Monday, August 2, 2010

Driving Lessons

On our first day in Rwanda, we took a walk around the “neighborhood” and saw the recognizeable sight of a crappy white car putsing by with a triangle wooden sign on the roof: “Ecole Conduit.” At the time, it was kind of comforting to see something so familiar in a place so different.

Two days later, I was cursing the damned Driver’s Ed car. It actually HONKED at me as I was stuck in the middle of the road!

Let’s back up…

Getting an International Driver’s License is a huge money-making scam. All you have to do is go to CVS, pay $10 for passport photos, and then go to AAA and pay $15 for a license. No test, no background check, not even a question asking if you know what side of the road they drive on in the country to which you’re going. Silly me, this gave me the confidence to think that I could actually drive in a foreign country.

For those of you who do not know me well: I can barely drive in America. I am constantly in a state of panic. I drive 10mph under the speed limit and cannot make a turn if I am not aware of it at least 500yds in advance. I will avoid driving at all costs if I need to parallel park. And I have let a very nice graduation present sit in the garage for 4 years because I refuse to learn to drive stick…especially if a hill start is involved.

For those of you who do not know Rwanda well: its traffic is somewhere on the scale between India and Vietnam. There are no sidewalks so there’s as much foot traffic as automobiles. In my three days here, I’ve already seen 1 person get hit by a car, and I’ve heard of another getting hit by a bus. (As a Dartmouth grad, I’m terrified.) It’s known as “The Land of 1000 Hills”, so avoiding hill starts is impossible. There is no speed limit, but cars feel comfortable passing you on the inside and outside, even if it means driving pedestrians off the roads. And automatic cars do not exist.

But I had the confidence of my international drivers license, the cockiness to uphold my tough-girl reputation (I’ve worked real hard these past 2 days on that one), and the fear of being stuck in the house for the next year because I can’t drive…so this afternoon I insisted on getting lessons.

Honestly, I think they started out well enough. Zack was sensitive because he learned how to drive stick on the main roads in Musanze…so he took us to the back roads to start. I also lied and said I’d never done it before, so everybody was real impressed when I was able to start the car. (Clutch in!) But then it all quickly went downhill…when the road turned uphill and I stalled twice in a row. And then Lauren took over driving. And she’s actually never driven stick…she stalled on her first two tries so I felt a little better about myself, but then Zack realized the parking brake was on (I actually noticed this all along, but I was basquing in the glory of not fucking up too badly, so I didn’t say anything)…and then she proceeded to not stall again…including the 3 point turn with the reverse uphill start, which was when the Ecole Conduit went ballistic on me. Sorry kid…I was just trying to make you feel a little better.

Also, three girl “mugunzos” (white people/foreigners/rich people) in a car are sure to draw attention at anytime, so you can just imagine the crowd that was running/biking/driving/honking/laughing along next to us as we were lurching up and down the hills. I might just have to settle with buying a bicycle.

Other things to note:
1. I actually do have a job! And I promise that I will tell you all about it…when I run out of adventurous stories to tell. But just a sneak peek: it involves writing more blogs!
2. I spent TWO HOURS on STATA today…so like…it was a good day.
3. I also learned an important lesson: if the toilet isn’t working, but you only peed, just leave it for somebody else to fix.
4. Between lunch, snack, and dinner, I probably ate 2 full avocadoes today. They just fall from trees around here.
5. My alarm is set for 5:30am to go on a run tomorrow morning before my first visit to one of the health centers. It’s 10:30 now. Night.

1 comment:

Bags said...

It is a z3 in the garage, and I gave it a test drive on Saturday with Elle