Navigating Nairobi when it is raining

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The Nairobi sunshine is mostly candid. You do not tell the weather by looking online- the weathermen are barely ever right. Instead, you draw the curtains and look outside. If the sun is shining, you announce, with some certainty, that it will be a beautiful day. There are, however, days when your competence in meteorology is put to question. When rain sneaks up on you, be in the moment.

Go out to the city center with friends. Crown a fun afternoon with fries at your favorite restaurant.

Casually comment as you walk into the restaurant, “Iyo upepo imetoka wapi?” Where has that wind come from? Take note to hurry in case it rains, but get carried away anyway while eating.

Walk out of the restaurant. Marvel at how quickly darkness has come. Feel a raindrop on your cheeks right below your lashes. Feel your heart sink.

Hurry to the bus station. Do not worry about goodbyes- those can be looked into later.

Walk the fast walk of someone who is about to break into a sprint. Be discrete. If everyone realizes the urgency and hurries too, it will reduce your chances of getting home before 11p.m. If your walking cannot be used to pace a metal rock band drummer, you are not walking fast enough.

Feel that you have company. Realize that if you look up from the brown puddles of water you are evading, you will observe that with every step you take, one, two, five people join the orchestra. Listen, as the splutter of rain on the ground grows louder than the pattering of feet. Quit trying to keep yourself dry.

Notice women retrieve lower heeled shoes and shower caps (to protect their hairstyles) in the abracadabra way in which magicians make rabbits appear from their hats.

Feel for your phone and your money. Keep the phone in the pocket of your trousers that is closest to your skin, and split the money into two and store it separately. Think fast. If you do not keep your things safe, someone will relieve you of them.

Get to your bus stop. Find a crowd already gathered. By crowd, I mean a hundred or more people- moving in towards you, and growing, growing, growing. Grimace as someone digs his elbow into your lower right abdomen. Panic as your feet begin to lose contact with the ground. Note that at some point, you are suspended in the air- held static only by the grace of the strangers’ bodies pushing in on you. That moment is what makes hero stories, the ones you’ll tell your friends later.

Wait for hours, as matatus come, and leave, while you float in this sea of faces. Listen as the matatu conductors shout double or triple fares. Watch the rain start, and stop and then start again.

Wait on chance. Hope for that matatu that will hurtle to a stop so that its wheels and your toes are at almost the same place. This is the most crucial moment of your evening-turned-night. First, summon all your dignity and put it away nicely. Any hesitation you have for the next one and a half minutes will, I promise, get in the way of the opportunity that has availed itself at your feet. Edge your way through the door. I know it looks like that door can allow only two people to go through, but if the people squeezing through it are any less than 5, there is room for you. Push through. Feel your right shoe slip off your feet. Do not stop.

Put yourself in the way of the opponent who looks strongest. Let him hit you with his hands or shoulders. Look offended. It makes him do something you already know not to do- hesitate. Slide through. Secure a seat. Ask the conductor to check for your shoe at the door when the matatu is full.

Look at the other passengers. Notice the pride/shame in all your eyes. As you put on your shoe, remember to reach for your dignity and put it back on.

Read a text from a friend saying she missed all the matatus and climbed into a train through a window. Know that her hero story floors yours this time, and half hope for when it will rain again.

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