There are two types of people you will find at Githurai 45 matatu terminus; those with crisp suits and awesome shoes and those without. However, do not judge either of them. Those without suits might be owning a matatu fleet for Ngumo line sacco but choose to live in the cheap outskirts of the city. Those with suits may just be counter boys at Nairobi chemists or ill-paid bankers. Again do not judge by gender. The women who wrap their heads with old scarves have probably educated two sons and a daughter with profits from their lingerie business at Gikomba market. The slay queens, well, might just be university girls like me with dented pockets and seriously not bothered by life-we are here to impress.
The goal is one, we are here to get to the city center where the money is ‘minted’, where the world-class university is situated, where the politicians hang out. We are on our way to search for a better life. You’ll see some of us looking frustrated. Actually, all of us are frustrated, we just have different elasticity points when it comes to venting out frustrations. Today, it is muddy at the terminus and there is a slight shower pouring over us, caring less about those of us who are too poor to afford umbrellas. However, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. It’s especially a profitable day for the matatu touts who have hiked the fare to a hundred shillings. A hundred shillings just to get to the city! I will tell you what you can do with a hundred shillings, you can buy tomatoes, sukuma wiki, onions, half a kg of maize flour and a quarter liter of salad oil. Yes! You can have a meal from a hundred shillings, the money they want us to spend on bus fare.
Staged at the terminal’s entrance are shoeshine boys. They call you from miles away, “Sister, ng’ara na ashuu” (Sister get your shoes clean for just ten shillings). Sometimes they will catcall you and when you refuse to respond to their calls they will insult you. But you do nothing and say nothing because we sort of live in a society that draws a thin line between a compliment and an insult. The most impressive thing about Githurai, nonetheless, is the warmth of the people around you, so as you stand waiting for the touts to lower the fare prices, you will most likely make a friend. The best of those are old men-they know how to hit off conversations. Before you know it an hour is gone and you have had an entire debate on politics, the education system and of course, why don’t millennials have any respect for the older generation.
Let me get you back to the frustrations. You can see a few people making calls. Do not be fooled that they like giving morning pleasantries to their forlorn loved ones. They are trying to apologize to their bosses for being late to work. They are trying to ask their classmates to put a signature against their name on the class register. They are trying to get their clients to stick around for a little longer, “Boss, niko hapa Muthaiga, nakuja- itisha chai ntalipa” (Boss, I am at Muthaiga, I am almost there, order for a cup of tea. I will pay.) As if not enough, the matatus at Githurai play loud music. It’s hard to tell if this is a marketing gimmick or a mockery to their soon-to-be passengers (to remind them, they are not the cool guys).
However, when you are about to give up and get back home, one old matatu will appear and the tout will shout, “Tao 60 bob! Tao 60 bob!” And now, I have to run for this lifetime deal!