Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Rules of the Road

Long-time readers of my blog will remember previous descriptions of the traffic here in this country. Simply put, it's crazy! The larger streets are a bit more well-governed (i.e. cars usually stop for lights, pedestrians usually use the crosswalks, etc) but on the smaller roads, anything goes. For example, two lanes can morph into four in a matter of moments when a driver decides there's room for him to "squeeze in" to that small space between lanes . . . or a bus executes a bold and daring left-hand turn from the right turn lane . . . or a motorcyclist zips through traffic wherever there's physically room for him . . . or a pedestrian steps out and begins to cross a busy street without looking (because if you didn't see the other guy, it's not your fault. If you saw him and still hit him, you're at fault!).

All of this to say, it seems like the roads have only gotten more congested in the time we were away. Or maybe it's just that we've recently arrived from small-town Iowa where there is a grand total of one stoplight in the town. But local people, too, especially taxi drivers, have commented on how the traffic just keeps getting worse. Perhaps it goes back to some of the economic changes--more and more people are able to afford cars, and so are buying them and driving themselves, rather than taking public transportation or riding a bike.

Now, in many ways, we are not SO affected by the traffic, other than to have some patience when we go out. We don't drive, so if we're caught in traffic we can sit back and relax (or try to entertain little ones, as the case may be). Also, the taxi fares as yet are still just based on distance, not time. This is different than some other cities where you are sitting, waiting in traffic and watching the meter click up, and up, and up. When John rides his bike, he can go fast in the bike lanes, which he loves to do. And we haven't had too much difficulty getting taxis--we can usually flag one within a few minutes of waiting, sometimes within moments.

Going to America with two young ones was a huge adjustment in terms of car travel because of carseats. Clara Anne and Chloe had to learn that the carseats were not optional, that they could not be held, that even if we were only driving a short distance they needed to be buckled in. At first this was a struggle, but after a short while they grew to be perfectly content in their carseats and accepted it as a normal part of life. Despite the extra step that it took to get them all settled in the car every time we went somewhere, I also grew to appreciate the carseats! Having carseats meant that I did not have to hold and wrestle with wriggly children on long rides. Having carseats meant that they both had their own space, and they soon learned to fall asleep in their carseats as well. Not only was it safer for them, it meant an easier ride for Mommy!

So, as you can imagine, being back in Asia has meant an adjustment to the carseat-less taxi riding again. Previously, Clara Anne was too small to sit by herself on the seat and so was usually held, and I always had Chloe in the Baby Bjorn carrier. Now, Chloe is WAY too heavy for the Baby Bjorn, and so she has become a lap baby. Clara Anne has graduated from being on a lap and gets to sit on the seat next to me or John.

But with her new freedom comes new responsibility. We now have established several rules in taxis, the "rules of the road" so to speak:

1. She may not touch the door. The backseat driver's side door is not usually used and often not even functional; typically we get into and out of the taxi on the passenger sides. But, on rare occasions, we'll run across a door that will open! Therefore, this rule.

2. No feet on the seat. For Clara Anne, it is a bit of a challenge to climb in without climbing across the seat and therfore, getting the driver's white seat covers all dirty from her shoes. So this is a hard one for her! It will probably get better as she gets a bit older and taller.

3. Sit on your bottom! Without the restraint of a carseat or seatbelt, it is only her own willpower and our rules that are keeping her in her place! But if she doesn't sit down then it seems the infraction of rules number one and two are soon to follow!

Though it has been a bit challenging to get these new standards into Clara Anne's mind, we are seeing some good progress. She does love to ride in a taxi and is always excited to go out somewhere. So though the drivers around us don't necessarily follow the rules, Clara Anne still needs to obey the rules of the road!


Gretchen said...


Ha ha ha! I like the comparison you drew between your daughter and the driver obeying the rules of the road. :) Crack me up. You are teaching her such manners! How hard is it to constantly resist what your little body wants to do?

So interesting to think of the traffic situation. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your culture "re-shock" experience! :)


Sandra said...

I can see how you would miss car seats. Can you imagine having to lug them around?

James and Christen said...

Traffic here sounds about the same! I have had a difficult time adjusting and it has taken LOTS of courage to get out and drive. I still don't like to drive to a new place without first having been a passenger on that route. The motorcycles are the worst here because they come up on you so fast you really can't see them. We were actually hit by a motorcycle our first month here, as he was squeezing between us and another car at a red light.

O such fun!!