Has it really been this long?

I logged in to moderate a comment the other day. And tonight even though not on the train, I am stopping by to drop you a line ( why we say drop a line, I will never understand. Where is the line supposed to be dropped anyway), but I digress. Writing while standing in the full sardine tin is not easy. Yes that is my excuse for writing nothing in a year. I do miss writing, but I think I miss finding a seat on the train most of all. 

See you soon. You’ll know I got a seat when I post next.

Have a good week. 

This entry was posted on March 1, 2015. 2 Comments

Fresh air and a birthday.

The noise coming from a group at the far end of the coach is agitating a few sardines standing in front of me. Yes I am sited, thank you for asking. There are birthday songs being sang and chairman is being wished well. I can’t see who chairman is but the gentleman right in front of me keeps craning his head, trying to see. I am not sure whether it is what he sees that displeases him or the fact that he is not included. He is not happy. He mumbles and tells all who can hear that this train is professional…. I think he maybe means that its for professionals, but I can’t quite tell you why singing the happy birthday song is unprofessional.

As usual, we are packed to the gills. The window behind me will not open and I think we should maybe petition the government to provide diet inspectors to make mandatory visits of all sardine homes. The air is terrible!  Holding my breath just means when I decide to breath in, I will inhale a lung-full of awefullness. *Gag*

The ladies next to me are discussing food production. ..farming. I lean in. They seem to know their subject matter. Maize and beans and some fruit farming. They discuss markets. I am in class.

Chairman and his band of merry sardines are still talking….loudly. The agitated gentleman is scowling so hard. I want to ask him why it bothers him so. The noisy group will undoubtedly have a good day, scowling man, not so much.

We’ve stopped at Makadara. Its amazing how this sardine tin never seems to get full. It is a mercy that the journey is only 30 minutes long.

I am choking on the fresh air that suddenly hits my face as I alight. Breath sardine. Breath.

This entry was posted on March 18, 2014. 5 Comments

Happy Valentine’s day

The fact that this day has started with me getting a seat despite arriving after 6:30am means it’s going to be a good day.  There will be flowers to greet me at the office and an invitation to have lunch or dinner. Maybe a declaration of undying love and devotion. MAYBE.

The train is packed full as usual. Sardines are already standing and more walking in. It’s valentine’s day but the only red garment that I see in this here carriage, is a scarf won by the lady two seats across from me. I guess people don’t go it like that no more.

I hope your day has started well. Thank you for stopping here.  Happy Valentine’s day.

Chuchuuuu!!!? And we’re off!

P.s  One year ago I was on this train on Valentines day . I wrote about it…  https://chuchutales.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/invasion-from-imara/

This entry was posted on February 14, 2014. 2 Comments

Spanx

That my first post after such a lomg time should be negative is not a good sign. Maybe it means that there is no longer anything interesting about this train and that I have grown disenchanted with it.

Did I tell you that 2 more stations were added on the route?  A good thing right? Maybe…. But it has meant that departure from Syokimau has had to be pushed up so as to allow for stops at these stations and still maintain a 7:30am arrival time in Nairobi.  Ten or even 5 minutes make such a big difference to many. Like the lady who now cannot sit through her child’s breakfast because she needs to catch the train; or the 5 exta minutes of sleep I need but now can’t get because…yes, I have to catch the train.

For whatever reason, the train is now more popular.  I am in the 3rd coach and we are already so full. I did not get a seat of course.  To get one you have to be here latest at 6:15am. It is 6:30am and the coach door keeps opening to allow in more people. The space reserved for prams and wheelchairs on both ends of the carriage I am in is packed. The aisle is packed and all the yellow strap ‘hand support thingies’  have Bern claimed by hands despatch for support. Like so many times since the beginning of the year, I am wondering if we can possibly take on more passengers. We have stops at Imara and Makadara so I guess yes we can. If you  thought this was a sardine tin before,  board the train now.

Are there pleasant things to observe on the train anymore?  Well? I can’t see anything around or about me. The sardines around me make it difficult to move more than just my eyes.

