They have been so many times when I have prayed for God’s intervention when in a minibus. Unlike other countries, Malawi does not have any special names for minibuses. They are just that, minibuses. However, each time you are in one, you are bound to ask God why he is yet to bless you with your own car. Minibuses in Blantyre will get you frustrated, happy and confused. All in all, you also lose Jesus while you are in one. So, in the final post in the Things We See in Blantyre series, I wanted to share some of the things I have experienced while in a minibus.
Before I go on, make sure to read the other posts in the series:
- Things We See in Blantyre: Money in Underwear
- Things We See in Blantyre: Magic in the Streets
- Things We See in Blantyre: False Alerts Everywhere
The first thing I tell people who want to travel in Malawi and want to experience the public transport is that it is not for the faint hearted. And I stick to this thought even as I write this. I know one thing for sure, the madness in Blantyre is similar to all the parts of the country. It is as though minibus drivers and conductors are birthed from the same women. They all seem to be similar.
In my 24 years of living in Blantyre, which basically is all my life, I have had many experiences. From happy ones, to some that make me angry. Let’s share them all.
Please don’t sell us
If there is ever a time I feel like, excuse my English, a hoe is when I am being sold from minibus to minibus. If not a hoe, then I honestly feel like I am being trafficked willingly. Many a time I’ve witnessed the transaction between one conductor to another. Counting us like chickens and then paying us off to the best bidder. Often times, I wish to just say, “please don’t sell me.” I also have a good reason why. Have you seen the eyes you receive upon entering a minibus that you were not apart of. Always feels like the passengers have signed the MoU and you are there disturbing that. Also, it just makes you feel like you are jumping people, hence feeling like a hoe. And, you always lose that best seat.
But, that is just one of the things we see in Blantyre.
Hiding under the seat trick
If I say that I feel violated, I swear I have been violated. The first time I saw this trick was on a video, I laughed about it so much. Until karma made a show on my doorstep. I was on my way to work, late at that. I had just found one minibus that had one seat available and I jumped in. All through the way, I saw minibus drivers indicate to our own that there were traffic police that had mounted a check point. As a passenger, I knew that it over with one passenger, and that was me. Which meant, the conductor and driver had to make the decision to either sell me off or the conductor to drop off. But neither of those happen. We inched closer to the check point and that is when it happened.
The conductor told me to move just a bit close to the passenger next to me to which I did. Then slowly, He knelt down just like he was about to give me or…. Then he eased himself down till he was completely lying down. All that time, I am making sure my skirt is between my legs to hide my under clothes.
I had never been so confused, uncomfortable but at the same time, want to laugh in my life.
Sing the sad hymns
Other times, you get in the minibus and just forget yourself. Many times I have thought that these guys must have some kind of juju that just makes the customers’ sense to fly out of the window. This scenario was one of them.
I was travelling to the capital city, Lilongwe. I boarded a minibus by Kameza. We had just started off when he saw traffic police had a check point just by Lirangwe. As we approached them, the driver instructed us one thing. He said, please sing funeral songs. In Chichewa,
Mwabwana taziyimbani nyimbo zapa maliro kuti tisachedwe
Indeed, we started singing the funeral songs. The other two women were already wearing chitenjes and I was advised to put on one, which I obliged. We were stopped by the police, but we kept the singing to make it the more believable. The police, however still decided to test us. They asked the passenger in the front to mention the name of the deceased and the actual location in Lilongwe we were headed to. Again, they asked one passenger in the back seat the same questions. I am sure you can guess what happened after.
The responses were so different that we were busted and the driver fined. Again, just one of the things we see in Blantyre.
As much as I get annoyed with minibuses, there is one thing for sure, they are your saving grace when in traffic. There is something that I discovered. When I am in a minibus that overtakes badly on a queue, my soul does not move. I do not get angry, in fact, I cheer for the driver. But, if I am given a lift and see a minibus do the same, I trash talk them.
Maybe it is the envy that they are way faster than the car I am in. But I swear, my soul screams faster when they overtake cars on queues. At that point, it does not feel just as bad not having a car of your own.
As I end the Things We See in Blantyre series, I wanted just to share about my minibus experiences. Because these have been a very important part of my experiences in the city. Minibus drivers and conductors can be annoying, but in those vans is were we actually get to learn more about our country. From talks with random people about hot topics such as politics, religion and more. Even my migodi post was largely motivated by them.
Blantyre will always show us many absurd things. However, it is a city I am happy to stay in. Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading Things We See in Blantyre. Remember to also check out Things We See in Lagos, the post that inspired this series.
Share your own experiences by commenting down below.