Today I walk home from the car mechanic, a road I used to walk regularly but since kids and a house on campus, I’ve been driving instead. I prepare a mug of coffee and settle in to the walk, no hurry to get somewhere, just all that time on the broken sidewalks, morning sun on my cheeks, details to notice. There are so many things I’ve never seen the million times I’ve driven down that road- how the sellers set plywood on empty paint cans on the edge of the sidewalk to make a small table for their cigarettes, bananas. The man (woman?) sleeping under an old masai blanket in a small space created with a scrap of tin and a gap in the fence.
I notice the number of concrete poles along the road that have been hit over by vehicles, and am not sure if they say more about the quality of driving or the quality of the cement. There are women bent over at the waist, pouring chai from brown thermoses for taxi drivers, shoe shiners. The shoe shine station has two chairs covered in white plastic under a small vinyl tent. Men carrying sticks tied together into brooms file into the UN compound, ready for another day cleaning the offices of important people strategizing about how to help the poor.
There are loose wires hanging in tangled swirling knots above my head from the electric poles, cab drivers scrubbing their hubcaps, a small red kiosk called Shamba Boy selling warm Coke in glass bottles. There are two stalks of corn growing out of a crack in the cement ditch, bougainvillea spilling out over the trees in extravagant fairy tale colours. Women in black buibuis step over gaps in the sidewalk, well-dressed couples lean against the trees outside the US embassy. Smoke billows from the other side of the hedge from someone’s garbage pile, birds hop on low hanging branches despite the steady traffic. People smile, nod, zip by on the backs of motorbikes, stare from the windows of their SUVS.
I am struck by the brutal beauty of this place, the outpouring of growth and colour, the hard edges of the lives unfolding on the sidewalk. I am mostly startled by the familiarity of this strange place, how profoundly it feels like my home.