Trip Start Nov 29, 2004
24Trip End Dec 27, 2004
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We went to the matatu station, a bustling place with countless matatus, people, and vendors. There are several booths where people buy tickets. Just as we were coming to a stop, another car actually sideswiped us! It was a low speed affair, not what you would call an accident
It's so confusing to me, I still don't understand the system. There are no destinations or prices posted, though each matatu is stenciled with it's route. Mami seemed to know just what to do though, so I busied myself by buying a copy of the Daily Nation for thirty-five big ones. Mami bought our tickets (about $3 each!!!) and we started looking for a mat. There was one parked and about to leave, but there were only two seats left. However, just behind it, there was another one completely empty.
The mats are little Nissan vans that would normally seat around six. These babies are modified so they actually have three bucket seats abreast, with an isle between seat one and two that is about six inches wide. This allows thirteen people, not including the driver, to pile in. It is pretty cramped and the seats are hard, but the price is right. Nakuru is 86 miles away. I'd expect to pay more than $3 to rent a bicycle. We are the first people on this mat, but it soon fills up
It was a lot of fun getting out of town in a different direction than Rongai. The sun was coming up, and there is nothing more fun than just drinking in all the sights: donkey carts, vegetable/fruit stands, kids playing, green fields, baboons, monkeys, Acacia trees and other exotic plant-life, cars of all sorts except American whizzing everywhere, and many goat herds milling around with their tenders. You see, we are nearing Christmas and everyone buys a goat on Christmas. So the Maasai bring herds of goats into town and they stand along side of the road selling them. Imagine, dinner can walk home with you! In fact, dinner could even carry you home!
After some time on the mat, my butt got really unhappy. I resorted to lifting myself up with my hands to encourage blood flow. Also, the seat pitch was just slightly too short, so my knees were in constant contact with the metal seatback. The bouncy road outside Nairobi made things even worse. On top of that, the fumes made my eyes water and my nose run, so it wasn't extremely comfortable. But I had been hearing about matatus for years and I couldn't believe I was actually on one
Mami talked with some folks on the mat, some of whom also happened to be going to the same wedding! They recommended a hotel. Somehow, the driver dropped us off right in front of the hotel. I never saw anyone alert him of where we wanted to get off. It was hard to maneuver my big self and big bag around everyone and down the six inch aisle, and I half climbed, half-fell out the door but here we were in beautiful downtown Nakuru, Kenya.
We picked our way across the street to the Hotel Kunste. It was quite a lot like playing the old video game, Frogger. I'll tell you now that I did steal a mug for my collection at home. Indeed, the best things in life are free. The hotel has a large picnic/kids area in front. At the entrance, we walked through a very nice outdoor dining area, and into a bit of a hallway and then into a large reception area. It was very nicely decorated with dark woods, a fireplace, and subdued furnishings. We asked to see a room. The first one had a large bedroom, bathroom, and another room that I will call the reading room
Sara changed into her wedding dress. That is, the dress she wears to other people's weddings. Then we left our room and went to the lobby to wait for our ride. We found Mami having coffee with our ride. Helen is a friend of Mami's from the post office. They both used to work at the Nairobi office, but Helen moved to Nakuru several years ago. She is a very friendly sort who likes to laugh. And it was good to see Mami having such a good time with her friend.
She drove us, in a 1970s era Datsun, to the site of the wedding. We got there about thirty minutes late, but the bride and groom had still not shown up
There were actually two churches here, next to one another - and there were weddings going on at both of them. In fact, at first we had gone to the wrong wedding, but they had cleverly posted a giant "Congratulations Samuel and Mary!" on the wall. Our couple was named Joseph and Maureen. The sun was beating down, and people were milling around the parking lot in their finest and hottest attire. Mami motioned to us to come into the correct church and out of the sun. She went up and found a seat front row center, and we stayed back near the exit, in case a quick escape should become necessary. In fact a quick escape was necessary soon after the ceremony began. A boy sat down next to me who had obviously been goat wrestling. I could even see goat hair on his clothes, and he smelled so bad
We went outside and had some ice cream from one of the vendors, and ran into Joseph - who had the same idea. Soon after, he gave a speech as well. It turns out he is the MC for the event. After the long, long ceremony, everyone piled out to the parking lot and took advantage of the ice cream and soft drink vendors. As I have mentioned, Kenyan's aren't big on spelling. A large sign on the front of the couple's car proclaimed "Just Maried." Dang that cracks me up.
