I usually don’t mess around when it comes to travel. I can be a little late to a couple of things (mostly I’m on time) but never if I have a bus, flight or train to catch and this time is wasn’t any different.
The agreement was that the meeting time would be 6:00 am in town. Expected departure time would be 6:30 am. Of course I should have known and understood by now that Kenyans don’t keep time – but I always give everyone the benefit of doubt – every time ! And no, I won’t be intentionally late just because others will.
Anyway, I was in town a few minutes to 6:00 am and of course no one was there. Not even the vehicle that was to be our mode of transport. Between me and all the luggage I had with me there wasn’t really a good spot for me to ‘chill’ at before the vehicle got there. I could also not walk around aimlessly because that would have meant carrying around all that luggage and that wasn’t going to be my portion.
I decided to cross a few streets here and there and finally got a place I could stand. Barely a few minutes into it, I spotted a young man heading towards me. I could see how people who were heading to work by that time were intentionally walking the other way or doing all that they could possibly do to make sure they didn’t cross paths. I on the other hand decided to just stand still. I would have probably been those people walking the other way had it not been for my bags. So what I did instead was clutch tightly at the purse that had my valuables.
(Just being in Nairobi CBD sets off all your alarms. You hear stories about how certain bad things have happened to people by just even engaging in conversation with people. It’s usually a lot to handle. The sad part is sometimes there could be people in genuine need of help and maybe you could even offer that help but there’s nothing you can use to guarantee that this person is genuine and the other isn’t so people just decide not to engage with anyone at all. Myself included)
So the guy gets to where I am. He greets me and I respond. But deep in my heart I’m chanting prayers of protection over myself. Already calculating if I have any lose change that I may have to part with – thinking of how I’ll just beg to keep for my phone if it gets to that point.
Anyway, as these things are going on in my head he continues speaking and tells me how I’m the only person who’s given him the time of day in a long time by simply responding to him. I start to let my guard down a little. And I’m now more receptive to hearing what more he may have to say and even think that this could be a nice way to kill time. I even remove my phone to check if there are any updates on the transport and all. I even go further and make it clear to him that I’m waiting to be picked and all. Then I start thinking he may think I’m lying and just saying that so that he leaves. Lol !
He continues nevertheless and tells me his life story and how he’s ended up living in the streets. Tells me how the perception people have of people living in the streets affects him – such that he’s also been a victim of the violence meted out to them on the assumption that he too may be trying to perhaps steal. He tells me about his dreams – how someone swindled him out of it. It was good talk. I encouraged him as much as I could but it was time for me to go.
He offered to help me with my luggage and I let him. But imagine even with this good rapport that we had built – I still had this thought in my head – what if he decided to make a run for it with my bags ? But I didn’t show it in my face. As we approached the vehicle – I could hear some guys along the streets telling me to be careful – it was not a normal sighting I guess for them too…
I really wished I could have helped him more that day. But I did tell him of this project that the Out of the Streets Foundation had and where it was happening. I don’t know if he ever tried to check it out and if he is maybe getting help now.
I wish I could follow up on what happened to him but I don’t remember his name.