Thursday, December 5, 2013

Driving...Completely Out of This World

by Marjorie Broce
Africa everyday life: Hmm, what else might interest you?
Dennis Odoi
1. The first week here when Dennis Odoi was driving us around, I asked, "How do you know when to go?"....Because the traffic light was red, but still people were going. The answer was, "Just follow the car in front of you." After driving here for 19 months, (we've been here for 22 months), I know now that if I'm stopped at a green light, it's because there are police officers directing the traffic. I might have to wait through 3 green lights before they allow us to go. One time, on the way to the Odoi's house, we were stopped for 25 minutes because the officer was allowing everyone else to go except the cars in our 3 lanes! Generally speaking, the Ugandans just accept this and don't honk, but they finally started honking and she still would not let us go. The cars up front finally just began to inch forward till she had to let us go. Not only were we already late to the Odoi's --now we were VERY late!

Light Traffic in Kampala
2. The policemen often stop people, hoping for a bribe. I have to say though, that MOST of the time I've been stopped, they simply look at my license and our insurance to make sure we are up to date and let me go. But this particular night, on the way BACK from the Odoi's, it was almost midnight and we had just moved to a new area of town. There was not much traffic (being midnight) and so we had no car to follow at the traffic light. We thought that a green light meant we could also turn right if there was no on-coming traffic. (Remember we are driving on the left side of the road.) We saw a truck full of policemen pass us and then pull over. We assumed they were letting one off for duty at a particular spot. Then they passed us again, and pulled over. I thought it a little strange, and had a little thought that they wanted us to pull over, so I said something to Glenn. The third time they passed us, the guys in the back of the truck were motioning us to pull over, so we did, at a gas station.

One officer came over and said, "You turned right on a green light. You are supposed to wait for the arrow. We apologized and said we were new to this part of town and did not know. He kept telling us that we were in the wrong, but he was not writing a ticket. We knew he wanted money and white people usually have alot of money, but, of course, he would not come right out and say it. Finally, he said, "You will all have to get out of the vehicle, we are impounding your car."

Glenn was very patient at that point, but I was like, "Sebo (Sir!) This is ridiculous!" Glenn gave me the calm-hand motion and kept talking to him nicely. Finally, we agreed to follow him to the police station. They told us to take the lead. "We don't know where it is, so we will have to follow you." Out of frustration the officer says, "You know where you live? Go there!"

So, we were free to go home.

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