They will wait for hours for someone to turn up to a meeting. For a shop to open. For a church service to end. For the bride to arrive at a wedding. Very patient.
Until they get behind the wheel of a car.
I was reminded of this today as I was waiting at some traffic lights. People behind me were getting upset that I was sitting there for so long, honking their horns and then eventually driving around me through the red light.
Driving in Arusha has had its frustrations.
However, I think that now that I have become used to it, how will I drive in Sydney traffic again???
Here are a few things about driving in Arusha (and it probably applies for a lot of Africa).
Having a car's indicators on can mean a number of things:
* I am thinking about turning sometime in the next 10 minutes,
* I recently turned onto this road,
* I am going to pass all the cars in front by making a 3rd lane (the third lane can appear in 2 forms - to the left when the car/s drive precariously on the shoulder of the road, or the the right causing oncoming traffic some bother), or
* I don't know it is on.
If the truck in front of you is indicating it could mean:
* It is safe for you to overtake me,
* It is not safe for you to overtake me,
* I am about to overtake another slow moving vehicle in front, or
* I don't know it is on.
|creating the third lane using the right-hand blinker|
Headlights are often flashed, not used at all (night driving hazard) or kept on high beam (another night driving hazard). The flashing of means:
* Hello (I am often greeted by the girls' school bus driver this way),
* I am about to turn in front of you (incoming) so you should slow down or stop,
* I am driving in the wrong lane in the wrong direction so you should move to the side, or
* I am being kind and going to let you turn in front of me.
Merely a suggestion of how traffic should behave. Approach cautiously even when green.
the traffic lights at Sanawari
I am not sure why there are any speed bumps on the roads. Traffic rarely exceeds 40 km/hr in town on the paved roads. However, these impediments are placed on the unsealed, pot-holed roads too where the maximum speed is about 20 km/hr... just to slow us down.
|speed bump approaching in Sekai - looks harmless from the photo|
Again used for a number of reasons:
* get out of the way dog/pedestrian/bicycle rider etc.,
* I am travelling towards you in the wrong lane (a kind warning if you missed the flashing headlights),
* I am drunk or high,
* a daladala attracting passengers, or
* "Look at me!"
daladalas on the Arusha/Nairobi road
There are many hand gestures that are used by drivers and pedestrians alike. Here are some of the ones I have learnt:
* Arm outstretched, hand facing down but waving up and down - I want a lift if from a pedestrian, or I am about to turn/pull out in front of you if from a driver,
* Hand upside down with fingers pointing downwards made by a driver - my car is full so I can't take anymore passengers,
* Index finger held aloft and spun in a circular motion - I am driving all over the place so don't ask me for a lift, and
* Fingers pointing from several people along your route indicating a 'flat' tyre - don't stop as it is usually a scam to rob you.
a truck that got too close to the incredibly deep gutters at Kwa Iddi/Sakina
* mkokteni (hand carts)
* bodaboda & pikipiki (motorbikes in their hundreds)
* ice-cream sellers (??)
* very deep gutters/drains
* narrow bridges
* pot holes
* presidential motorcades (scary if you have no idea what is happening)
* wedding parties, always featuring a discordant brass band standing on the back of a utility truck, weaving their was slowly through town
a very narrow bridge on a back street heading towards Njiro
In many ways the 'anything goes' mentality of drivers in Arusha has helped me relax in situations that would send me into a cold sweat in Australia.
Yes, I have backed our van out of a parking spot into oncoming traffic (slowly), not bothering to wait for a break in it. I learnt to do this after spending a while sitting waiting for my turn in town, when a kind man approached my car and gave the advice: you just have to push in... be aggressive.
Yes, I have myself made a third lane, pushing in to make a right-hand turn.
Yes, I have driven through a red light.
driving through Olasiti