Lost in Translation
After a few days in Uganda we booked a bus taking us to Kisumu at 8:30pm. Since we booked the bus early in the afternoon we felt that we had ample time to relax at our hostel, send a few emails, and enjoy a cold Tusker or two. However, in a time span of what felt like an hour we rounded 7pm and realized that we were pushing it (often you need to be at the bus stage an hour early in case they give up your seat). We ran from the hostel to the closest Nakumatt (African Wal-Mart) to buy some buns and samosas for the 8-hour bus ride ahead. After grabbing the supplies and carrying a 65L pack each we hunted down boda’s that would take such a load. We found one driver and my co-leader, Kate was off. Now it was my turn, usually the conversation would begin with a quick laugh due to the bag in my shoulders, followed by all the Boda drivers speaking in Ugandan and quick slips of the word “muzungu”, but eventually I bargained down to the actual price and was off. What I didn’t realize what that 7pm in Kampala was rush hour and the usual 5-minute trip at 80km/hour was changed to a 5km/hour weave through the thick mutatu filled traffic.
Since Kate was up ahead and the time was nearing 8:15 I started to worry about making the bus. However, luckily for me the driver found a break in traffic just in time for his back tire to pop and the entire bike to endure a fishtail until its eventual halt. I couldn’t believe it. The Boda driver was yelling at me for popping the tire and I was yelling at the driver for making me miss my bus! I had to act quick so I hailed another driver, paid half my fare to the other and took off yet again. A few minutes later and he dropped me off at some random bus company I hadn’t heard of and I decided I best find my own way from here since all the companies are in the vicinity. It was dark, busy, and I was frustrated but I eventually located the stage and found Kate sitting and waiting for he bus that was not uncommonly late. This was only the beginning.
The bus came around 9:30pm. I expected a bus crammed with the maximum amount of seats allowed with about enough leg room for a 6-year old child. However, to my surprise it was quite spacious and they even provided complimentary water! The night bus was the same as any and we began to crawl through the still congested traffic to the eventual pothole filled Tarmac road, but I was on the bus and I was content with that. Crossing the border into Kenya was no problem aside from the fact that the immigration officer during my initial arrival only gave me a 30-day visa instead of a 90. As 4am rolled around we pulled into the Kisumu stage and sought refuge in a 24-hour Tusky’s. We waited until 8am to call our host in Kiritu, and got the directions to our homestead from him, assuring him of out lunchtime arrival. Listening closely on my phone I heard in broken English “take the eldoret bus and get off in Kiritu (kee-ree-to)”. Sounds simple enough. So we walked down to the main stage and there before my eyes was the “Eldoret Express” glistening in the sunlight, it was perfect. I told the driver we needed a ticket to Kiritu (kee-ree-tu), and we were seated. About 20 minutes in we looked at our ticket that read ‘Kericho”, interesting I thought, but perhaps I just couldn’t remember the spelling from the year before. I asked the woman beside me to pronounce the name and she replied with “Kericho (kee-ree-chu)”, still to my muzungu ears I thought I heard “Kiritu”. 2-hours later we got off in Kericho and asked the first piki-piki driver we saw if we could go to Marigoli, his quick response was astounding laughter, as apparently we had just taken a 2-hour bus directly in the opposite direction of that town! It turns of the “Eldoret express” is the bus company name, and not the bus toward Eldoret, and furthermore the difference in pronunciation between Kiritu and Kiricho I still cannot distinguish between.
So it was decided that we hop in a Mutatu, strap our bags to the roof and head back to Kisumu. It was now about 2:30pm and we got back to kisumu around 4. We hopped out and about 5 minutes later I realized that I had left my rain coat (which I was using to protect my knee from shrapnel) in the mutatu, before heading to the rainiest part of our whole trip. We grabbed another mutatu to Mbale, and arrived in about an hour, by now it was beginning to get dark so we accepted some muzungu prices from the piki drivers and we loaded two people, two 65L bags, and some groceries onto a little dirt bike and took off toward Kiritu. We heard thunder up ahead a knew that a storm was coming with torrential rainfall that is a daily occurrence in this area. Again win luck on our side our Piki driver knew a shortcut and within minutes he was out of gas on a road that is uncommon to find other riders. I swore I’d been in a similar situation before.
Eventually another driver rounded the bend and we hopped on his bike just in time to experience the torrential downpour that I had expected. Since speeding down a dirt path into such rain is a perfect situation for a good jacket all I could do was laugh at how the day had transpired. We pulled into a little storefront and we ran across the road and in the darkness I plunged both my feet deep into a muddy puddle of water and continued on to the house with about everything I had, including myself, soaked.
Once inside we were greeted with faces I hadn’t seen for many months. Smiles, soaked hugs, extended greetings and warm chai reminded me of why I had made such a journey, and I realized then and there how much I truly loved my job.