We're Jason, Beth, Lee Anna, Sawyer, and Sarah Claire, a family of five living, learning, and laughing lots in Northern Africa.
We hope you can learn a little (and maybe laugh a little too) as you read about our latest adventures.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Round, Round, Get Around, I Get Around...

While you sit there thinking about Beach Boys songs, I'm going to give you a primer on the various modes of transportation availabe to us here. For the first two years we lived here, we relied almost exclusively on the "black and whites," also known in Arabic as "taksee." Or, if you're hailing one on the street, it can be abbreviated to "Taks." Sawyer could do this when he was a year and a half old.

Taxis here are awesome. Where else can you ride in a 1979 Fiat with a Hyundai steering wheel, Pianosonic stereo, Jaguar hood ornament, Peugeot motor and absolutely no air conditioning?? Taxis are almost always available when you need one, and they'll drive you around town really cheap. Most of the drivers are friendly and enjoy helping foreigners learn the language. And if you have a large, unwieldy package or piece of furniture to transport, the taxi fleet here is all equipped with handy roof racks. Only once did my guitar fly off the roof. (It was fine). An even cheaper option is the city bus. I rode one once. (Once). It was really inexpensive, but took two or three times longer to get where I was going than the Metro (subway train, not pictured) for the same price.
The most popular option for the locals is the "Microbus." These omnipresent blue and white vans will hold 14 passengers. More than 14 if some guys want to hold on to the side and leave the door open. They're even cheaper than the busses. The ride isn't bad, but most of the drivers are either recently escaped from the state mental hospital, or are preparing for a role on the Dukes of Hazzard: Urban Middle East Edition.
A closer look at the next pic (just click on it to make it bigger) will reveal a family of 4 riding in the back of a small pickup. They have some blankets and other stuff with them like they might be moving. (This takes me back to a time in 1989 when my family took a vacation around Christmas time in a 2-seat Ford Ranger. Stacy and I started in the back, but it got way too cold. But that's a different story for a different time.) We frequently see large extended families in small compact cars, or small nuclear families sharing a moped. The beauty of this last pic is not that there's a pretty big flat-bed on the highway. The real genius of this particular truck is that someone in the proof-reading department wasn't so sure about how to spell Chevrolet. Maybe they should have tried "CHEVY". Or they could have called it "Ford." It probably wasn't really built anywhere near Detroit anyway.
Seeing a family ride a donkey cart is a pretty typical sight here. You might expect to see this out in the country, or in farm land. We see these rigs in our neighborhood daily, and if we're driving you just have to slow down until you can go around. This particular cart, however, is on a big, busy highway with big trucks and a jillion cars. Imagine riding on I-35 through Dallas and seeing a donkey pull a cart. We enjoy seeing all the various modes of transportation. And with the slow pace of congested traffic here, we get to see them all up close and personal every day.
I was explaining to a friend here once that part of my last job in America was to give money to people who came by our office looking for handouts. Most of the time, what they wanted was gas for their cars. My friend stopped me and laughed and asked, "So in America, even the poor people who are begging for money are driving their own cars!?!?!"

No comments:

Post a Comment