In The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It, Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I believe he was talking about Kenyans and how we have opinions about everything even without having experienced them, even without having a clue on how they work or operate.
Marcel Proust once said that the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. We look at things with the same, tired, myopic, bigoted and narrow-minded eyes that cloud the best of anything that might come our way.
The SGR or the Standard Gauge Railway has been in the news of late, for the longest time for all sorts of reasons, good or bad and I have tried my best albeit with failure to refrain from commenting on it until I was able to spend my own coins on it and experience it and be able to the narrate the tale to those who might care.
Just yesterday, during the State of the Nation address, the President of Kenya, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta talked about the SGR and how Kenyans are in love with it. He said, about 700,000 Kenyans have already used it and when my office was doing the booking for a journey to Mombasa, not forgetting the Met’s warning about continued rains, the SGR was completely packed, I believe we were the last to get the last seats in first class and it’s not cheap but they say, experience is not cheap.
I was anxious like a high school boy going for my first date because the talk around the concept of SGR was heavy on my mind. I wanted to have an experience that would be unique and also set me apart from the standard mode of talk about it. I was afraid of having the same experience and flowing with the crowd. Nothing wrong with the crowd, just that the way I am set up, crowd settings are not available.
The alarm rang at 4.30 AM. I was told that from where I live, please don’t ask because Nairobi is not for the faint-hearted, the best time to get to Syokimau on time was to leave at 5 AM. Hence I did not seduce sleep because for me, sleep is that lady who has no respect for time and takes her sweet time to put on make-up and dress up and she showed up at 4 AM and we ended up fighting and the date was canceled. You know how you feel when you wait for someone for hours only to cancel? Decided to call her back, later in the day when I knew her enchantment would be sweet and ethereal to my aura and essence.
We managed to get to the SGR station in Syokimau on time. The check-in was more thorough than what I have gone through at JKIA. But it was smooth and uneventful. Save for the traffic that we experienced as our uber guy tried to navigate all the known shortcuts to get us there on time.
Kenyans never keep time, even Kenya Airways never keeps time but I was pleasantly and beautifully surprised when the SGR kept time. They kept time to the last nitty-gritty detail. I was enchanted. I was enthralled. I was stunned. What they announced is what happened. I was sitting there waiting to prove them wrong. I had my data on ready to tweet how these guys never keep time and how they are fakes. The shock was on me, I waited until we alighted in the Maritini Terminus. SGR keeping time at every stop, at every point made me realize that if we purpose, we can manage and run Kenya better and prudent for all of us to be happy and hopeful. For Hope is the fuel of mankind.
SGR surprised me today. I loved SGR because;-
The only thing that made my top five points about why I loved the SGR sublime was the fact that we spent more time between Maritini to the hotel room than we spent from Nairobi to Mombasa.
The connection issue is the big challenge. It’s the Achilles heel of the entire project. It’s the poison of life for the SGR. Imagine you have luggage, kids and you been on the rail for five hours only to connect into a muddy, dusty, noisy traffic for hours.
I feel this entire project is a dinner date gone awry just because connecting is a big challenge. But since we asking for forgiveness and having handshakes, maybe the architects of the projects can forgive our complaints and find a lasting solution to the connection issue? Also, I want to take the SGR from a station in Webuye and go all the way to the beach in one day.