The romance of the SGR has long waned. We got all kinds of ‘reviews’ when it first started operating, some telling us how to print tickets and others telling us where the toilet flush button was. (It’s right at the sink, I’m sure some of you still have no idea.)
This is not about where to find the garbage bin (It’s near the toilet, by the way). This is about my brother from America. And his blonde wife. I promise this won’t be about ticketing (although I read somewhere that someone is issuing invalid tickets, it’d be therefore very wise to print your own tickets or triple check your details if it’s printed for you.)
There is something that attracts old and new travelers alike — the escalator. We are generally a lazy lot. How else do you explain the throng and the pushing at the escalator while the stairs are neglected like a jinxed lover. Take the stairs; you’ll have less body odors to smell and your heart will thank you for it when you’re 60!
Being street smart is not overrated. I learnt that last week. Armed with faith, goosebumps and some butterflies in my stomach, I headed to the SGR Mombasa Terminus. I needed to travel to Nairobi, but all the trains were booked. So here I was, queuing at the ticketing office with no ticket. I’m now at the counter, I turn to the lady speaking through a microphone;
“I need to go with the train right now, but sina ticko” I say, cap in hand. I’m one of those Kenyans who still use 1947 sheng. Ticko.
She looked at me, I repeated myself. She showed me the screens. No seats available.
“Just keep refreshing, something will come up” I said.
“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the reality of things not seen.”
After a while she tells me, “”Oh, here’s one.” Eureka!
I gleefully pay and join the throng at the escalator with more joy in my heart than a kid who got a kinderjoy!
In the train, there’s a man who looks like he’s visiting from America. I can tell from his accent. It’s that accent people from Kiambu gain when they go to America. It still has some bit of Kiambu in it, seasoned with some Wyoming English.
He’s rude, this Kinuthia guy. He seems bent on trying to make us all realize he’s from Wyoming. He’s shouting people down while blocking the aisle with his huge suitcases with Kenya Airways baggage sticker still on them. There’s a blonde with him, I presume she’s his wife. Probably from Tennessee. The way she looks at the dry Ukambani river beds with pity, that’s a look only a person who has seen River Tennessee can have.
They got seats on different rows and the Tennessee girl seems bent on making her seatmate change seats with her Kinuthia Wyoming husband. But her seatmate is from Keroka, I presume. The way she gives the Tennessee girl a ‘gaki gaki gwatunyarire’ look, she must be from Kisii. Nyakerario refuses to budge, the Tennessee blond calls her ‘stupid’ and sits. I can feel my Meru blood boiling, baying for blood.
Maybe she’s not from Kisii after all. You don’t call a Kisii girl ‘stupid’ and you keep all your Tennessee teeth. She’d be lisping by now.
I’m attending Bikozulu’s Creative writing masterclass. It’s the boot camp of writing. It’s intense and fun and eye-opening. The best part is I get to see Biko’s forehead, which I can tell you is everything he says it is. Dude is bald as a seal. I’m down with a terrible flu for the last two days of the training which really sucks because I hear Oyunga Pala talking like a drone in my head. Oyunga Pala! This is like missing a small bit of heaven.
I still don’t have a ticket. But I’m not getting on a bus. I’m not boarding!
I wake up late, thanks to the Nairobi cold and the rain that lulled me to sleep like a fiddler on my window. I even heard the wind singing that Dilly dilly lullaby. At 11:50 AM, a mat drops me at Bus Station. My bearings of Nairobi town are so bad that I have to ask the driver which way Railways is. I start off in the direction he pointed.
Here I am, half-walking-half-running in the streets. My black bag getting heavier by the minute. I’m pushing people and hitting people and cursing people. I’m praying and reminding God how good he is and how missing the commuter train might make him look bad. I’m almost in tears from the fatigue and the flu and the hunger (my host did not make me breakfast!)
Then I get to Railways and I hear the train whistle. I make a final dash, the way I see Usain Bolt doing it. I sprint like a crazy woman, my Afro-kinky braids flying in all directions. I get to the gate, only to see the train pulling out of the station. I whisper, “Please make it stop” to no-one in particular. The train leaves me. I drop my back bag on the ground and shed a tear for my wasted Usain Bolt attempts.
I then have to deal with a Little Cab driver called Godfrey who insults me and goes ahead to send me a bill when I cancel the trip. I have to employ my Usain Bolt skills again as I make it across the busy Mombasa Road alive.
Later that afternoon, I hear the same magic words, “Oh, here’s one!”
God is still good.