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News for End of March 2008

Matatu (bus) ride

Getting onto a bus (minibus with driver and conductor, reconditioned second hand from overseas) is opting for a hairy ride and an adventure . I have a regular weekly ride from Siaya to Kima. (About 30 miles.) Here's a story of this week's 'adventure'.

Having cycled about 1 mile out of town, to avoid getting into a bus that then turns round and goes back to get more passengers, I waved this bus down, and three lads jumped out to welcome me aboard. Two tied my bike to the top (using one rope, and no there is no roof-rack). The third found someone selling petrol from a plastic drum, so added it to the vehicle's tank. (Presumably cheaper than normal.) I hand over KSh100 fare (about 80p).

Crammed into the back, with a total of 19 people (not including small children and babies) in the bus plus the conductor hanging out of the door, we were off. While we go like crazy, I try to close my eyes to avoid getting frights from road incidents! Periodically police wave us down, but we don't actually stop as money has already been paid to the police so that we not be required to keep the law. We stop to find a tarpaulin and heavy metal poles used to make a shelter for a funeral at the side of the road, needing to be transported. The roof of the bus sags worryingly above our heads as these are loaded on - my bike now being tied to the back window by a thin rope. Murmurs by passengers that our lives are being put in danger by this heavy over-head load are ignored by driver and conductor. People are added and alighted as we go.

A lady comes with a sack of vegetables. There is no room in the bus. Never mind - the conductor puts it on top and holds it with his hand while he also keeps an eye on the 'tent' on top as we go along. Later I wonder why the conductor is looking behind, only to find someone on the back seat re-tying my bike as we are going full pelt, as the knot came undone. A piece of glass starts to fall out of a window, so we stop and decide it is best to keep that window in the bus in case it otherwise fell out and got broke. I see a towel blow past the door - a sick girl carrying a baby sat next to the wide open door as we charge along let go of her baby's blanket. We stop and the conductor runs to get it. We stop just out of sight of another police check point and my bike and I are unloaded there to save having to pay these police a bribe.

Just another trip on an African bus.

1st to 7th April I am to be in Nairobi, amongst other things getting a renewal on work permits for myself and others at KIST. 7th to 11th is the bi-annual Church of God missionaries' retreat at Malindi on the coast. 12th I hope to accompany other missionaries to Arusha in Tanzania in their vehicle, then on the 13th go to Babati to teach at church seminars for 2 or 3 weeks before heading back to Kenya for a new term's teaching at KIST / YTC and STC. Good news - in the last 2 weeks we have enrolled a total of 5 new teachers for YTC and STC combined (to start in May).