Saturday 8 August 2009

IF – Impatience (and Matatu Mayhem)



 Where is that Matatu?

Before you see a Matatu, you can hear it. A cacophony of blaring horns and crackling, decibel-distorting speakers pounding away with the latest hip-hop, reggae or some central African beat will herald its imminent arrival.

The conductor will be hanging precariously from the side of the van, yelling like a banshee and as the Matatu slows down, about 3 million people will leap off. This is your cue to leap on. Forget the physical limitations of the bus (12 to 14 passengers) - they are somehow able to squeeze up to 30 passengers into this 12-seater minibus. How they do it, heaven only knows but believe me, they do!

It doesn’t take long once you’re jammed into the Matatu before the senses are assaulted to a level you never dreamt possible. The jostling, elbow wielding passengers, the revving of the engine, the constant hooting, the squealing of brakes, the ear shattering blast of hip-hop, the shouts of the conductor and driver mixed in with protests from the passengers all make you feel that you’re on an acid trip that’s gone crazily awry.

A Matatu journey is, quite literally, a breathtaking experience. Drivers aggressively weave, bob, accelerate and break their way through cars, trucks, bicycles, carts, motorcycles and pedestrians. Crossing a roundabout island at full tilt is just a small part of the Matatu drivers’  skill set– one which will make even the most hardened passenger just a tiny bit breathless. Sidewalks?  Pah!  Certainly not an obstacle for the fearless driver if it means the vehicle continues to be propelled onward. And going off-road into the bush is always an option if that keeps the Matatu in motion. Traffic has stopped in one lane?  No problem. The two lane road will turn into a three, four, or even five lane highway in the tic of an eyeball. .

All the while the conductor will bellow at people walking alongside the road to get on board. Then he’ll bark instructions to the driver and the Matatu will come to a screeching halt to disgorge some of the passengers and collect others which means a whole new arrangement for the remaining occupants. Be prepared to either be squashed like a fly against the window or to have your face pressed cosily into someone’s backside.

The Matatu will "alight you" anywhere on their route which is very convenient if you can handle the gymnastics required. Rap you knuckles on the nearest window or on the ceiling if you are stuck in the middle and can't reach a window - and the driver pulls over. Immediately. It is then that you join your fellow passengers in a spontaneous game of Twister until you tumble out of the still-rolling van - sprung loaded like a jack-in-the-box. It’s not all bad however - you may even be left carrying someone’s chicken. Don’t even think about trying to get it back to its owner. It’s your supper and, boy, have you worked for it!

toad etc 001Chris Freeman cartoon


Renee said...

Ding dong... Ding dong....

I lumber down the stairs.

A man is holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Beautiful flowers and they are for me.

Thank you so much, I say.

I open the card and to my surprise they are from my very dear friend. From my friend across the ocean. From my friend I love very much.

Tessa thank you dear heart.

The flowers and that you have thought of me touch me deeply.

I love you.

Love Renee xoxoxo

Elizabeth said...

I think rather the same thing happens in India
no seating capacity notices!
In Morocco the petit taxis had only 3 passengers written in big letters on the side
had they not
about 8 people would have stuffed themselves in!
Lovely picture..... the anticipation is right there..

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Sounds like a ride on the Matatu is one hair-raising experience!

Silke Powers said...

Oh, wow, what a great painting and story! It sounds like the Matatu would be a whole adventure in and of itself! Hugs, Silke

The Bug said...

I laughed out loud about the chicken - hmmm - maybe we'll have chicken for dinner!

steven said...

tessa what a brilliant journey story. some days are like a matutu - all the craziness, all the goodness, all the loud good music and colours every which way.
i love the painting. unhurried expectancy.
lovely. steven

L'Adelaide said...

I love this painting and had no idea that is what they were so peacefully and expectantly waiting for....OMG, it would kill me...they would throw my lifeless body on the roadside and the chickens would feast for a week...ah well, what a fabulous story you weave, although I am sure this one is totally based in reality!! hahahah!!

Sarah Lulu said...

Oh Tessa I loved that story so much ...I can't imagine being brave enough to get on!

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

LOL Tessa. That is definitely a "back-home" experience.

steve said...

Love your verbal description here, especially the first paragraph. reminds me of some parts of Trinidad even. Lovely art at top (and great cartoon included at the bottom as well)!

Woman in a Window said...

HA! I'm brought back to St. Vincent and the Grenadines immediately. Conductor, such a funny, yet loaded term for those that drive like that. Conducting indeed. And although they were vans down there, oh the ride, it was much the same. Nothing like it!

You wrote it brilliantly, Tessa!

Lola said...

Took me back to my childhood in Malta & the school bus full to overflowing - literally!!

Beautiful painting & lovely post!