I can tell you though, about the couple just in front of me. His hands move up and down her arms. He places them on her shoulder and draws her nearer.  The train’s movement and the tightly packed sardines help push them closer.  He looks at her…and is suddenly aware that they are nor alone. He drops his hands to his sides. She leans closer to him and the passengers getting into the carriage at Imara push them closer still. He smiles.

Valentines is coming. For some the train ride us just what their relationship needed. For most the lack of personal space is now at an all new high level.
I wonder why Kenya Railways just won’t introduce more early morning travel options… ? another train?

Have a good day sardines. Try to breath.

This entry was posted on February 4, 2014. 4 Comments

Changes and more.

Does the Syokimau train continue to be called that if it does not go straight to and from Syokimau? 
The introduction of the Makadara station on the Syokimau train route has me wondering about several things.

– Where are the additional sardines supposed to sit or stand?
– Syoki sardines kind of like their gadgets. Can they still use them safely with the extra people crammed in?
–  The fare goes up to Ksh.  120 return. Is this still value for money?
–  Departure time moves back 5 minutes.  What does this mean for the sardines travelling from Kitengela and beyond?
-Arrival time moves up by 10 minutes. What does this mean for those connecting to Upperhill and Westlands?

I guess increasing optional travel times is not in Kenya Railways plans as yet and a wait and see attitude is best at the moment.

On a different and more pleasant note, UCHUMI supermarket is due to open at the Syokimau station if the big sign upfront is anything to go by. This will mean less huffing and puffing as we carry grocery packages from supermarkets near Railways. It may also mean fewer announcements for forgotten packages or not.

Its rainy in Nairobi County and given how Kenyan cars are allergic to the rain (…or is it that they are solar powered and so the appearance of clouds and rain confuses them?); whichever it is, the choosing the train over matatus is a very good idea this week.

Stay dry.

Lets talk about the rain

Its been a minute but I am back today and with a tale.

Nairobi is one of those places that greens up nicely when it rains but boy, does the city have bad drainage!

Today just after 4:00 pm the skies opened and within half an hour, the roads were flooded. It took me 40 minutes to get to the railway station and it normally takes 10 minutes. Finding safe crossing points between streets and stationary cars (Nairobi also has the craziest traffic jams when it rains), was difficult.

I made it to the Railway Public transport terminus and waded through water and mud. Then the difficult phase of my attempt to get home started.

Across from the Railway station where normally there’s a road, there was a river. Its waters were rushing by fast and as I watched brave people wade in, I estimated the water would come up to my knees if I dared wade in.

I decided my knee high leather boots were not made for this (yes knee high), and was contemplating walking back to the matatus charging Ksh 150 (normal fare when its sunny is Ksh 50- 70), when suddenly and almost pleasantly there appeared a mkokoteni. Now for those who do not know what a mkokoteni is… its a contraption….a cart used to ferry goods…if that description does not do the mkokoteni justice see photo below.

2 young men saw a business opportunity and started charging Ksh. 10 to ferry the likes of me across the now flooded road.
I watched the first lot get accross on that contraption and decided it would be safe to try.
On normal sunny days, the Kenyan man finds it hard to be a gentleman. On rainy days, he forgets that if he uses the minutest of forces, he can topple any woman into murky muddy waters. So I am attempting to get into this thing I have never boarded before…EVER! I have just managed to find my balance and I am trying to decide whether to ride standing or crouching as there is nowhere to sit when I hear a loud sash behind me. The Mkokoteni driver while trying to balance 7 adults of varying weight has managed to offload a passenger into the water. There’s a mixture laughter, pity and amazement as the man in cream trousers tries to rise from his impromptu bath. I hold on for dear life.

We are off and across in less than a minute.

Now to try and disembark from this contraption. I wait until all the men get off. One of the 2 Mkokoteni drivers tries to ask for his Ksh. 10 before I get off. I tell him I need him to help me off first. Someone says ‘careful mama’, but makes no effort to help me. The Mkokoteni driver decides I am wasting time and allows me to grab his hand and I hand him my ten bob when I feel my legs firmly make contact with the not so dry pavement.

