Friday, October 3, 2008

Traffic scenes

As I was riding home today in a group taxi (about 30 U.S. cents), we stalled in a long line of cars on a narrow street. It was raining. The driver pulled a small packet of soap powder out from his dashboard, reached through the open window, and sprinkled some on his windshield. In a few seconds his dirty window was freshly washed and clean. "We do a lot of things in Africa," he said with a laugh.

Traffic gets backed up when it rains; commuters may be in a taxi for an hour or more going just a few miles across this city which, from the point of view of geography, is stunningly beautiful. Streets are narrow and with sidewalks either non-existent or having gaping holes exposing the sewer lines just below, many people, including myself, walk on the edge of the roadsides. Taxies whiz along when they can, missing people by inches. With no stop lights, many roundabouts, and only a few traffic police, you'd think nothing would move at all; but it does.

And taxies, even with four customers (the three-seaters have up to eight or nine; and the mini-buses are packed), can be a good place to practise Krio, the English-based dialect here. "Rain de com plenty" - It's really raining hard.

We've also come to appreciate the driving skills of several taxi drivers we use frequently by the hour for multiple errands and visits around town. They often are just a cell phone call away.

Today in the rain, I jumped into the first available group taxi downtown and only later asked where it was going (they have fixed routes). It was heading to within a mile of our guest house. And I got to see the window washing. On the walk the last mile I bought some fresh bread rolls (15 U.S. cents each), one with condensed milk poured on it; and I purchased a couple of soft drinks at a street side stand from Bob. Police recently tore his stand down - perhaps for lack of permit - but he put it back up the next day.

We had considered buying a car here, but my driving skills don't match those of taxi drivers.


TSwan said...

Hey Bob,

Glad to read all is well, Post some pics if you get a chance. Tell Betty I said hello.

All the best,

valerie said...

Hello! Please add me to your blog - I would love to hear how life in Sierra Leone progresses. Thank you for the education thus far. I love that Sierra Leone means mountains of lions. Also, how industrious of the taxi driver to throw the soap out there in a storm. I think we (here in the USA) may be headed back to a time when we were more clever about doing things. Less money more, more ingenuity? Maybe that will lead to a better sense of self worth? Maybe we will take care of ourselves better and not eat so much? I am hoping for silver linings amongst all this economic crashing chaos. Thank you so much for representing us and for doing the work that you do. The world is a better place with you in it. Period.

We are doing well. Jeff and I bought a house last November and are now officially and happily shacking up. We are engaged to be married but neither of us seem to mind living as we are for a while. Ben has started fourth grade with the laziness I hadn't expected until 7th or 8th grade! Funny how he has plenty of energy when it comes to soccer or guitar. Our three dogs are crazy and we love them for being that way.

I look forward to hearing more. Love, Valerie

Lin said...

Loving the blog...keep up the great work!

Mohamed said...

Hello! I really appreciate reading your blogs. I am from Sierra Leone myself, currently living in France. Interestingly I used to live in Hillstation. I hope you have a really nice time over there and would like to be added to your blog.

Its great that things are working out well at present.

All the best