Saturday, January 22, 2011

Biking with baby in Busia

One would think that not having a car would render us housebound, but it’s actually not that difficult to get around.  Busia is basically one busy thoroughfare and we can step out of our house and get on a boda boda (bike with a padded seat for passangers on the back) or matatu (overstuffed minivan) to take us anywhere we need to go.  They are both rather harrowing modes of transportation, but at least they (most of the time) get you where you want to go.  If we want to escape Busia, we simply hire a car.

The one problem is getting where we need to go with a toddler.  Coming from a place where car seats are required practically until the age at which children can drive themselves and riding a bike without a helmet is a ticketable offense, the way Kenyan children travel – on their mothers lap squeezed in the front seat of a matatu or sandwiched between others on a motorbike – seems laden with danger. 
As much as we want to “do as the locals” in most areas,  we’re much less cavalier concerning Caleb and we still lug around our carseat – what must look like a padded baby thrown - for long trips, despite the odd looks we get.   (When I tell people that in the US it’s against the law to drive with a baby without one, they look at me like I can’t possibly be telling the truth.) 
We also are way too afraid to do as the locals in the realm of biking our baby around, which is basically a little one clinging for dear life, sans helmet or harness, anywhere there’s room on a bike.   


I think this child is actually holding the crate on the bike

Look closely.  There's a toddler hanging off the back.


I’ve seen some clever people build a makeshift babyseat out of an upsidedown stool and some rope to provide a greater modicum of safety.  But I’ve yet to see anyone wear a bike helmet or use a baby seat.  I know you can’t buy them here. 
At least that’s what I thought until last weekend when I went to my neighbor’s house and saw the rarest of things hanging broken and usused outside her house: a bike with an actual babyseat!!  I have no idea where she got it and it was at least 10 years old, but she let me have it. 
I took to a fundi (repair man) and got new wheels, new brakes, new pedals and they even jerry-rigged a new seat belt for the baby seat.  It was ready the next day for a total of about $10.

The fundi puts on the finishing touches while Caleb can barely wait.

Ready for our first foray...


So, now we can ride Caleb around feeling slightly more secure, if a bit more conspicuous.  I’ve gone on a few bike rides into the shambas, and as if 1) being a mzungu, 2) having a mzungu toddler and 3) riding a bike as woman wasn’t attention grabbing enough, throwing in the novelty of a bike seat, is just a laugh-out-loud riot to anyone we happen upon. 
I suppose if you know you’re going to attract attention you might as well go whole hog.  I hear there’s another mzungu (a Finnish guy working on a clean water program) who gets around on…wait for it….  land skis!  Yes, he really does.  He glides down the bumpy African road in the hot sun with poles and roller skis like some tragically lost alpinist, practically daring people not to laugh.  I suppose he figures, if people are going to stare, may as well give them something to stare at.  I think I’m unwittingly adopting the same approach just trying to keep Caleb as safe as I can.    

2 comments:

  1. I see he still has his monkey from the hospital. What's your address give me his head size I'll snd a helmet

    ReplyDelete
  2. Monkey and ball - that's my grandson! I can only imagine the reaction Caleb and you are getting on this bike, Kim. It's wonderful!

    ReplyDelete

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