Thursday, May 15, 2008

Basics: crossing the street

Have I mentioned that traffic drives on the left here? Steering wheels are on the right side of the car. And when crossing the street, look right first, then left. I didn't realize how automatically I checked to the left before crossing the street. For the longest time, I would look left, right, left, right, left, until I figured out which way I was supposed to be looking, which way the traffic was coming from, and then after checking one last time, I would cross.

Now looking right first is automatic. It's only taken two months. I'll have to adjust again when I come back, but there are the advantages of stoplights and crosswalks and things.

One thing I have found very confusing are the hypothetical stoplights that are in a couple of strategic intersections in Kampala. What seems to be true is that you should cross the street when the light is red. Waiting for the little green man and then crossing is taking your life into your hands. Mostly I just follow what the natives do. They seem to understand the mysterious codes of the stoplights.

The other thing is that people here generally cross half a street at a time. You wait for a gap in one direction and move to the center of the road (no lines in the road, incidentally); then wait for another gap and cross the second half. It's rather nerve-wracking, especially with boda-bodas that don't feel particularly bound to this concept we call "lanes." Well, no one really feels bound to that.

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