I drive a van. Not a mini-van, but a 12 passenger-gear shift on the floor-no power steering-engine under the driver-feels like I ™m driving a bus-VAN. I never wanted to drive a van (not even a frills-included mini-van). In fact, it wasn't until I HAD to drive this large van that I started driving it.
And I like it.
Driving in Nigeria is NOTHING like driving in America. We have one stop-light in our city of half a million people. Instead of stoplights, there are police officers who stand at major intersections directing traffic (this due mostly to the fact that electricity is not always on).
The main form of transportation for most people is on the back of a motorcycle ¦and they are EVERYWHERE! One friend says that they are like bees ¦they swarm together but disappear when it rains. In fact, you will see groups of drivers huddled into small stores and under covered areas to wait for the rain to pass. The motorcycle drivers usually swerve in and out of traffic, cut people off, and come so close to cars that you think they will hit. But, they can be helpful. My husband uses them as linemen because they block traffic at times when you are turning left.
The roads in Nigeria are not paved like the ones in North Texas. Some do have pavement on them, but it’s so very thin which makes them prone to holes…lots of holes. Sometimes we feel like we are skiing on moguls, swerving around the potholes. The taxi drivers know the holes so well that they look like they are dancing around the road.
Turning in Nigeria is not very organized. People turn in front of you, behind you, around you, and often turn down the wrong side of the road. In fact, it is very common for motorcycles and even cars to travel down the wrong side of the road.
People also provide an obstacle while driving as they are everywhere! Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa (almost twice the size of Kenya which is the next largest). Once you travel on the roads here, you believe that figure (and we don't even live in the most populous region!). There are people everywhere! And if there is no one to be seen, there will be a path that leads to somewhere. It's amazing.
There are some rules to driving here, and the more I drive, the more I learn. The traffic guys have signals to tell you when to stop, go and turn. They hold up one finger to let cars know who will be the last one to go through the intersection before everyone needs to stop. We honk our horns a lot- we use them to warn people that we are passing, that we are turning, or to let someone know that they are in your way. Horns are used more that signal lights here. You can't talk on your cell phone while driving ¦it will cost you N4000 if you do and get caught ($26) and they take your license! There are Road Safety Patrols who scatter themselves throughout the city. They randomly stop cars to check for papers (called particulars ) and fire extinguishers. If you don't have them, you pay a fine.
I don't drive at night unless I have to. Since electricity is not reliable there are very few street lights. It gets very dark without street lights. Plus, some people don't turn their lights on fully and those who do usually have their brights on! Also, people who are walking don't always wear light colored clothing, making it very difficult to see them. So, my husband usually has to drive at night, but he doesn't like to drive across town. When people travel out of town they try very hard to get to their destination before dark!
So, I drive a big white van. I also drive a small blue one and a Toyota Camry. But I like to drive the van. I like being big and high enough to see all the potholes. I just don't like to park it!