Night time in Mathare

Mathare at night

It’s lively in Mathare at night, when most of the people come from their places to hustle. The women in the streets sell their products, mostly vegetables, while talking to each other with a lot of joy and gossip in their hearts. The men come back from earning their daily bread, walking from the city’s eastern industrial district with their paychecks of the day in their pockets, buying dinner. The kids run around playing and singing, a few of them gather up in video dens to watch their favorite karate movies. They do it very keenly so they can tell the story tomorrow at school to their friends who were not so lucky to see it.

“Slum snacks” are sold all over. They are the moshogi, orenge and mara, chicken head, feet and intestines respectively. They sell from 5 to 10 shillings and are considered a delicacy. I personally recommend the moshogi (chicken head). After a snack, the pool will be a good entertainment for a young person like me to catch up on the latest gossip, such as the English premier league transfers, footballers sex scandals, which cell phone has the best features, which shoes are fashionable, and if there’s anybody who got rich and got out of the ghetto lately. Graffiti, freestyle rap or weeding will help ease the stress of the day. The women on the road will talk about who got pregnant, shot, who contracted malaria or HIV/AIDS, got married recently, and who dropped out of school in the past week. And let me tell you, they do keep track!

As the night progresses some of the kids are still in the video dens playing Playstations, the men are in the bars drinking good old chang’aa. For the married ones this is the time to take showers, the time to head to “The Amazon” or “The Caribbean” (those who know they know, others can contact me for further explanation). The unmarried ones will hop from chang’aa to bussa (fermented millet wine) den all night long. Some of them will head to funeral gatherings. Ironically in Mathare, funeral gatherings are a celebration where the music is played until morning and people dance all night long. If these bachelors are lucky they might find a catch here and there but more often fights will break out. The atmosphere is tense, and there are only a few ladies around, so it’s a mad dash of young men to ensure the “Caribbean warmth” that night.

At about 3 am Mathare gets cold, and quiet, and peaceful. It’s almost like a ghost town, only a few barks from a dog here and there, and maybe a few drunks singing in the streets.

If you look beyond the troubles of the slum, you will realize it’s a truly fascinating place. The slum teaches life long lessons. The lights, the rusty roof tops, and the smell of sewage, chang’aa, food and love fill the air. I was born and raised in the ghetto and if I die, I hope there’s a ghetto in heaven too. Goodnight Mathare, sleep tight Mathare. All of us sleeping and sharing a dream of a better tomorrow!

— Jeff


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