Day 22 was a leisurely day at home, "recovering" from our travels and anticipating our family dinner that evening. Mark stopped by for a couple of hours in the late afternoon. (It's seriously SO AWESOME that family can just stop by and hang out for awhile. The very best thing about Kenya, hands down.)
After two days away from my laptop, I spent all day writing and editing photos, and I was rewarded with a spectacular thunderstorm just as we were about to leave for dinner at Maurice and Wambui's. We tried to wait it out, but when Harry called Wambui to tell her we would still be coming, just arriving late, she cautioned us not to wait too long because traffic would worsen.
Boy, was she right! We decided to go ahead and call an Uber (prices were 150% higher than normal due to the conditions) and as soon as we nosed into the slow-moving traffic in front of our flat, I was reminded of the first snowstorm of the season in Wisconsin, when traffic grinds to a halt and cars slink and jerk down the roads, just trying to figure out a way — ANY way — to get from Point A to Point B. Except that in Kenya the precipitation was in the form of rain, and a LOT of it. It hammered the roof of our Uber vehicle (a sound I was absolutely loving), poured down people's faces and bodies, and burbled along the curbs in ever-widening rivers.
The evening had turned coal-black by 6:30 and the streetlights were spread quite widely apart, all of which combined with the natural drama of the rain to create an eerie but pleasing stage-like effect as I sat in the backseat of our now-stopped vehicle and watched people stream by as steadily as the rain. I felt guilty sitting in a dry car mentally bemoaning my own chilliness, my shoulders barely damp from our quick few steps from the door to the car, when there were so many people outside pressing their way through thick curtains of drops. Very few folks had umbrellas. Some covered their heads with plastic bags, or had even fashioned makeshift turbans from them. One resourceful guy had spread a kerchief over his bald scalp, the four corners bouncing up down up down as he loped his way quickly down the hill, an improbably cheerful grin on his face. Many people wore hoodies or jackets with the hood pulled tight over everything but eyes and mouth. but only a handful of coats appeared made of waterproof fabric, and even those had been soaked through already.
My observations were abruptly interrupted by bright lights and honking, and I looked across the boys through the windows to see a purple car sandwiched like the cross-bar of an uppercase letter "H" between our car in the left lane and a huge matatu in the opposite-heading lane. The purple car had apparently pulled from the parking lot on our left directly in front of us and was trying to make its way across the crowded lanes to the perpendicular street. The purple car's rear bumper was maybe — MAYBE — six inches from our driver's door (drivers sit on the right here) and I was horrified to see his rear reverse lights were lit. Our driver and what seemed like dozens of other drivers all shouted frantically out their windows and managed to catch the purple car's attention just in time to stop him from hitting us. The matatu moved forward to allow the purple car to squeeze through, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
A few minutes later our driver, apparently fed up with having been in the same spot for half an hour and emboldened by the purple car's recent antics, suddenly swerved our car sharply right, pulled through what seemed to be a nonexistent space in the jammed traffic, and to a background cacophony of honks and yells, completed a three-point turn and proceeded the opposite direction. Oh, how my mom would have cringed at that one!
Our new route carried us more quickly across town. At one roundabout we passed dozens of deserted wooden kiosks but for one lone vendor who was just beginning to pack up her stuff. Maybe she'd thought people would take respite under her wooden awning and even be tempted to buy a meat pie or a Coke, but if this had been her hope, clearly she'd misjudged, for the crowds of people hurried past her, intent on making their way home.
Toward the end of our trip, we were again trapped at the back of a long, tight line of cars. Thinking we'd be here awhile, I was shocked when our driver suddenly veered left, scraping the undercarriage on the curb as he maneuvered onto the sidewalk, which was thankfully clear of people, and bumped along several car lengths until he could scoot into a free lane and turn left.
We finally arrived safely (no small feat!) at Maurice and Wambui's. It took some time after that harrowing trip for my appetite to return, but I was glad it did for Wambui had prepared a perfect rainy-evening meal: roasted chicken marinated in some tasty sauce with rosemary; mashed potatoes; vegetables sautéed with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and oregano; and the ubiquitous-and-always-welcome chapati. Hunkered down on the couch afterward, sipping my after-dinner tea with Lemayian on my lap and immersed in the happy hum of surrounding conversations, I was quite content.
It turned out that even Patrice had gotten soaked on his way home from work. He was so cold from his suit being saturated that when he changed out of it, he threw on a Maasai blanket to keep warm. He looks quite dashing, I think! Maybe Harry should try this at home.
It was 10:00 by the time we headed back to the apartment, an exhausted Maurice as our chauffeur. (As fatigued as he was, he gave us a passenger experience that was vastly superior to our earlier ride.) Taye had come home with us for a sleepover, and the boys stayed awake much longer than Harry and I could manage.