Monthly Archives: February 2010

Matatus

P1010064Nairobi If there’s public transportation in Nairobi, no one knows about it.  There are matatus though by the hundreds.  These are private mini-vans, jitney buses, and even larger buses that hog the roads and rule the roost.  They seem to be semi-regulated, which means that in certain areas in downtown Nairobi a driver will hide his number on the dashboard.  Otherwise it’s pretty much anarchy, but in a way that everyone seems to understand and accept in exchange for the low prices, which also very from trip to trip and route to route, just as often the routes varied based purely on the whim of the driver and his hardworking tout, who also serves as money collector, assistant laborer for the 100 pound sacks pulled on board, and passenger wrangler from the streets of the city.

Normally, foreigners are pushed into hiring a car for the day, which sometimes makes sense if you are going a million places and are off the matatu routes, but even at $20 to $25 per day is ridiculous compared to a 100 Kenya Shillings (ks) charge from Kenyattta Market to Korogocho for example, which is about $1.25 USD.  So as a grassroots operation of poor people from around the world, if we could figure out the matatus, we were going for it, so that’s the way we rolled this trip in Nairobi, and I have to say, I loved them.

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ACORN! Mabadiliko Sasa

P1010053Nairobi It took more than an hour for the members to arrive for the official launch of ACORN Kenya in Korogocho, but once they were all in there were more than 200 and every time one of the speakers said, “ACORN!” the called response was “Mabadiliko Sasa!” meaning “Reform Now!” I fell in love with that chant.

If there’s one thing that organizers like me believe like life, it is that conflict is necessary to clarify positions and allow a full grafting and binding in strength from previous wounds. The leaders had been calling the organizers throughout the evening, saying they were good now, they were satisfied, they were ready to do something different. In organizing the meeting yesterday was “testing,” and it’s always “pass/fail.” In this case we had passed by standing firm that we were a poor peoples’ organization run by dues that wouldn’t buy or be bought. It was going to be a new day.

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