Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Portrait #83: Driving in Kosovo

I had a lot of good ideas of people to portrait this week, but they have all been erased by the stress of the last three hours, driving back to town after a day in the field. Since the logistics man at our office seems to have become personal driver to myself and my assessment teams, I suggested that everyone in the office would breathe easier if they just let me drive. So I did the World Vision driving test and had the mayor or someone sign a sheet of paper, and am now zipping along...

...and getting myself summarily frustrated. Driving through the mountains I got stuck in a typical "turtle race" - sharing the roads with a number of big slow trucks. Everyone around me kept passing me and entering the space between myself and the truck in front of me. As if I were the one keeping them back. So I realised I needed to do some passing as well or else I'd never make my destination because of all the cars pushing me further back down the road. We got nowhere any faster, just did more dangerous passing.

Then I got pulled over by a kindly gentleman of a cop for not having my headlights on when the sun was shining. Not a cloud in the sky. No one told me about that law. Good thing I'm a foreigner and a girl and was driving a clearly-marked NGO vehicle.

Next, I got stuck in a traffic jam during which we moved not an inch for fifteen minutes, then slowly made our way through a busy intersection. Then it was over. Not sure what that was about.

But none of that really bothered me. I was fine until we got back into town. Kosovo has a dangerous combination of ruthless drivers and pedestrians who expect vehicles to stop for them at crosswalks. I appreciate cars stopping for people in crosswalks, but not when half the cars stop and the other half zooms through. I did a lot of slamming on the breaks: I'd be driving along at normal speed and then all of a sudden a pedestrian would appear in front of the car next to me. Usually at crosswalks, but not always.

Or there was the time I was in a right-turn only lane, with a dedicated light to right turns. So I pulled slowly forward and almost ran over a pedestrian, who stared at me angrily, pointing out that he too had a green light for crossing the street!

Another good moment was when the car behind me started honking madly, just after I'd pulled into the stream of moving traffic - on a small residential street. I thought my light was out or my door was open, so I slowed down and looked back. He kept honking and tapping his left wrist with his right hand. I asked a taxi driver lingering nearby what that meant. He shrugged. So I glanced back to ask him, and he looked really angry. He slammed the gas pedal and zipped around me. Apparently all that honking had been because I was going slower than he wanted. Oops on him - I just slowed even more!

My wits ended, though, when I went through an intersection in the right lane, marked with arrows for straight or right-turn. So I went straight, and - of course - there was a crosswalk right after the intersection. And people in the crosswalk. So I stopped in the small space between the crossroad and the crosswalk. So... the big enormous white SUV to my left almost drove right into me. Not only did the driver of that vehicle think she had the right to move straight into my space in the right lane, but she also could care less about those particular pedestrians.


1 comment:

Mom said...

Oh, thank you Jesus for keeping Katie safe through all of that!

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