Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Road Rage

Each day we are here feels a little bit easier. One of the biggest challenges is that it is very hard to learn where things are. The streets are poorly marked if marked at all.

My apartment is on a cul-du-sac of sorts off Delmas 77. How do I know it is Delmas 77? Because someone told me, I still haven’t seen a street sign. There is one street sign identifying the intersection of my cul-du-sac and some other street, but I don’t trust it because it has a different name than the one I have been told.

You learn to navigate here by landmarks and timing. I go out of my house and past the street and then take a right at some unnamed intersection. Then the blue door built into the cinderblock wall is the school. It is similar to get to the bakery or grocery store. Past the unnamed intersection and further down I turn right to go to school. Pass all the people selling rum and smokes and shining shoes, on to Rue de Delmas. Go left ½ a click and there is the bakery… on the other side of the street. Cross the busiest street in PAP and don’t get hit? Did I mention I am a blan?

Now comes the question of how do I navigate going anywhere else? No side street is paved and all the cinder block walls look the same. Wanna know what my world looks like? Close your eyes. Now imagine an unpaved road with pot-holes. And imagine that road lined with cinderblock walls that are not painted any color and are topped with razor wire. Every road looks like that… how do I find your house if it looks like your neighbor's house? And your street looks like the next street.

And all this doesn’t even touch the topic of driving, which I don’t do here, because I cannot for a few reasons. First I cannot drive a stick shift (I blame this on Aaron), and I do not own a vehicle. Everything here is a truck or SUV, 4-wheel drive. These road exist solely to wreak havoc on your transmission and shocks and spine.

Some roads are paved. Most are not. Even the ones that are paved have pot holes large enough for babies, leprechauns or Shetland ponies to hide in. The unpaved roads would keep a chiropractor in business here (assuming you could afford it). You bounce and you lurch and you brace yourself and as soon as you come to a stop you exhale. All of this would be enough if there were not traffic. And there is traffic.

Third world traffic is quaint when you are traveling on a short term mission trip. Everyone has a story about a near-miss head-on collision where you really thought it was over, but your driver laughed at your Western reaction and said, “Relax, its okay, I am a good driver.” That stuff is not funny when it happens every day. Every Day. PAP is a city built up a mountianside. There are steep inclines and not everyone takes great care of their cars. I know one day soon someone's breaks are going to go out and that car is going to careen down Delmas or John Brown taking out pedestrians and other cars like a steel bowling ball from hell.
Also, there are 3 stop lights in the entire city. Three. I have seen them all.

There is no liability, but there are stonings. Someone told me a few days ago that if you are driving and you get in a wreck, keep on driving and report it at the police station later.An missionary (friend of a friend) once hit a motorcycle, killing the driver and his rider. The bystanders started picking up rocks to stone the missionary who was driving. He was minutes from his own death. He backed up, went around the wreck and reported it later. TIH

Despite how the last few paragraphs of cathartic venting I actually am feeling like life here will be manageable. I can walk to Compassion International’s HQ, I can shop for things (pictures to follow) and I can play basketball on Saturdays. I really think God is going to use me here.


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