Since coming to Uganda I’ve had to relearn how to drive. Not only do you drive on the other side of the road, but the steering wheel is on the other side of the car. (About 30% of the time when I go to get in the car I head to the wrong side). It is interesting how much your position in the car changes your perspective. Also, the vehicle that I get to drive is a stick so I have to shift with my left hand. Thankfully the pedals are the same or I might be in some real trouble. Anyway, it is going well and I picked it up fairly quickly although it was a bit stressful at first.
The other great thing about driving here in Uganda is that it takes all of your concentration. There arean infinite number of potholes and lots of Ugandans walk everywhere so the shoulders of the road are always swarming with people. Also, most of the drivers have no clue how to drive safely. Finally there are virtually no mobile police officers (some officers stand at the ends of the bridge and pull people over, but they are stationary and ever present so people know to follow the rules near them). I can’t really imagine what the police would do even if there were some because as far as I can tell there aren’t any traffic laws. The one exception to this is the aforementioned bridge over the Nile. The bridge is the one place that the 20 kmph speed limit is strictly enforced and no passing occurs. Everywhere else you drive as fast as you want and pass whenever you want. The way this all works out is that the biggest guy has the right of way. For example, let’s say I’m driving on what is basically a two lane road and coming towards me are two semi trucks. The one in the back decides to pass the one in the front. This fills up both lanes. This means that I have to swerve off the road onto the shoulder or even into grass or ditch to avoid getting destroyed by the oncoming semi. Obviously, you courage/stupidity/stubbornness comes into play as well. If you are nuts enough you can just bully others around by not moving, but this plan has at least one obvious flaw. Luckily, I’m a pretty confident driver and fairly aggressive so I get the job done fairly well. I can’t imagine how a timid driver would function here. (Seth, you are lucky you don’t have to ride with me here. You would have to keep your eyes closed at all times. My roommate Seth doesn’t like how aggressive I am—especially in bad weather. He told me after one of our trips to Fargo that he had his eyes closed most of the trip. Hah.)