Stages of a true Kenyan journey
By Lubnah AbdulHalim

Image [Courtesy]

Journeys are all fun and thrill until its past five hours on the road and you start realizing all the things you’d rather not. Like the baby who’s been crying sharply. You’ve been actively ignoring it but you no longer can. Or the lady in front of you who eats by the hour. She makes a point that you all know that she is eating, by the sound of the paper bags.

Then there’s the man behind you whose legs are too long and keep bumping on your seat. A well-dressed, masculine man by your side is talking baby language and you wonder for a moment if he is someone’s boss. You can bet that they probably have never seen this soft side of their otherwise tough-looking boss. Stereotypes, I know! 

By this time you have done everything you can possibly do; eat, sleep, watch YouTube videos, chat, daydream, make a business plan, read a book, have a monologue, praise the Lord and eat. Did I mention eat?

There are usually two kinds of travellers in any kind of journey; those who mind their own business and those who don’t. Your current seat-mate is the former. They would sit gracefully and put their earphones on. They would turn to the side and lay back on the seat. Neither would they say hi nor would they look to your side. You are invisible. Non-existent. They would avoid eye contact for whatever hours you are on the vehicle and play dead. They won’t ask your name or where you are headed. They are the best kind of travellers in most cases. Well, that is until you reach Mtito and you ask them to hold onto your paper bag while you go to the washroom. Then they give you that look of  ‘Are you seriously about to leave your very aromatic chicken nuggets with a total stranger?’

There follows an awkward moment of silence; you standing there foolishly with your hand stretched out. Then you give them that look of ‘well you have a point’ and slowly drop your hand in disappointment. Before you leave, they stretch out theirs with no expression on their face. Your only other option is to carry your chicken nuggets to the washroom with you so you decide your cold seatmate is all you got.

The second kind is the super energetic one. The chatterboxes who seem to have been put on a mission to interrogate your entire life. They are all bright and sunlight even when your trip is during the dead night. They will have all sorts of conversations with you; the ‘cliché’ kind of ‘Don’t you feel too hot in that buibui?’ the small talk kind, ‘I am going for a business trip with this huge firm’, the ‘let-me-excavate-your-entire-history’ kind, ‘did your great grandfather migrate to Mombasa by ship during the 19th Century?’

You are too tired to even open your mouth. You try to be pleasant by giving very short answers with an enigmatic smile hoping they get the hint. But do they ever? On a brighter note, at least you know you can leave your chicken nuggets with them and they’d be happy to do it. Plus, it is not like you have anything better to do.

If there is any time boredom could catastrophically kill a human being, it would be now. So you just stare outside, the nursery rhyme ‘are we there yet?’ playing in your head. There is a terrible traffic jam ahead. A lot of dust particles. The driver is recklessly overtaking other reckless drivers. Sweat. Smelly garbage by the road. Exhausted faces.

But as they say, life is as you make out of it. Because outside your window, there are zebras and giraffes walking gracefully on beautiful green lands, people walking in the vast fields and you wonder where they are headed to. There’s a mother playing with her baby’s fingers as she laughs cutely. The couple eating from the same plate. Beautiful conversations with strangers. The break of dawn just as you approach Nairobi. The lights everywhere. The sunrise. A magnificent sight! Huh! Life is not so bad anyway.