had passed the post office. He looked at me like I was crazy. I asked if we were in Meru, and he said yes. And then I saw a landmark that I recognized. So I said, “The post office is just ahead, right? Will you turn right here or go to the post office?” I was pleased that I knew where I was! He dropped me off right away, and I walked to the post office. I got stamps without getting apologetic for asking the lady to take the extraordinarily long time to find 50 stamps while there was a line of 6+ people forming behind me (and around me).
Then I walked to the Nakumatt (Wal-mart-ish) and took my time buying a cold Coke (“cold” being the key word here – refrigeration is a luxury), and these awesome shortbread cookies that I remembered from last time. While drinking my Coke on the sidewalk, I saw a taxi and flagged it down. Success #1! It pulled over, and I asked if he could take me to the Thiiri Centre. He seemed confused, so I said, “It’s on the route to Ruiri.” Again, I was impressed that I could tell someone else where I needed to go. Success #2!
He said he could drive me, but I asked how much it would cost before I got in the car. He proceeded to get a little impatient, and told me to just get in the car. So I did, but then I asked again how much it would be (because it can happen that you arrive to your destination and drivers then overcharge you). He said that it will be fine and don’t worry about it. So I said, “You either tell me the price, or I find another taxi.” Success #3! He finally responded, “Okay, it is 7,000 Kenyan Shillings.” (That is close to $70.) I laughed, looked him straight in the eye and challenged him with some pretty strong language. “How much do you think it should cost then?” I told him that it should be 50 or 60 Shillings. He said that he couldn’t do that, so I opened the door while the car was still moving and told him to stop, while also accusing him of being ridiculous. Finally, he said, “Fine, fine. 60 Shillings.” Success #4! Don’t mess with Andrea!
It doesn’t stop there. As we approached my destination, he asked for my phone number. Now, why would I want to give my phone number to someone who tried to overcharge me over 100 times the actual fare? I told him no, but he kept on persisting. So I went to open the door again, and he asked me what I was doing. I explained that I would rather walk than continue this conversation. “So you want me to stop talking to you?” Yes, was my simple reply. And he stopped. It was beautiful.
A whole day of transportation, and I never felt like my life was at risk NOR did I feel like I was emotionally drained by the end of the day. Success overall!