Mar 2, 2007

Driving in Cars with Peruvians

This morning I had a "teacher's meeting" at the institute where I'm supposed to teaching next week. There was supposed to be a speaker, and I guess an actual meeting, but the speaker baked out, and we ended up creating exercises to be loaded into the institute's virtual classroom...computerized courses, I guess. I worked with 2 others, and one asked questions in Spanish, the other responded in English, and I sat between them agreeing or disagreeing. Not a very interesting way to spend the morning, but it got me out of the house.

I love the walk to the Institute. When I first started, I made it there in 40 minutes. Now, it's a 20 minute walk for me, in slippery sandals and hobbled by a skirt. I'm not crazy about getting out in traffic and crowds, but the walk does me good, and I can take the bike trail that runs through a good portion of our suburb, Jesus Maria. About every 3 blocks there's a major intersection and if I time it right, I can sprint through the intersections and avoid practically all the traffic. I have to watch, though, because there is always those few idiot taxi drivers that think they can sneak through the red light.

Cops are few and far between, usually on foot, and can do little to stop a driver who is intent on violating a traffic law. Almost every morning, I hear on the news that one or more people have been killed while crossing the street. It's so different the US, the pedestrian has the right of way, and NO ONE wants to hit a pedestrian. Especially me. I'm not sure I could live with myself if I hurt or killed someone with my car. Here it's a little different. Certainly no one INTENDS to hit anyone on foot, but the pedestrian crosses the street at his own risk. Cars have the right of way, and the pedestrian that doesn't run to get out of the way is usually the pedestrian that ends up as a red puddle on the pavement.

It's an attitude change that one is forced into when one deals with traffic, either on foot or in a vehicle. I can't drive in Lima, unless it's late at night or really early in the morning. There's just too much traffic for me to deal with during regular business hours...even when Omar is driving, it's better if I don't look at the traffic. To avoid gasping or screaming, grabbing the dashboard, pounding my brake foot through the floor, and/or gnashing my teeth, I have to busy myself by fiddling with the radio, talking to Omar, or just focusing on the floor. Traffic is heavy, 2 lanes are spontaneously made into 3 or 4, they make left hand turns from the outside right lane or left hand turns from the outside left lane...traffic lights are viewed more as suggestions than absolutes. So I decline to drive between the hours of 8 am and 10 pm. And NEVER to the mall.

No comments: