The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Traffic, driving in Accra and mosquitoes (Suzanne)

The road rules here seem to be dictated by the fact that Accra is a city of 3 million, with densely crowded roads, and almost no traffic lights (I’ve seen maybe 3). Intersections are either traffic circles, or just an intersection with no stop signs, no posted rules, etc.

However, I haven’t seen any accidents or fender benders, and really very few dents in cars. So, it seems to work pretty well. The rules seem to be:
- Keep right on a two lane road, unless the road is in better condition on the left and you’re there first, then you can drive on the left.
- On a more than two lane road, you must stay to the right of oncoming traffic
- You don’t have to keep to marked lanes; in fact, making three lanes out of two is normal.
- Assume that you and others will keep going on their current trajectory, unless they need to do otherwise in which case they might signal or wave their hand out the window or just gradually merge into the new direction.
- Don’t run into other cars, no matter how fast or slow you or they are going
- If you are coming up on a car or pedestrian who will come dangerously close to you, then honk your horn
That’s about it. People just pull in front of people all the time, and no one gets angry or unhappy, it’s just how it is. If they’re bigger or faster or you don’t have room to move over, then you let them in. Otherwise, you hold your own or shift over (sometimes inches, sometimes feet, if possible a whole lane) and assume they will watch out for you. It’s pretty amazing.

I noticed walking around Kaneshie Market, a very large market in Accra, that the rules for walking in crowded places are very similar. Except instead of honking, they say “Tssss” (which in addition to warning people you’re coming through, is also used to more discreetly call people over to your stall, instead of shouting ‘Obruni!’ which means white person, or more generally, foreigner).

The mosquitoes here are fierce. They are big, but fast (Texas mosquitoes are small and fast; Connecticut mosquitoes are big and slow). Of course, they carry malaria and so are worrisome for that reason alone. The guidebooks say that the only sure way not to get malaria is to not get a single mosquito bite. Ha. I have been putting on repellant pretty much every day, and no matter, they can find a spot I missed. Like right at the edge of the sole of my foot. Or on my elbow. Or on my face near my eye.

They’re not swarms of them, usually. At dusk and if it’s not windy, then yes there can be swarms. But during the day and evening, they’re just there, one or two at a time, but they’re there. And they’re persistent. And, they don’t sting so much like the mosquitoes at home – I often don’t notice one on me until I feel it flitter away and then later feel the itch of the bite. Sometimes I feel the bite, but not always.

I’m also happy to report that I am not the tastiest person around, at least to a mosquito. During the first break during faculty orientation, outside on the porch there were quite a few mosquitoes and I thought, “oh, great, I didn’t put on repellant. I’m going to get munched.” But, I only got a few bites – they seemed to find the other people just as tasty, which is a new phenomenon to me. I’m used to being the one person who gets all the bites. So, that’s good news for me. I do hope we don’t get malaria, though. It can be horrible, people tell me, and life threatening, which would be scary. We’re all taking Doxycycline, which is approximately 80% effective. Being a numbers person, that means, odds are, one of the five of us may get it anyhow…


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