There’s a roundabout in town – I think it’s on Racecourse Road – that gives me chills every time I go past it. It took a journey on Google Maps to get its exact name, but it has public toilets on it, and a banner announcing a computer college. On the other side of the roundabout, traffic cops direct Citi Hoppas and errant mathrees, but just beyond the cops’ view, nasty things happen.
As matatus round the bout (so to speak) people get robbed. What happens is the thugs pose as pedestrians trying to cross the street, then as the matatus slow to go round the bend, the thugs run after the car, hop onto one of the wheel caps, pull the window open, and grab a handbag, wallet, or phone. It happens so quickly that the victim barely has time to yell before the thief and their property is gone.
If you’ve been on that route long enough, you tense up as you approach the corner, and as you look out of the window, you sometimes stare straight into the eyes of a thug in waiting. The makangas are aware of it too, and sometimes they’ll yell a warning just as the car slows down. The warnings don’t always work.
What bothers me about Kona Mbaya is that the thugs have absolutely no fear of the cops, who are barely a metre away. They know the matatu won’t stop even if the victim raises an alarm, and even if it did, traffic is so heavy that there’s no hope of running after them. During one such robbery, the thugs were in a large group of five or six. One of the thugs reached into the window and grabbed a phone. The victim held onto the phone, gripping it tightly, but the thug struggled and yanked the phone out of its owners hands. All this happened while the matatu was still moving, and the the thug was so confident that he didn’t even run away. He just stood there with his friends, staring at the matatu, almost daring the victim to get out and confront them. *shudder*
I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time, but I was looking for a positive light to shine on it. I haven’t found one yet. I keep coming back to how someone can grab your phone, something you probably saved up to buy, something that holds phone numbers, messages, and data that is worth much more than the thousands you spent on the phone. Then they’ll pawn it for a fraction of its price, spend the money on something trivial, and come back the next night to take someone else’s stuff.
Or maybe they grab your bag, ditch all your documents in some trash heap or alley, and you’ll be left spending weeks or months trying to get your papers back in order. You’ll lose photos and memories that may be irreplaceable while they’ll get nothing more than your fare home. Sometimes I wonder whether people like that have a conscience, and I remember reading a comment by a looter in a university demo. He said if his victims had nothing to steal, he wouldn’t steal from them.
I suppose that’s the attitude of the Kona Mbaya residents. They figure if we’re comfortable enough to have matatu fare, handbags, and phones, then they’re justified in stealing from us. I don’t have any solutions, condemnations, or suggestions. But if you’re anywhere near Kona Mbaya, keep your eyes on the window and your hands on your mobile phone and handbag.
In other news, Landmark is making me amazingly open to being a female. I’m finally at ease in my womanhood, and I’m taking etiquette classes to boost that. I had a mini-make-over a few weeks ago, and can now be seen in [sensible] heels and ‘cloth trousers’ at least three times a week. The heels are tricky because I keep forgetting that I’m not wearing sneakers, then I end up throwing my legs around and looking like a lost ostrich. I’ve learnt to do eye make-up, though I’m still navigating my way around foundation, lip pout, cleansers, and primers.
I’m coming out of myself more, because I realize that while I do enjoy being alone, I won’t get much done that way. Even great novelists need to go outside and meet their unborn characters. I’ve always been
a little a lot afraid of girls, and the biggest thing I’ve taken from Landmark is that I have girlfriends now! I had a good friend come over and we talked and did our hair until 10.00 p.m. Another pal spent the afternoon with me and the princess watching cartoons and chatting.
I’ve got a girlfriend that I talk to for make-up tips. She’s a girl I’ve known since I was six years old but only just rediscovered, and now I can’t do without her. My other pal from high school has become my partner in … um … crime … and I feel disturbed if I go three days without speaking to her. I’m a lot more open to meet-ups with girls I’ve met online, and I know I have some cleaning up from the past…
My favourite new friend and I talk on the phone almost every day, and we’re exploring a whole lot together, looking for healthy food options and discovering Vagina Monologues, Scrabble Haunts, and Sushi Bars. It’s a big deal for me because I never go out, I never do ‘girly stuff’ and I never, ever, EVER attend ‘social things’ so I’m very grateful to my new friend for helping me into the great beyond. And she has pretty curly hair to boot! I just love pretty curly hair.
Another big effect of Landmark is that my little girl got her daddy back. We’ve forgiven each other for everything that happened between us and we’re now focusing on restoring his relationship with our daughter and letting her know her little brother. Now that I’ve finally let go of the all the bitterness and anger, and now that my new friend helped the pain to heal, my heart can find a soul mate, and it’s a pretty cool thing. I should probably start practising that guitar song…
I’ve made a few promises to myself. I’ll put more effort in my writing work. I’ll update all those blogs once a week. I’ll build a rates page and beef up my CV. I’ll spend an hour bidding every day. I’ll go out and meet new people, because my knight in shining armour won’t come knocking on my door. For one thing, the caretaker won’t let his horse in, and for another, he can’t ride Nairobi traffic!
I’ve always had a problem with depression, and my solution is always to hide inside my room and try to think my way out of it. I noticed in the past that whenever I talk to people in person or on the phone, I’m cheerful and infectious, but the second I hung up or shut the door and get back inside my mind, the dark feelings return.
I thought it was because I was pretending to be cheerful, but I realize that being with other people helps me get out of my head, focus on them, and give them what they need. I’m not sure how to handle that, since I’m still ideally a loner, but as my friend said, with time and practice, I’ll learn to accept hanging out with people as a viable alternative to being by myself.
It doesn’t mean I’ll stop being an introvert, but it does mean I’ll get to live life instead of just observing it go by. My loved ones have told me this for years, and I always wrote them off for trying to change me. But one thing I’ve learned from Landmark is that changing the stuff that doesn’t work never stops me from being myself, and that’s a really, really cool thing.
♫ Sooner or later ♫ Matt Kearney ♫