Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adventures in Driving: An Authorized Addendum

Someone in the US who is hoping to come here recently asked the question, “How are the roads in PNG, and are they safe to drive?”

A coworker posted this in response.  I laughed out loud at her perspective-rendering response, and hope that maybe you will, too. 

Posted with her permission [with a few clarifying comments inserted]

“Is driving in New York City safe?  Driving anywhere requires a set of skills unique to the environment.  For driving to Kainantu, Goroka, Madang or Lae (which I've done heaps of times in my bold red truck while locals shout "meri driva!" [means “woman driver!”  -sharon] in amazement or joy or solidarity or something), the special skills unique to PNG (as opposed to California or New York) are:

1. Pot-hole and land-slip avoidance
2. Raskol avoidance [“Raskol” is the generic Melanesian pidgin word for criminal, thief, carjacker, etc.  It may or may not be safe to assume that the homemade shotgun he’s holding has no ammunition.  :)   -sharon]
3. Pig- and dog- avoidance on roads (if you avoid deer on the road, you may already have this merit badge)
4. Pedestrian avoidance on roads with no shoulder and adjoining residences (if you've driven in Cairo or Bamako you may already have this skill)
5. Not running out of gas (if you live in the wilderness miles from town you may already have this skill)
6. Driving in loose mud (similar to driving in snow, so you may already have earned this merit badge)
7. Waving at people (a common small town skill) [may include gently waving down those would-be riders who think you’re a PMV  –sharon]
8. Occasional river fordings
9. Negotiating bridges with holes in the road surfaces [see photo above of the bridge you MUST drive over to get anywhere outside our valley; we’re hoping it gets repaired before it completely collapses (again)  -sharon]
10. Flexibility to address break-downs in the bush
11. Bush toileting skills [not to mention wisely selecting a location for such an activity  -sharon]
12. Passing large trucks (additional skill:  on roads without painted lane lines)
13. Convoy driving skills  [it’s true that there is strength in numbers  -sharon]
14. Tolerating being hot and uncomfortable and bounced around and dusty; varies depending on vehicle

And, the hardest one on the list in my experience:

15. Token security man recruitment skills [for when you’ve encountered raskols going into town, and need to get back out of town via the same road you came in  -sharon]

If you're from a rural area, the more remote the better, or drive off-road through rough terrain, you already have the balance of these skills.

-Donna Smith”

1 comment :

  1. Sharon (Peas on Earth)September 1, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Donna commented on my comment on her #15. My comment is still true, and happened on another friend's very recent outing, which is what colored my response. However, her original intent is better reflected in the following explanation. Thank you, Donna, for clarifying! :)

    "One note on your note about the token security man. Because a female like me isn't supposed to drive by myself anywhere with out a man along for security, for a day outing in Kainantu or a vacation in Lae or whatever road trip I contemplate, I'm supposed to find some hapless guy to go along and wait wile I shop or conduct business or vacation or whatever. This individual, recruited more for his maleness than any security gifts, language ability, or cultural savvy, is commonly referred to in my set as the 'token security male'. We single women are always delighted when a single man comes to Ukarumpa who doesn't mind Saturday outings to Kainantu because it's so rare to have a friend to presume upon as a token security male. Besides lending countenance to our outing (shades of Edwardian society!), his chief duty would presumably be to negotiate with raskols if we were stopped since the rest of us, being female, wouldn't be recognized by raskols as real people worthy of being negotiating with but as chattel or victims."


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