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“Consumer acceptance is the problem.”, Kitale, Kenia, Jan 4th 2011

“Consumer acceptance is the problem.”, Kitale, Kenia, Jan 4th 2011

The new year starts relaxed with a good breakfast and some phone calls to Germany while Goody wants to get the bus ticket. Well, it would not be Goody if he had just bought tickets for the bus. Instead he comes back saying that his cousin will take us with him to Kitale in the evening. Goody and his cousins I wonder but he comments that nicely with: “My father was really active, he has 106 grand children.” What can I say about that and as I do not have to pay for all the nights I stayed at his cousin’s hotel here I guess he does have such a big family and they all like him.

At 7:30pm, it is dark, we take off to what is supposedly the worst road in Kenia. That is soooooooo wrong because it is the worst road in the world and does not deserve to be called road. Oh my god. Eat a banana or some strawberries, drink some milk and take this road, the shake will be made in your stomach without any doubt. The following video does not even come close to the real expiereience.

The funny thing is, that this road was once built and at that point in good shape. The ride from Lodwar to Kitale took 3 hours. Now it takes 12 because the traffic, mainly big trucks and busses have taken it completely apart over the years. Every once in a while, usually before elections, some politicians come and promise to fix it but then, after the election, nothing happens. But the people accept it and that is the problem I believe. The same with bus breakdowns. Basically every bus trip will have one and therefore be delayed by a view hours. Africans do not have much, no money, no work and so on but they do have one thing, time. As they have time they are relaxed about delays and therefore, there is no need for bus companies to fix the vehicles before the trip or for taxis to fill in petrol before they take you. It’s a vicious cycle.

Guess what, after one hour into the trip we stop because a bus broke down. Goody, the gifted mechanic, fixes it within an hour. Instead of taking money he makes sure, this bus company will take him for free next time he needs them. That is Africa, that is how it works here, amazing. During the one hour waiting I meet Susanne and Lukas, German medicine students who do work for 4 months in Eldoret and I get their contact details à that is travelling, that is how it works. Smile.

Besides the road conditions there are a couple more things that make transport here so “thrilling”: complete darkness, bad cars (partly without light), complete overloaded vehicles, beer drinking and chatt chewing drivers (the choice is to have a driver that falls a sleep or one that is on drugs), extremely loud music (which they not even turn down for a conversation – they prefer to repeat themselves 8 times) and last but not least bandits particular in this area of Kenia (that is also why buses etc leave around the same time to go in convoys). Oh, I forgot the dust and dirt that constantly gets into your eyes and nose. Oh well.

Guess what, at 2am in the morning, we are somewhere in the mountains, the radiator and fan of our Toyota Hilux has enough of bad roads and decides to split itself into 1 milllion parts. No chance to fix this, not even Goody. But, one hand washed the other, after 5 minutes the bus Goody fixed comes along and picks us up, for free of course, I am a friend of Goody. As only the very back seats are free I get to experience the road conditions at its full intense and no joke, I actually cut myself and bleed on the hand when on one street whole I get smashed out of my seat. At 7am in the morning we reach Kitale, Goody takes me to a nice hotel, we have great cake for breakfast, I go to bed and he goes to his family.

Talking of his family, later that day, he invites me to his house for dinner. He comments the invitation with: “You are good, you adapt to the African way of life.” That refers to the fact that I am not rushing through Kenia but take my time and spend days with him, eat the local food and so on. Yes, that is the Frank of 2011, if Goody only knew the Frank of 1975 to 2010……….          . His wife is nice, his son Kibet so cute. We have a wonderful dinner together.

On Monday, the 3rd of January, Goody brings his trimming machine to the hotel and I get my shortest hair cut since being in the army. Then we walk through town and I have to say that it is still rather strange and I still feel good not to be alone. The variety of looks at me, sometimes staring, is great but some of the thoughts and questions I can tell à “who is this white guy?, what is he doing here? Does he work for an NGO? He has money, I talk to him. He has money, I am jealous. He has money, I rob him. This black guy (Goody) has made it, he probably gets tons of money from the white guy.” The last thought is very often spoken out in 2 ways. They either congratulate Goody to his “white” catch or they ask him if they can participate. Not easy for Goody.

Another interesting confrontation is me and other white people. Most of them try everything “not to see me”. Those who do, give me a short “hello”. Behind that behaviour is, so I believe, the disappointment of not being the only white guy in town. Also, the “I am cool here, I manage well, I have no worries” idea is transported this way. Sometimes I can not stop myself from giving them a little smile, telling them “sorry, you saw me and no, you are not alone here”.

I have the desire to give something back to Goody and his family. The idea of inviting them for dinner into a nice restaurant is good and not good. Goody’s wife has never been in a restaurant and would feel rather uncomfortable. So I decide for some small presents, a little plastic truck for Kibet, chocolate in a nice glas for the wife, photo print out and my photo vest (had it since 1995) for Goody. I believe they really appreciated it.

Tuesday morning Goody and I go to his, make a guess, cousin’s farm house outside Kitale. It is very beautiful and I watch them digging a whole for ground water and preparing food for the evening. Then at 1pm I sit in the Minibus to Eldoret, my first Kenian trip without Goody. For the time we had together the good bye was almost too little emotional and too short but I guess he knew that this ride would take me into another Kenia, an amazing one……………..

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