Bonjour tout le monde!
Day four of the MSID Senegal Spring 2012 program and all is well! We have all successfully moved in with our families and are beginning to settle into a rhythm. It is pleasantly warm here, very sunny, a little breezy, and thus a very nice and snowless winter.
Today's blog theme is transportation. To get to school every day, I walk with Vera, another student in the MSID program who lives very close to me, and sometimes my brother Babacar walks with us. Thank goodness Babacar is so flexible with his time because we live almost an hour away by foot!
If we ever don't feel like walking, we could take a taxi, a bus, or a car rapide. The taxi drivers here remind me a little bit of taxi drivers in NYC because of the way they drive. They have extremely good control of their vehicles (all Toyota Camrys), and in spite of their slightly dilapidated condition, they work quite well. I've noticed that none of the drivers here, taxi or non, seem to pay attention to lights or signs; instead, they pay very good attention to everything else around them: other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and medians. Though the rules of the road all seem to be unspoken and a little intimidating, it feels really safe using the roads on foot or by taxi because people are simply aware of everything. A horn honk here is not so much a "get out of my way" as a "be careful because I'm driving and you are fragile."
I haven't taken the bus or a car rapide yet, but I've seen them. Both types of vehicles are essentially 16 passenger vans, but bigger. People cram onto them or hang off the back; just like the Senegalese culture, riding a bus or car rapide is casual and no one seems to be pressed for time.
Another thing that impresses me here is the manner in which people walk in and out of traffic. During rush hour, lots of boys or young men weave in and out of cars, holding up bags of fruit or phone cards for the passengers to buy. Of course, they have to carefully avoid the motorcyclists who drive in between lanes of cars like knives through butter.
I really enjoy the Senegalese mentality of transportation. Everyone has an agenda, naturally, but road rage does not seem to exist and people are okay with being flexible with time. Everyone pays attention to the people around them because that is so much more important than being on time or in the quickest lane. And, luckily in addition to these two good characteristics, everyone knows the unspoken rules and is excellent at transporting themselves with great skill.
A la prochaine fois~