Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wandering downtown

Wow. I've been a bit lazy in blogdom lately. Sorry! What it means though is we've just been too busy for me to catch up, in a good way, but I'll try to be better and not disappear like this.

We've been occupied with school, field trips, illnesses, birthday preparations, and even prep and planning for our upcoming move in June. Yes, our tour is coming to an end. Although we've been able to extend it and have been here for quite some time, it still feels like we've been shorted. Honor tells us that we are "Leaving on vacation, but not coming home again." This is going to be a big change for all of us. btw, yes, we do have a clue where we will be going next, but please be patient... I am a bit superstitious and am not announcing anything until I feel super-confident. I don't want to jinx us! In the meantime, we are doing our best to enjoy the time that we have left here in Egypt.

Had to take the kids downtown last week and I snapped some photos on the way (sorry about the lower resolution - I only had my cellphone). Thought I should share some traffic photos as you have not experienced Cairo until you've experienced the roads.
Look fast.. the cars are organized into almost lane-like patterns!
um... pay no mind to the actual lane lines painted on the road.
whoops. Did you blink? Where'd the lanes go?
Horse cart delivery.
Looking up as you drive by, you see some very interesting old architecture in the downtown area. (Look up only if you are not driving please).
Mmm! Fresh bread. I'm always impressed with these bike delivery guys, especially when they are weaving through heavy traffic.. riding a bike with a plank on their heads, piled high with loaves of flat bread. I'm not sure if I could manage, while walking, on flat ground, using both hands to balance!
Beware the pedestrians.. although on this day, there weren't many out - must have known I had my camera (phone) ready.
We have many roundabouts - which I actually really like. Wish we had them in the US in more places.
My explorers.
Random art carved into a wall on a little sidestreet.
Another batch of yummy baladi bread being transported.
Did I mention the need to beware of pedestrians?

Traffic in Cairo is unfortunate. It can sometimes take an hour or more to make a trip that should only take 10-15 minutes. The incidence of accidents and pedestrian fatalities are way too high. Saying that though, it isn't impossible to learn to drive here and it really isn't that scary. Take your time, don't take stupid chances (there are enough people doing that already) and it isn't that bad. You have to drive defensively aggressive. You have to push your way to the lane you want, to the turn you want to make, through the intersection you want... but in general, that's all that everyone else wants to do too, and most are not obnoxiously aggressive about it - they cut you off, no problem, next time you cut them off, no problem... everybody gets there. I think the level of hateful aggressiveness is less than in many other cities I've driven in - say, LA or DC. Yes, some people are real idiots, very selfish and inconsiderate, but I believe they are the minority. I also believe that there have been greater efforts to control traffic taken in the greater Cairo area - with speed bumps, strategically placed barriers, etc. to improve traffic safety, and there are new laws about wearing seat belts and not using a cell phone when driving. If you are coming to Cairo and you are going to drive... adopt a zen driving style. Let go of stress. Never make eye contact - that is a sign of weakness and you might as well stay home. Go with the flow. Expect the unexpected and illogical. Yes it is ok to make left turns from the right lane. Yes people will jump out of buses in the middle of a crowded intersection. You must learn to use your horn - it is not 'shouting', you are communicating and if you do not use it to signal, say, your intention to pass, you may get sideswiped by the other driver who never bothered to look behind/beside himself. Let go of your 'one car per one lane' mentality, and above all, repeat 'No problem' like a mantra.

... now, anyone have any advice about how I can get rid of this 'go with the flow' mentality so I can safely drive in the US again??


Expat Mom said...

Oh boy. I scrolled down to see your pics, thinking it would be a mess and it looked . . . normal to me!! :S Which must be a bad sign, right?

When I first got to Guatemala, I recall thinking that there was NO WAY I would ever consider driving here, because the roads were just too insane. Now, 7 years later, I am seriously thinking about getting a car and can`t even remember why I was so worried about driving here. I`m sure I`d die of boredom back in Canada. lol

It must be sad to leave a place that you`ve lived in so long. :( I hope your next posting is really awesome and doesn`t have any sandstorms. ;)

Connie said...

I'm hoping I will be a 'boring driver' when I get back to the US!! :D

I hardly ever have the camera in the car, and when I do, it's like someone sends a notice out... everyone behave! she's got the camera!.. I do not catch any wrong-way drivers, crazy loads on tiny trucks, live-stock in taxis, pedestrians making mad-dash suicide runs across the road, etc. I'm getting used to most stuff, but I hate what the pedestrians do the most. Someone in a car being stupid gets to fix their car, a pedestrian being stupid... well, that's just stupid.

It will be sad to leave. We're excited to go and we're looking forward to learning (and blogging!) about a new place, but it's gonna be tough to adjust.

Tina in CT said...

How long have you been living outside the US? Were the children born here or overseas?

Boy, the driving sounds trecherous and I'll take NYC driving because they at least use the lanes.

srsr said...

Happy Birthday Honor!!!!!!!!!!!!
Love Grandma and Grandpa

3 Bay B Chicks said...

Wow! I had no idea that you were on a "tour." It will be even more interesting in the coming months (?) as you and your family transition back to life in the U.S.

I swear you have the most fascinating life of anyone I know. :)


Connie said...

We're on a 'tour of duty' that has lasted over 4yrs. Longer than usual, but our request to extend was timed well! It will be interesting indeed, to move back to the US for a bit. We've dealt with the culture shock before, but it will be different with kids. At least we've visited every year so they will not feel completely alien. They were born in the US, but we left when they were young. It's not so strange to them as pretty much everyone they know is an expat and travels, and we're able to keep in touch with family very well too - hooray for the internet!!

Speaking of which, Honor says "Thanks grandma and grandpa!" and will send you an email later :)

Liz said...

I just got back from a visit to Cairo and I love your decreiption of Cairo traffic! It scared me to death that first day.