Sunday, January 3, 2010

Getting into gear in Malawi

I had my first crack at a Malawian stick shift yesterday. Indi, Amanda and I were on our way back from Mujete: a wildlife refuge when Indi offered to let me have a turn at the wheel. I’m going to have to drive here sooner or later so I bit the bullet and switched seats with him.

Just to give this some context: I may be one of the most, if not the most, anxious people behind the wheel. Even in an automatic, I dislike driving places I’ve never been, dislike traffic and hate parking. So hopping behind the wheel of a car where the driver sits on the right, when I need to shift with my left hand and drive on the wrong side of the road was quite a feat for me. Add to the mix your garden variety developing country madness: a constant stream of people walking on the side of the road, mango vendors, minibus vans with 30 people crammed in, goats, cows and bikes. Suffice it to say that I was quite jumpy. By some miracle I was able to get ‘er started without stalling and off we went. I rode the clutch like a cowboy but managed to avoid stalling the entire time. We stuck to the highway (loose term in Malawi) but having most of the car on my left was pretty disconcerting and I almost offed quite a few roadside walkers. I stopped before we got to the next police checkpoint (I didn’t have my license on me) but I was pretty happy that we all survived the experience.

Side note: I tried driving again today and stalled about 300 times. In my stress induced panic I forgot basic tenants of driving such as how to maneuver the car in reverse and thoroughly embarrassed myself. Lacey and Gus were really nice about it and Lacey said its like having braces: at first you think you’ll never adjust but eventually you forget you have them. Oh well, two steps forward and one step back?

1 comment:

  1. I was bored at work so I logged onto your blog, not expecting any new updates since your first post and imagine my surprise when I saw three new posts! It was like a late xmas gift. Miss you!