Sunday, November 2, 2014

Traffic in Yaounde (Or, a daily exercise in patience, quick reflexes, and a dose of humor)

The biggest challenge, by far, here in Yaounde has been adjusting to traffic.  Very few people own cars.  There is no real "Public Transit" system here.  People get around town by walking, riding in taxis, or on "motos", the motorcycle version of a taxi.

We have three rules we adhere to when driving:
  1)NEVER look a police officer in the eye.
  2)If there's a space ahead of you or to the side of you, take it.  (If you don't, five other cars will.)
  3)If there isn't a space, make it.
They seem to work, although we still think we need to put a bumper sticker on the van:  "Honk if you love Jesus."  Many people would show their appreciation for the Savior every day when we're on the road!!

Motos zip in and out of traffic and get people where they're going a lot faster than do taxis, but they're extremely dangerous.  (Elders are not allowed to ride on them.)  We were at one of the chapels (which is on a road with a fairly steep grade) when a moto skidded down the street, scraping the leg, hands, arms, and hip of a very pregnant woman.  Anne helped clean her up the best she could.  There were a lot of people very angry at the moto driver!
Traffic squeezes down from three or four lanes to two just ahead--there's a continual traffic jam here.  Notice the pedestrians taking their lives in their hands with motos zipping between cars.

Most of the cars are traveling on the "right" side of the white line here--a light day of traffic!

This is the street that passes through a huge bus complex.  The traffic is absolutely insane--no one moving and buses trying to park in very small spaces with little maneuvering room.  (The buses go between cities, not around town.)

Two-lane roads are often carrying four or five lanes of traffic.  The white line separating the two lanes really doesn't even keep cars on "their side" of the road.  There have been occasions where we have had to pull in our mirrors to get past some very big trucks.  So far, one long black streak from a taxi rear view mirror is all the really noticeable damage we've encountered on the roads.  (The back end is an inch shorter on both sides, thanks to dark nights and black gates when we've tried to back out of driveways.)

One of the biggest nightmares was getting used to the "rond points"--round-abouts.  Here, there aren't just two roads that intersect, there might be six or seven that come together.  Some have no traffic lights--just fend for yourself.  Others have lights stuck way out on the side of the road.  We have been pulled over twice at rond points.  The first time, we were trying to follow the GPS and went through a road designated for the president only.  (That's when we changed to Anne's phone and Google maps!)  Thankfully, an inspired phone call from our mission president while we were trying to figure out what we had done got us on our way.  The second time, we must have missed a light.  The officer understood our "newness" in the country.  He drew a sketch of when you can continue driving without stopping at lights (on the inside lane of the circle), and what you have to do the rest of the time  $20 later, we were on our way.  He was a happy man, and we were glad we weren't having to pay a huge fine.

We're getting more and more comfortable with the rules of the road--if only more people would obey them!  : )

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