Honk If You’re…Still Alive. [In Which I Nearly Died.]

I used to think that not having any traffic laws would be fantastic.

An incredibly mild shot of traffic in Senegal. The party bus on the left is a "car rapide".

That brilliant gem of an idea dates back to my freshman and sophomore years of college, during which I dearly loved to barrel down back country roads coaxing speeds of no less 95 mph out of the older-than-dirt ’86 death trap that masquerades as my car. [An impressive feat, if I do say so myself.] I really was shocked when a friend informed me that you can lose your license for speeding that badly! But those were the days when I could only fantasize about a world without stop signs, po-po and speeding tickets. I was wholeheartedly convinced that that world would be my oyster.

Then I moved to Senegal.

 Every harrowing taxi experience in Senegal leaves you white knuckled and dazed. Violently shaking, you stumble out of the rusty rickshaw throwbacks vowing to be a better person, join a monastery and start talking to your mother again. I imagine the traffic in Senegal to be something mildly

A shot of Paris from the top of Notre Dame several months ago. Everything looked so clean and organized after Dakar!

similar to a really bad acid trip: there is simply no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever. It’s almost as if some greasy haired, pre-pubescent teenaged Grand Theft Auto prodigy named Spike scribbled the system on the back of a Burger King napkin during his lunch hour. It feels entirely arbitrary-no signs, no speed limits, and no traffic lights. Traffic in Dakar is like a city-wide game of bumper cars-you speed along with one hand desperately clutching the wheel and the other hand flying out the window, as if simply waving at the city bus barreling towards the driver’s seat will entice said bus driver to hit the breaks long enough to let you squeeze by unharmed. The dirty air is filled with the sounds of people yelling, horns blaring, tires screeching, and rusty metal angrily grating against those unhappy cars that lost the perpetual game of chicken.

It’s an experience. I imagine an aerial view of the traffic in Dakar would somehow resemble an ant hill. Complete and utter chaotic panic reigns.

I have what my teammates have informed me, is a fervent but rather misguided belief that I can singlehandedly teach all of these crazed Senegalese drivers that pedestrians actually do have the right of way. I am utterly fearless-boldly stepping into the midst of frenzied rush hour [read: every hour] traffic with a sort of reckless daring that suggests that the little 5’3 white girl somehow belongs in the middle of the crowded road. Much to my teammates chagrin, I have been hit by a car on three separate occasions since moving to this sidewalk-less country. I may only

A shot of Rome from the top of the Spanish steps-another city that felt incredibly organized after Dakar.

 be 5’3, but every inch of me is stubborn to a fault and there is some sort of inexplicable compulsive tenacity in me that truly would rather get flattened into the dirt by a car rapide [a wildly colorful Senegalese van-bus] than give up the right of way. [Thus, ever-practical Christy is constantly pulling me out of the way of on-coming traffic.]

What’s the moral of this story? There isn’t one, and I’ll probably get hit by at least two more cars before making it safely onto the plane home. I’ll give you this though: life is never boring in Senegal.

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  1. […] not familiar with the traffic situation in Dakar, take a stroll down memory lane with me and read this little gem. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll become entirely convinced that I will never again step […]

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