Bodas across the border and other stories...

The sun and her four sisters were already up as we made our way out of the Uganda National Theatre where the Mash Bus had let us off. Ugandan soil felt different, I felt different. Actually, that is a lie. The only different thing was that I had accidentally switched on the roaming button on my phone, left the data on and Safaricom and/MTN had eaten all my airtime. Great! No chance of posting ‘I have arrived, #vacaythings #Matokeland’ on Instagram. Bummer!

My knees were killing me and I was definitely sleep deprived; I couldn’t wait to get home, put my feet up and get a shut eye. The trip from Nairobi had been quite uneventful. I prayed the same good fortune would befall us as we, my cousin and I, headed to Masajja, a few kilometers from the capital city, Kampala. The plan: Get to the bus station and then get at matatu (what we call public transport vehicles in Kenya) to Masajja ASAP!

Hee! Let me tell you how I don’t do well with motorcycles.  I never really graduated from the tricycle. Now, years later, I am supposed to trust a total stranger with my life a top this two-wheeled, thing? A boda boda?  I consulted my ancestors, battled with my inner man (who for some inexplicable reason can be a daredevil at the most inappropriate of times) and even tossed a coin. I lost. The boda bodas were apparently the fastest way to get to the bus station without having to spend the rest of the year stuck in traffic. Cousin hailed two boda bodas and negotiated a Ush. 2000 fare to the stop. That ride, my friend, was not exhilarating at all. My eyes were shut the whole time, but I could feel the wind in my hair, in a very distressful kind of way.

I was experiencing firsts in Uganda; the boda boda ride was one. The other was a sense of relief like no other, on seeing the expansive bus station. There were all these small white vans with blue lines round their waists and the sign ‘Taxi’ on their heads.  Most of them looked thirsty and beat up. They stood there waiting, as the men next to them advertised them to the masses milling around. I have always wondered, do matatus feel violated, with people hitting on their sides and behinds all the time, having to contend with all manner of humans all up in their space? Anyway, turns out the Masajja matatus had been moved to another location. To my absolute horror, I was to endure another bike ride to the other side of town. Bad things happening to good people…sigh.

I kept my eyes open this time around, and I tell you that ride got me confessing my sins, considering my headstone epitaph and appreciating speed governors all at once. The manner in which we snaked through traffic, always cutting right through seconds before a car whizzed by in top speed or pulling the brakes just in time was terrifying. Please, I hear some of you saying that sounds like fun, exhilarating and that I should loosen up a little and enjoy. Well, my parents are still waiting for a granddaughter (because they have two grandsons already) and I am sure there would be no smile on my face if I end up a ‘Death by Boda’ statistic. (Seriously though, I think the ever convenient bodas should somehow be regulated; my uncle tells me that in the country’s biggest referral hospital’s accident wing, 90% of the cases are boda boda related). Again, we got there alright, paid the Ush. 2000 and I quickly got away with my life. Phew!

See my life. I was just an hour old in Uganda, The Pearl of Africa, as it is fondly referred to, and my life was already turning into an adventure.  How much more for another week? Month?

Stay. 

Tell me about it. 

"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience."~Emily Dickinson




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