Tao sabini Tao sabini! Wanne iende! Wanne ijae! Apana chelewa kazi!
Those are the words that I used to wake up to when I lived in Ummoja One. It was always like an alarm clock that told you time to get your ass out of bed and start getting ready for work or whatever it is that you would be waking up to. The bus stage was as noisy as you can imagine with Matatus trying to outdo each other on the loudest Music systems, Horns and the latest graffiti. It was chaotic but a good chaotic scene, which I loved to just watch all these elements trying to get to their destinations. Fights broke out, fights were started, fights ended and frights were resolved in the same space at the same time and with the same players of the Matatu script, battle of the best if you will.
It was a competition between Ummoiner Sacco Mathrees and Utimo Sacco Mathrees, though I left when City Tram Mathrees had landed giving the other two dominant Mathrees a run for their money. I think City Tram made some of the older versions to upgrade, re-graffize, redo exhaust pipes and all other vehicle upgrading that was available. Mathrees knew their clients, their clients knew their Mathrees. You would know which was the hottest because you’d hear it from miles away blasting music louder than the clubs, its crew a crazy bunch shouting, hanging and even swinging on the doors. I always hold my breath when they do those stunts, especially running after the Matatu and jumping on, some swing a bit before they get on. Aren’t they afraid of falling or even missing the door’s post? I shudder.
Ummoja is always known as being part of Eastlando, where all the craziness is borne and crews, gangsters or even mobs operate. I have just heard those rumors. Eastlando as the area is called is known as the middle to middle lower class, not the classy neighborhoods you hear. So what defines Ummoja? You know you are in Ummoja because these are the defining things that are straight outta Ummoja…
You know all the latest Mathrees
Almost everyone who has lived or is living in Ummoja knows about the latest Mathree to be ‘dropped’ on the road. You will always hear whispers about which Mathree has the best jams, the best dressed conductors, Best Graffiti and even who owns them. Which ones charge the highest fare and keeps changing depending on the weather. The new Mathrees are usually the preferred ones since they have free Wi-Fi and ridiculously loud music and they are road bullies, from driving fast to overlapping. If you are in one of these Mathrees hold your chest plus your breath because you will be going so fast it will feel like you are not moving at all.
You know all the ‘panya’ routes to get to town
Ummoja Mathrees have a fear of the highway, they will find routes that you have never heard of or even passed through. The first time I got into an Ummoiner I kept looking out the window to see whether I knew where we were headed but I gave up. Every corner, every intersection, or roundabout was strange to me. The only thing that I always consoled myself is that I will get to town whatever route that the Mathree takes. We would go through East Leigh, Jericho, and Shauri Moyo then end up through Gikomba. See I know the routes, though am sure those are not all of them. Best advantage with passing through these ‘panya routes’ is that you never get late for work or getting into town.
You know you are in Ummoja if you are in an Ummoiner Mathree. You can never speak of Ummoja without mentioning Ummoiner in your sentence. Ummoiner Mathrees define Ummoja and its characteristics. These Mathrees ply the routes to and from Ummoja (1 and 2) and Tena Innercore. From town you’d hear them call out the stages. The Mathree would either pass on Jogoo Road if there was little traffic which was almost never. It started at Mutindwa, Ummoja Market, and Kwa Chief, to Nabuto, Sango Pub, to Tenna Innercore in between there were other stages. Ummoiner Mathrees are never dull, if you are not going deaf from the blasting Music then you are being blinded by the neon lights when you travel at night. Fun times.
When I was looking for a house and a friend of mine was helping me scout the neighborhood for the right or perfect place, he was pointing me to things that make Ummoja great as compared to Donni (Donholm). I don’t know why guys have a hatred relationship with Donholm especially those living in Ummoja yet they are neighbors. Anyhow, as I later came to find out Ummoja is especially known for its “walevi” (drunkards). The place where we started looking for a house had bars lined from here to town, tu small small bars that are practically a single room with space and chairs lined out along the pavement. There were a few ‘real’ bars scattered all over. So I came to learn that the place was called ‘Mututho Lane’ because of all the bars…the place lived up to its name, nights were spent with various kinds of music mostly Rhumba blasting from their bars. Football weekends you would think the whole of Nairobi came to Mututho Lane, the bars were literally filled to the brim with football fanatics, some watching huddled over other’s back. I know that because I found my perfect house around there. The best part of living near or around bars is that there is great security since bar patrons tend to drink till late into the night, you would walk to buy stuff and even be late from work and not worry about safety.
Ask anybody about Ummoja and they will tell you that there is no place that you can get the best Nyama Choma (Roast Meat) like in Ummoja. A famous place is known as Egesa where you can drink, eat Nyama Choma, or the best fish. As far as entertainment goes, Egesa is the best place to relax especially on the weekends. It seems like people in Ummoja are always out socializing because any day of the week you would find the place and every other entertainment joint filled to the brim even. Ummoja guys are night crawlers always seeking for the next best entertainment spot and an excuse to binge even on a Tuesday night.
Also ask any person about Ummoja and they will almost instantly scream ‘Maji’ water shortage somehow defines the living in Ummoja. Practically everywhere you look, the balconies are filled with water storage containers, you walk around shops, supermarkets and they are fully stocked with water storage containers, from 50 liter to 250 liter water containers. As much as there is water shortage you ask any Ummoja dweller and they will tell you they will never move out of Ummoja until they die. I was lucky the place I stayed the caretaker used to pump water so there I was sorted unless like there was a day a bulldozer broke our water connection. So I ended up having to buy a 165 liter storage container, you know, just in case there is water shortage in all of Ummoja.
Ummoja is a cosmopolitan living area, you cannot place a finger at who fits where in the social chain. There are those who are very rich, once in a while you see Mercedes Benzes, a Prado, even a BMW, on the rough roads of Ummoja. Other times you will spot those walking along Jogoo Road towards Ummoja and most of the time they get to Ummoja while you are still sitting at the Donholm roundabout in a Mathree. Ummoja is very social and somehow almost a 24 hour working community. You will get the ‘mama mboga’ cutting Sukuma Wiki at 12am in the night and the next day at 5am you will get another ‘mama mboga’ selling Mandazi or chapatti for the early risers. There is a police post at Ummoja 1 market, next to it there is a Catholic Church, across the road from it is a liquor store yet still there is a school a few feet away. Talk about getting all your services in one convenient place.
Life, Music, Fun, Crazy, Family, Celebrity, Ulevi, Wizi, Biashara, Politics among others …these are some of the things that are straight outta Ummoja. Which area of the 254 are you representin’
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