Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All Things Transportation

I spend a lot of time getting from one place to another, but that's just part of life in a big city, and I don't mind it. In fact, it can be quite entertaining at times. So, I thought you might want to hear what it's like.

First of all,I must explain what driving is like here for those of you who have never been out of the US. Rules are all optional. You can turn left out of the right lane, you rarely actually stop at a stop sign, and the basic idea of driving is to get around the other cars so that you can get to where you're going. I can't even explain what they do at roundabouts. Try envisioning what it would be like if 3 year olds could operate a vehicle, but still had their normal thinking capacity. "Me first" and "I'm not going to follow the rules" seem to be the mindset of drivers overseas. Today the main street turned into a one-way road because there was so much traffic. That left the few cars that were swimming upstream driving on the side walks! This is all normal. When I first went overseas to Guatemala, I thought I was going to be killed, but I've gotten used to it, and amazingly, I've seen very few accidents!
I have class on the other side of town, so I walk 10 minutes to the bus station. The bus station has rows upon rows of buses waiting to be filled with people. I walk to the row where the guy is yelling the name of the route I want to take and get on. (I'm still not completely sure what he's yelling, but I know what it sounds like!) They don't have nice maps of the routes, you just have to know where you want to go and get on the bus with the guy yelling the right thing. One thing I didn't expect of Africa is that everyone would have a seat on the bus, but I was wrong. They fill every single seat. It makes the bus full, but not cramped. I've quickly learned though that there are some seats that you don't want to have to sit in.

Like the jump seats. They are little seats that fold down into the aisle. When anyone in a row behind you wants off the bus you have to stand up, fold your seat, let them by, fold it back down and sit down again. I had to sit in one of these the other day and found that the inconveniences of this seat are not the worst of it. I sat down on the last seat left and realized that is was pretty rickety. And that my feet didn't touch the ground. Add that to the fact that the roads aren't in the greatest condition and it meant I spent the whole ride just trying to not fall onto the sleeping man on my right or the man reading his newspaper on my left!

My favorite part of the bus is getting off. There are only a few actual bus stops, so they just stop when someone on the side of the road gestures them over or when a passenger wants off. How do you let them know you want off? You snap your fingers! It's great and in general how you can get someone's attention here! So, I wait to get as close to my school as possible, snap my fingers and the bus pulls off the road, almost comes to a stop and lets me off!

I know that this has been long already, but I think you'll enjoy this last story!

I was riding in an American friend's car today and we got pulled over. It's not a big deal here. In fact, they just seem to do it randomly, just to check if you have the correct papers and stuff. (You can't really do something wrong while driving here, except for talking on the phone).Oh, and let me explain how they pull you over. An officer on the street motions you over to the side of the road. That's all. Then you roll down your window and show them your papers.

Now, my friend has a theory. Don't speak to them in Arabic and they won't give you a ticket. He doesn't have a license in this country because it's nearly impossible and costs a lot of money, and he's paid a lot of tickets because of it. So, when the officer walked up my friend showed him his American driver's license. The officer insisted that he would have to pay a fee because he didn't have a license for this country. My friend asked if he could have a paper (receipt) and then kept speaking in English and asking the officer, "Do you speak English?" It worked. We got by without paying anything!

Now if only you could just say to an officer in the US, "No hablo ingles" and get by that easily!

No comments: