Friday, April 07, 2006

Driving in Maputo

I've only recently begun driving in Maputo. Yes, we have been here since January 26, but the traffic is crazy and honestly, it scared me to think about driving in it! But Charlie had to go out of town this week so I had to drive. I actually practiced a few times last weekend, with Charlie and the kids in the car, for moral support. I had driven a few times down the road that runs by the beach, out to Game or SuperMares, but never down-town. So I made several practice runs to the kid's school and other places downtown. Anyway, I did it. I successfully drove around down-town. I even drove out to ShopRite yesterday, which is not downtown but involves some crazy intersections. Now I'm ready to be a regular driver in Maputo. Although I will happily let Charlie drive most of the time.

I have learned a few more things about driving in Maputo since getting into the drivers seat, such as:

*At many of the stop-lights, the bottom light (which is supposed to be green) is usually missing the green glass covering, so the light is just a white light. So in Maputo sometimes white means go!

*Taxis can do whatever hey want to do. I think that taxi drivers did not take any driving lessons nor were they taught any traffic rules. I think they were just taught how to start the taxi, how to shift gears and how to stop then sent on their way to terrorize the city!

* Ok, maybe those driving lessons, or lack of, apply to other drivers in our fair city. Here's a story to illustrate: At the end of our street we have to cross a very busy road (the kind with a median in the middle, I don't know what you call that) - Kenneth Kaunda - and to get off of Kenneth Kaunda onto our street, coming from the west, you must wait in the median to cross over that lane of traffic to get onto our road, Rua de Franca. Well, the other day we are waiting in the median, for our turn to cross. Traffic was heavy. A line of cars was waiting on Rua de Franca, for their turn to either turn onto K.K. or cross over the median (where we sat) and get onto the other side of K.K.. Does this make sense? Well, anyway, there we all sat, waiting for a break in traffic. Most people in their right minds wait for a break when they think they have enough time to make it across the street and not be hit by oncoming traffic. This day, several people had crossed, and I thought they had really taken a chance and crossed over with cars coming really quickly, but they made it. This is VERY common in Maputo. Then this crazy person in a little red car comes down Rua de Franca and doesn't even stop to look for traffic, he just continues across K.K. to the median (where we were sitting) and he crossed RIGHT IN FRONT of a SUV coming very fast. It was one of those moments when I know that an angel just gave that little red car a slight nudge and the SUV missed him by mere millimeters! IF the SUV had hit the little red car they would have slammed right into us....we were in their path. I had a moment of panic and terror (especially because I had all 4 of my children and all 4 of the Jackson's children in the car) then relief to see we were all ok. I say all that to say that I don't think the driver of that little red car cares much about nor knows the traffic laws!

*It is also very difficult to see the traffic lights here. They are on posts on the left side of the street (we drive on the left hand side of the road). Many times they are blocked by branches of a tree. Many times they are not working at all. That makes for a very interesting intersection crossing.

So, to keep a positive attitude about the driving situation here, I'll just say that driving in Maputo really increases your prayer life, and that's never a bad thing.

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