I swipe my card and thankfully walk towards the train. The sardines are already packed tight into carriages. The rain has brought them early from their offices. Everyone seems to have a tale of how they got into the train. All are wet. I can see only 2 umbrellas in my carriage. I find a seat thankfully and as I look outside and across the station entrance, there’s a loud scream and people shout. The Mkokoteni has toppled its 2nd victim. I watch as others still climb on. Business must go on and the train will leave in 10 minutes.

I now have a tale for my grand kids who will one day ask a Mkoko..what?

I am so glad when the train takes off from the station.

Stay warm and dry

Miss…Please

Tales from the Syokimau Train : I have to admit I do not know how to be polite to people who even when in the wrong demand courtesy from you. I am therefore seriously flawed and as such was dubbed ‘ Chairman’ by the brown bag lady seated next to me.

My tale is as follows: Well it is sort of the same tale but the roles are played by others, except for me. Yesterday the train left just as I parked my car so today I was taking no chances and at 6:45 am, I was getting into my train carriage of choice. I found a seat all right but it was occupied by a brown bag with a couple talking over it. I touched the bag and asked the lady; coz I was sure it belonged to her and not the man (you sort of know these things, right?), well I asked the lady to move it. Brown bag lady started with the usual train seat booker rhetoric: ‘she’s on her way, she’s coming’. I of course did not consider just walking away. I was early, there was an empty seat and the rules say, ‘NO BOOKING/ RESERVING SEATS’.

So I said no and repeated the rule. She said ‘but…’ , and I repeated the rule. She then started on the ‘you have no courtesy’ route …’say please’…and I repeated the rule. She moved her bag and moved closer to her male companion but continued her ‘you do not have courtesy etc monologue’. At this point she asks me if I am the chairman of the train, and as the Sardines in the carriage are paying attention, I decide to bring my ‘christian’ character to the fore and told madam brown bag that, ‘I take the chairman title with honor but that please you are not supposed to book seats’. I put on my earphones and promptly retreated leaving her still unsatisfied. She stated she was going to move for her mysterious friend or was she not allowed to do that either?.

*Sigh*

Mystery friend walks in 10 or 15 minuted later and is now perched in between brown bag lady and her friend. As long as you are not asking to invade my space, you can do what you please but remember should I find the seat next to you occupied by paper bags, handbags, files or any non human stuff, well as chairman of the train, I’ll say ‘please you are not supposed to book or reserve space for anyone not in the carriage/coach with you, and I will promptly take that seat.

Now that I have vented and it is my blog so I can do that 🙂 There is nothing new happening. Sardines are still packing carriages to the rafters and I realise unless I want to be part of the drama, I may not have anything blog-worthy to say.

A good day y’all and don’t let anyone steal your joy today. Remember to start all your sentences with please.

Yes Dear 2

Tales from the Syokimau Train : Her handbag hangs half on the seat next to her. She looks at me as I swipe it aside to sit and says the person to occupy the seat is on the way. I tell her well they are not here yet and get comfortable. She says the train has other seats and I tell her that whoever she was ‘booking’ the seat for can go sit in those other seats.
She’s now franticallly on her phone sending text messages. I peep at what she’s furiously typing. She asks, ‘where are you?’ She doesn’t get an answer. She waits a while then dives into her handbag for her phone again. She types,’ if you haven’t gotten a seat yet, come sit next to me’. I wonder what seat she’s offering coz the coach is now full. People standing, all seats occupied. Her phone buzzes. She digs for it again from the recesses of her handbag. She reads, ‘Yes Dear’, and a smile spreads across her face.

Now there are two of us waiting for ‘yes dear’. She keeps looking at the coach door. Her face has an anxious look. I wait with her. She digs into her bag for her phone again. No messages. I start feeling disappointed on her behalf. I hope ‘yes dear’ does not disappoint her.

A grey suited man walks past Sardines standing near the door. He motions for me and the lady on my right to make room. I look at him and give him a look I hope suggests ‘are you serious?’ He moves to my left and the phone lady makes room for him. Is this ‘yes dear’? I wonder. He is now balanced on the edge of the seat between us, making it uncomfortable for me. I don’t feel charitable. There are women standing on the aisle; it would make better sense to move up for one of them. He’s not talking to the phone lady and I am still not sure whether this is her ‘yes dear’. I was expecting more…a joyous reunion, a bit of chatter… Oh well… We’re leaving the station so I guess I may never know.

On a different note; the main gates to the station had ‘refused’ or failed to open fully today. Drivers had to use 2 lanes instead of 3 causing a mini traffic jam on the road that runs next to the station. I counted 9 guards trying to pull and push the gate open. A bit of grease for the rollers maybe?

Have a good day y’all and if you’re marching in the #OccupyParliament protest, stay safe.

Why this Sardine Tin

Tales from the Syokimau Train: It should be declared illegal …well maybe not illegal but not good at all for sure for train personnel to be trying to squeeze between tightly packed sardines trying to check for tickets. It definitely should be declared something; maybe uncomfortable and not good customer service for sure.
Picture this; I’m standing and can’t even see my feet. I’m short so that says a lot already and I’ll not even begin to talk about how bad the air is …someone must’a eaten beans last night. So with all this I sure don’t need anyone asking me to dig into my handbag and find my ticket. After all, I paid and there’s no way of getting onto this train without paying.

The train times have been adjusted with the next train after the 7:05 am running at 9:00 am, but we sure could use another option early in the morning. It would de-congest the carbines. The standing sardines who are lucky enough to get somewhere to hold onto the rail are acting as pillars for those with no where to hang onto to rest their swaying bodies. It’s a mercy that this ride takes at most 30 minutes.

Why do I catch this ride daily and will I ride again tomorrow despite of how packed we are? Well, the alternative means using expensive fuel or a matatu and sitting in traffic around Nyayo Stadium for more than the 30 minutes it takes me to get to the same destination on this sardine tin. So Yes, see you all tomorrow.

A good day y’all.

Stuck…in the middle of nowhere.

Tales from the Syokimau Train: The panicky looks the Sardines are starting to give each other have suddenly jolted me from my semi-sleep state. Yeah I’ve become so comfortable riding on this train that sleep in now part of my travel routine. I bet you had wondered why I wasn’t telling you what sardines were getting up to….

So there was the woman who said a loud ‘thank God’ and set us all laughing and the sheer relief she exhibited. You see she just barely managed to get into the cabin as the train jerked to begin it’s journey to the city. This of course has nothing to do with the panicky looks I mentioned. Nor does my being a saint and sharing my seat with a lady who looked like getting to the train station had been an exhausting journey. My neighbors gave me the customary ‘how dare you force us to share’ bad eye. I smiled and thanked them both but it was the relief and thanks from the lady we had just made space for that placated them. That does not mean I am not a saint.. I still am since the idea to move was mine. 🙂

We’re stuck in the middle of the… I actually could not tell you where we are. I opened my eyes when I felt the train jerk to a stop and knew it was too soon to have arrived at our destination. I can see partially broken down perimeter walls and since I haven’t ever noticed this part of the landscape before I am clueless.

Yes, why have we stopped? I know you’re asking and I’m wondering about it too. The guard in my cabin left briefly and then came back and mumbled something about a failed engine. The questions from sardines sent her outside again.

People are getting out supposedly to walk along the tracks towards the city…me? I’m sitting this one out. Let’s see how long we’ll camp on the tracks. A sardine is being vilified for taking unauthorized photos of other sardines. Politics, work and bosses, more politics, the cabinet and the possibility of rescue in ‘a short while’ are being discussed. A short while it seems is becoming a way of saying maybe never… We’re talking to each other and that’s a good thing. Conversation makes time fly by.

50 minutes later we have been rescued. Another engine has been dispatched from Nairobi to pull us into the city.

Have a good day y’all.

This entry was posted on April 25, 2013. 4 Comments