It took some debate, but we decided to go ahead and go to the reception. The other option would have been to go straight to the Nakuru National Park
Soon, Joseph took charge. At one point, there was some problem, and Joseph was nowhere to be found. The DJ called for him on the loudspeaker several times to no avail. After about 15 minutes, he finally showed up to announce that people should only take one spoon or something like that. Seriously, Sara translated that one for me. Many other things happened of which I am completely unaware. I tell you, I just don't know what the hell is going on here half the time. Remember everyone is not speaking my language.
Also, everyone was Kenyan. So, when another mzungu showed up, I spotted him from half a mile
The bride arrived, and all the women danced in with her. She was followed by a group of traditional dancers, and surrounded by women and children dancing in with her. So, the bride and groom found each other, and then the entertainment began. The traditional dancers whirled into action. Sara and I happened to be sitting next to the choir from church, and I guess they were badmouthing the dancers, saying they were fat and boring. But we thought they were great. There were two guys beating drums, while the dancers went nuts. They pranced off stage, and the choir started singing, and walking out in front of everyone
We took a drive. Helen drove us around the town of Nakuru. It was very similar to any small U.S. town. Very quaint and clean and friendly. The nicest area of town had amazing mansions with swimming pools and movie stars. These mansions could be had for the price of a two bedroom rambler in Tukwila. Nearby the town is an old volcano called Menengai. To get there, you must brave a steep and bumpy dirt road that looks like a steep, bumpy dirt road to heaven. Helen had second thoughts about driving up it. I thought it was because she didn't want to drive it - she seemed to be having some problems with the stick shift - and I offered to drive. I'm quite handy with the ole manual transmission. But, when it finally came out that the reason she didn't want to go up was because she thought the car might break down (this foreshadows future events by the way), that plan was cancelled. So we just pooped around town for a bit. At one point a mother and young son were walking alongside the road. She pointed to the ground, and he whipped down his pants and started doing his thing right there. Ed got a kick out of the fact that some African men will relieve themselves anywhere, and they don't bother to hide.
Anyway, we continued to drive around for a bit, and then went to Helen's house. It is located right on the fence to the national park, so one can walk outside and see herds of zebras and bushbucks milling about. What a place to live huh? Who knows, maybe that would be a good place to retire. We'll see how it looks in twenty-five years or so. Helen and her husband, Munkai, have three kids: Njoke, Seanne, and a baby whose name I don't know. A friend of the family was also there, not sure of his name either. We sat around the living room for a bit, talking and having snacks. Then we went for a walk around the neighborhood. There was the usual army of kids staring at the mzungu, and we walked as close as we could to the NP fence, looking through binoculars at the animals and scenery. Anyway the family was very nice and I enjoyed spending time with them. After that, we went out for mbuzi.
The joint was a little place frequented by locals. While we were waiting for the meat, Munkai and I played a couple of games of pool. It became obvious that he came here often, as he knew most people passing through, and absolutely killed me at the pool games. But it sure was fun hanging out in a little bar with these guys. I'm sure they don't get tourists in there often, if ever. And I don't get to play pool and drink beer with a bunch of African dudes very often either. When the meat arrived, it was delicious. They were even kind enough to bring me some green chilies. We also had chapattis and ugali. I didn't want to drink beer around Mami - though I drink beer around my own mommy so what's the problem? I don't know. At this point I had adapted to the more conservative culture and it just didn't feel right. (But I did sneak one in while playing pool.) So I had a coke in a bottle with a straw - as it is everywhere.
Dinner was fabulous, and I met another relative who lived within walking distance. I think it was Helen and Munkai's nephew. Nice guy, we didn't talk much. A boy was chasing some hens around, and this place is surrounded by several little watering holes. There is also a railway that goes by. I'm not leading up to anything, just recording the facts. And then we went back to the fabulous Hotel Kunste. Sara and I hung out in the bar for a bit, and it turns out they also served up some pretty good looking mbuzi in the children's area. Tomorrow the fun begins - we plan to go to the national park and to Menengai crater!