Buying a used car is often an interesting process no matter which country you live in, and Kenya is no exception. Within weeks of our arrival to Kenya, it was evident that getting a vehicle would be necessary. We batted around various options and decided that a lightly used van which could fit all of us would be ideal. Since most of our travel is on asphalt or decent dirt roads, we decided that an SUV would not be necessary to get us where we needed to go. So a while back, the three families went into Nairobi to search for a suitable van that we could all share for the next 2 years. The boys kicked some tires in a variety of used car lots without much success. The type of vehicle we were looking for is very commonly used as a matatu, or a van for public transport, and so they are in high demand. We almost decided to try and make the trek back to Nairobi some other time.
We then got a recommendation and called “Jolly,” who promptly found 5 of the exact type of van we were looking for. Jolly has connections, apparently. One of the five was looked a little better than the rest. It had been used as a cargo transport van in Japan for 7 years and then imported to Kenya. There were therefore no seats (except the 3 front ones) and lots of evidence that the driver of the cargo van had been a chain smoker. Jolly assured us that he could take care of the smoke smell and get us some good seats. We took it for a test drive (with me sitting on the floor in the back of the van) and were quite pleased. So we asked Jolly to make a few additions, like a rack on the top, and putting “PRIVATE” on the front so that police don’t stop us all the time thinking we are a matatu. We then agreed to pick it up when we were returning to Nairobi in 3 weeks.
The finished product is a 2003 Toyota Hiace Diesel Van with 11 seats (there are 11 of us). We are very pleased with it. We have taken it on a number of trips already, and it has performed flawlessly (even when I got stuck in the mud last week). We have named it “The Jolly Green Giant”, and call it “Jolly” for short, in honor of the car salesman we bought it from. We are very thankful to those of you who have donated to the purchase this van. We know that it will allow us to be more effective in our work here over the next two years – and maybe we’ll take it to where we go next (road trip anyone?).