Hope you're having a great weekend!


Anonymous said...

Hello! I've seen the logo you created for Blogland Lane. It's perfect! I'm going to post it right away.
I'm at 735, come over and visit anytime.

I love your artwork!!!!

soulbrush said...

you wil crazy woman you, i've been on one of these, it is so , so, so, wild! tee hee.

Jinksy said...

Makes National Express positively dull by comparison.

Eleonora Baldwin said...

Sounds very familiar... I'd jump the Napoli-Jo'burgh Matatu express any day!

How is my favorite artist friend today?

Lola xx

Linda Sue said...

YIKES! I may rather walk no matter the distance!
Ladies all colourful and bright- LOVE them!

Miss Footloose said...

Fun story! They call these matatus in Kenya also, and in Ghana they're tro-tros. In Ghana you also "alight" when you get off.

Here's a picture from Ghana, a painting by the artist John Kofi Aryee:

I love your art work!

Debra Keirce said...

Heehee...What a fun posting Tessa!

Caroline said...

Brilliant! What a journey, I'm, breathless - phew! Tessa, your way with words is legendary - I laughed so much and was right there with you - see, I have ended up with the chicken!! Terrific painting too, it has impatience painted all over it!! The stance of those ladies says it all. Wonderful post, my friend! Oh, and by the way the Blogland Lane logo is fab! I'm preparing my move right now - hope to be in by the end of the week. See you there!

Unknown said...

I can only comment as someone who spends her life dodging mini bus taxis.... And that comment is simply this: "Gaaaaaaarrrggggh!!!!"

karen said...

I just love your description! Oh so true!!
The previous post on the gorge was also lovely - beautiful photos...

Shirley said...

Oh my goodness, I am SO excited to see your powerful and gorgeous. (I'm sorry I'm so behind!)...your work speaks volumes ..not to peruse your wonderful blog.

Maithri said...

SOOO true!!! Thanks for the great laugh my friend,

Much love, M

JennyMac said...

lovely vivid. And great post.

Laughing as I am about to eat chicken.

kj said...

tessa, your beautiful rendition of blogland lane is now circulating the blogs, and almost everyone is putting it near the very top of their sidebar... because it's so very beautiful.

thank you a million times.

love love

Reya Mellicker said...

This is great! I remember this from the time I attended carnival in Trinidad. I could not believe how loud the music was, how cheerful the energy was that swirled around the vans.

If you put me in that painting, I would be busy installing ear plugs as I waited for the appearance of the band on wheels. Oh yeah!

Rosaria Williams said...

I don't think I can get on the matatu. I'll walk, or bike. Too, too much noise and opportunities for injury.

Carol said...

You could be describing a bus in Bangkok!! I have never been so terrified in my life (not to mention, hot and sticky!!)

C x

BlueJayEye said...

The Guatemala version is called a chicken bus, same array of characters: chickens, ducks, pigs and passengers mingle on a sweaty adventurous ride.

Renee said...

Love you dear friend and my flowers are looking beautiful.

Come live with me.


A Cuban In London said...

What a fabulous tale and yet what I really loved was the similarity to the Cuban 'matatus', otherwise known as 'guaguas' (for those of you who speak the South American norm from Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, I'm not talking about children, but buses). It's pretty the same situation, only with more space. I could actually visualise the driver holding forth as he (no 'shes'?) overtakes vehicle after vehicle. Many thanks for such an amusing anecdote.

Greetings from London.

Beth Kephart said...

The tilt of the head of the woman in red is really quite perfect, dear Tessa.

kj said...

tessa, i like hearing the sound of this word: matatu. it makes my face smile.

congratulations on your good news! what a relief! now you can leave a silverware in the sink without worrying about the realtor.

sad about march but happy for you. i'm still envisioning, and you're part of it.


Lola said...

Hi Tessa, me again!

Just stopped by to say have left a little something for you on my site.

Have a wonderful week & see you again soon!


justdoodleit said...

Those ladies waiting for the bus is well captured and the colors are lovely as always :)

Cynthia Pittmann said...

Incredible journey! I don't think my heart could take the ride, Tessa! You actually are writing from first hand experience? is that painting you posted. <3

Tessa said...

You darlings! Thank you for joining me on that crazy Matatu journey! Sorry I've not been around lately, but AAARGGH the trials and tribulations of house selling/buying are all consuming. Hopefully, all will be back to normal soon. In the meantime, huge hugs all round. xxoo

Yoli said...

How I love the painting!!!!

ceecee said...

Dear Tessa -
I feel as if I just took a ride on that wild Matatu. Now I know that if I ever do I must climb aboard with a sense of humor!
Here catching up with your interesting and colorful posts. Your South Down farm is just lovely. Hope you've been enjoying your summer.