Sunday, February 26, 2012

Matatu Hoppin to Thika

 John and my trip to Thika this weekend was a good one. We had to take three different matatus to get there, one from Kijabe to Nairobi, Nairobi to Thika, and Thika to the outskirts where John's family lives. His family is structured the way that a typical Kikuyu's family is. The parents have a house on the property (John lost his father in October so now it's just his mother), then the sons of the family build houses on the land which are there for when they begin families of their own.
John walking on his land, every house pictured belongs to his family, along with the shambas.

The kitchen area
Of course, nowadays life isn't as traditional so John and a couple of his brothers have moved to other areas (obviously he lives in Kijabe, another brother of his lives in Kijabe, then the last born son lives in Nairobi). He has 2 brothers that live on the land in Thika. But, John still has a house built on the land for himself. John is one of nine, they used to be ten but they lost a sister exactly a year before they lost their father. Due to his sister's loss, his mother was left with 6 children. She takes care of them like they are her own, and they know they are in good hands.
John and his family. His sister and brother are at his sides, his mother to the far right, and his sister's children in front

John's family and I. His sister to my right is the first born, and the sister next to his mother is the last born (17yrs)           

While we were in Thika, John took me to see all the fruit plantations. We first went to a huge pineapple farm. I've never seen the way that pineapples grow, and it was pretty interesting to see. We had to ride around the farm searching for the guard to ask for permission to take photos, to avoid being chased away in case they thought we were planning on stealing. Apparently the punishment for stealing fruit is brutal beating.

Just about ready to harvest
Riding around the pineapple farm, to the left are newly planted pineapples

So that's just about it for the pineapples, now on to mangoes! We visited local families who just had mango trees in their yard, and I'm tellin ya, they had a LOT of mangoes. And different kinds also, there was one tree that grew 3 different kinds of mangoes. There were apple mangoes (which are purple, and very sweet) then "popo" mangoes, which is a papaya/mango hybrid (I don't like papayas, so THANKFULLY the mango part of the mixture made the papaya flavor balance out), and then I don't know what the other mango was called... it was just your typical one. So we got to snack on the delicious juicy fruits all day while we were picking mangoes to bring home. And it really amazed me how different each kind tasted.
The Hybrid Tree

We got a little carried away collecting the mangoes
So this morning we went back out to the mango trees and collected more for our homes here in Kijabe...

"Hey John, ya think we have enough?"

Carrying the loot
After we finished collecting our mangoes, it was time to head home (after a meal of freshly slaughtered chicken of course). So we got back on our first matatu. Which didn't go as smoothly as the previous day. As we were driving along a pretty busy road, from John's home to the main city of Thika, everyone was happily chatting on the matatu enjoying the Sunday afternoon when all of a sudden there was a loud thump and we came to a screetching halt. I looked out the window and there was a guy about my age flying to the side of the road. I was terrified at first, along with everyone else on board, and the guy's mother who was wailing on the other side of the street. We sat in silence for the longest 10 seconds of my life, wondering if the guy was even alive. There are so many deaths due to people being hit by matatu's and with the new highway that was recently put up (we weren't on the highway yet, but I think it was on our minds) the deaths have increased and I have seen stories about this topic on the news almost every time I watch. Finally, somehow, the guy stood up and announced that he was alright, shaking his head a bit and rubbing his leg. I don't know how he was alright, I thought we were going pretty fast, and the impact completely took off the side mirror of the matatu. The people around didn't want the guy to walk in case he was just in shock but really hurt, so they carried him and loaded him into the matatu. I've always kind of wondered how the drivers deal with these accidents so as disturbing as this COULD have been, it was interesting to witness. So, we were then all asked to get out of the matatu. Of course they were all speaking Swahili or Kikuyu so I had to ask John what was going on. Apparently the matatu driver is to take the boy to the hospital himself, so that he can pay for the hospital bills and whatnot. So they drove away, and we were all so thankful he didn't seem to be seriously hurt, but all still so amazed that he was okay. We waited around for another matatu and finally an empty one came so we all hopped on. About 5 minutes later our matatu broke down completely. I was with the same group of people as the previous matatu during the accident, so we all looked at eachother, and I think the relief of the boy's being okay and the hilarity of the fact that the one matatu we all got on is now broken, made each one of us laugh for about 5 minutes straight. So, time to get off the bus once more. At this point since we were so close to town many people just decided to walk, but since we had so many dang MANGOES there was no way we could lug those, even if just for 10 minutes. So we waited, waited, and waited some more and finally we were on our way home, officially.

I can tell you one thing, there's never a moment of being here that I forget I'm in Kenya. Aside from the friendly people, the smells (both good and bad), and the temperature, there is always some event that just makes me think, "Yep, I'm still in Africa..."
And I'm not complaining at all...


  1. I love this, Kristin. So sorry about the guy hit by the matatu but I guess it doesn't surprise me. So thankful it sounds like he is okay. And I'm so glad you survived the piki rides! Piki rides are really, really fun (they are the on-the-ground version of riding in a helicopter . . . ) Love the photos, and love your writing. Keep it coming. xo

  2. Great post. I love the part about never forgetting you are in Africa. There are parts of the world where I forget that I am not in the US and I HATE that. So glad you're sharing all your true Africa moments.

  3. Kristin, great story! SO very glad the guy was ok. Keep writing girl, this is a very interesting blog you got going!