(first published by www[dot]ishaandikwa[dot]blogspot[dot]com; 2014)
They call it Stend Kisa bus stage, although bicycles, camels and beggars stop there too. In fact, majority of vehicles here are vans, pick-ups, cars and lorries before you even think of Msamaria or Mbukinya. The stage is known from Lwanda to Mulwanda; Khwisero to Khayega to Malakisi to Funyula, and Msamaria Mwema touts of Nairobi know it also. Stend Kisa bus stage is not your everyday bus (and camel) stop: it is peculiar; distinct. When you go to Stend Kisa bus stage, unless you didn’t go there, there are things that can never escape your eye.
There is this woman selling onions, sugarcane and boiled groundnuts. She always has on her leso and rubber shoes that reveal more toes than hide. She is fat, tough looking and with a muscle you would never wish to meet. In fact, she must be doing more of her selling through infliction of this commercial fear than business attraction. The way she sits on that her wooden stool will make you define your qualities of a mother in law, but the way she frowns at a non-buyer makes you hate poverty.
Stend Kisa bus station has the manambas. For those who need definition, a manamba is that samaritan who knows of your journey more than you do, and that you need his accurate and unparallelled advice while you are at it. They are always there. Chofrii, Kition, Mrefu, Mandeke, Chonii, among others. You must see them because those unchoreographed calls will not allow it otherwise. To call passangers to their ship, they whistle, they whine, they bray, they howl, they hoot, they shout, they purr; but still remain manambas looking for the day’s flour. The vehicles at Stend Kisa have boards showing the destinations for each, but still Chofrii will insist on wanting to help you know where to go. And this is help, until you play contrary to their script. Then you start to know how you have an ugly eye or how you are proud without education or even the secret of why your spouse abandoned you.
Next time schools open, I will never attend to sons of some professionals in my class, unless someone apologises.
But they are not alone. There is always this or that conductor asking where boss you are going. You play sharp and ask him where his metal junk (pronounced as ‘chopper’) is headed. He tells you. You say you are not going there. He asks again where it is you are going therefore. His vehicle seems to be going everywhere now. You say Khumusalaba to buy a dog. He says come he in fact has one space for Khumusalaba before the van leaves for Butere. You say you are not going to the Khumusalaba of Butere but that of Soi. He says no problem, come with him he has space for that too. He even has a hand on your sisal sack that should carry your pet back. You are cornered. You tell him to leave you alone. He calls the manambas, and they give you collective insults. Boss, you never mess with those of Stend Kisa.
But even that’s not all. When you eventually enter the matatu comes the sales boy. Weak, mulnourished and disillussioned, he looks like he shall collapse in his next blink. His shirt has three rat holes near the left shoulder-line, but he is yet to start knowing inconfidence. Like his other compatriots, he sells everything too. Sells Nacet, a jembe, Eveready, tealeaves, shirt buttons, needles, bar soap, bamba ten, cutex, Dasani and rat poison. In the other hand are sachets of groundnuts, two cobs of roasted maize, a roll of polythene rope, toothpaste, ginger biscuits, mukombera, a roast chicken leg, and a woman’s panties. The only things I don’t see are the femiplan female condom and Aromat. He also has fishing lines for sale. Don’t ask me how he carries all. I also don’t know. He insists you should buy. Ignore him? Then you don’t know Stend Kisa and its stage for vehicles!
The manambas of Stend Kisa tussle. I mean, even before the vehicle fills to capacity, which happens just after every solar eclipse, there they are! One is in a faded UDF t-shirt and miraa suffocating his teeth somewhere. Fighting over a woman’s luggage. The woman eventually enters, followed by her four children of equal height. Their heads resemble tortoises, and so with no ill intent you baptise them Likhutu-wan, Likhutu-tuu, Likhutu-tsiri and Likhutu-foo. She sits next to you, and places Likhutu-tsiri on Likhutu-wan, Likhutu-wan on Likhutu-foo, and Likhutu-foo on her laps. You have no otherwise but to find space for Likhutu-tuu on your laps, plus a noisy hen, the sugarcane they’ve bought from commercial fear, a burst baloon and seven nosefuls of pungent urine fumes. Oh her God, who has taken her purse?
But you cannot claim to have been at Stend Kisa stage if you didn’t see Amigo. Amigo is a legend around here, and all who hear of him always know him first sight. You see, even Amigo himself believes he is crazy! But we all know what he does, because you can never fail to get the strong Luanda (holy) weed if he is around stage. Ever present. The only time he ever avoided the place was some April day in 2002, when the marketters (villagers?) decided without dialogue to force body hygiene onto everyone. But in those rags, Amigo is an asset to the transport guys. He scares children and pregnant women into vehicles to Kisumu or Lubao or to their safety. Young college girls and frightened city dwellers also hasten into vehicles whenever amicus Amigo approaches. And manambas regularly tip him for services. Thank the skies, no sane woman can dress the Nairobi way when they travel through Stend Kisa, otherwise they might see what the woman of Murang’a saw one fateful day, long time ago, courtesy of Amigo.
And our Stend Kisa has an average of three beggars a day. No, not those scared faces who claim having lost money after the manamba scuffles around them. Stend Kisa has regular proffessional beggars who call you Al-Shabaab or Olelengo when you don’t drop something into their bowls. One is called Salimu. Salimu tells us he was born blind. But he always knows when to remind you that you should not return that one-thousand-shilling note into your pocket. Whatever he smokes, it is not kitchen smoke. But I am not through with Salimu: he crosses the busy Stend Kisa road all by himself, appears at vehicle ‘windows’ all by himself, always removes and hides the big note from the bowl all by himself, avoids hitting the sales woman’s maize cobs all by himself, yet he asks you to walk him to the food kiosk, and asks you whether you have paid for his meal so God could bless you. Last time a person at Stend Kisa told me that my new leather (!) belt was smart, and you wouldn’t want to know who that was.
This Stend Kisa bus stage, brethren, will kill someone some day!