Thursday, November 7, 2013

Driving 101

When learning how to drive, a part of me was thankful to learn how to navigate the craziness of aggressive, defensive, fast, stop and go traffic of Northern Virginia. I felt that if I could handle the NOVA drivers than I could drive anywhere. Well since arriving in the Philippines, I’m rethinking that theory.

There is no logical order to traffic – no passing lanes, speed limits, stop signs or traffic lights signaling when to stop and go. I’m thankful to have a driver who is familiar with the madness or else I would never go anywhere.

First, let’s talk about the various vehicles and obstacles on the road:

On top of regular cars there are trucks, who are the slowest on the road,

Coach buses, who appear to have the most aggressive, fastest drivers,

Tricyles, who will pull out in front of you and slow you down at any point,

Slow moving, tractor carts – not sure of the proper name for this vehicle,

Jeepneys, who will stop at anytime to pick up and drop off people,

Stopping in the middle of the road to pick somebody up.


Pedestrians, who are the worst; they simply walk out in the middle of traffic,

And the occasional Carobao crossing.

There are things about driving here that would never fly in the United States. The biggest is the pulling out of a parking spot in the city. First, parking lots don’t exist. In front of a business, restaurant, or bank there are between three to five spots. At the bank it’s two spaces deep so you’re forced to block somebody in most of the time or be blocked in yourself. Then when it’s time to leave, the security guards of the business act as traffic directors. They help you navigate backing out onto a busy highway while traffic is trying to swerve around you. Without the security guard, you simply start backing out and wait for cars to stop for you.

Or when you need to turn left, you have to find your opening and pull out in front of other vehicles and pray they’ll stop. My least favorite is passing especially in the mountains. Cars overtake large buses and trucks on blind curves in the mountains. I don’t know how they have the faith that no one is going to come speeding around at the same moment. The scariest is when we are overtaking and another car is overtaking from the other lane coming the opposite direction. Every time they narrowly miss each other somehow.

Passing a truck and bus.

Typical Intersection.
Overtaking a truck on a mountain curve.
I find that driving here is like schools of fish swimming through the open waters. Somehow everyone has the intuition to know when to go, slow down, speed up, pass another one another, and flow seamlessly together to allow everyone to get to where they’re going.

Now, I don’t want this post to cause you concern for my safety. While, driving around sometimes gets my heart racing, I never feel unsafe. I greatly trust the drivers of the Diocese and Foundation.

I can't wait until I don't have to look out the side window constantly to not worry about the possible head on collision that's about to happen.

Thanks for reading!

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