Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Chicken Joke

I never thought I’d say this but I really miss Cairo… parts of it anyways. I developed so many bad habits in the Egyptian city that life on the straight and narrow in the Real World is driving me crazy. Of course, my walking in front of moving cars is probably making the drivers in Auckland a little crazy too.

Crossing the street in Cairo is like playing a real life game of Frogger. You wait for the moment when at least two lanes are clear and then walk sedately forward weaving, dodging, yelling, waiting, and occasionally hitting the fronts of cars as you go. The point of the game, obviously, is not just to get to the other side but also to do so in one piece. Sure, there were the occasional traffic lights (like the ones near the Institute’s old base), but people usually just crossed the road wherever the mood struck.

Now that I have returned to the Developed World, people seem to frown on jaywalking and walking in front of moving vehicles. See, what I didn’t mention before is that despite the fun of dodging and weaving around moving cars in Cairo the drivers usually know well enough to slow down or at least not aim for you. Here in Auckland, I swear I’ve had at least two people speed up when I dared to walk out in traffic.

Sadly, this means that I’m stuck waiting for traffic lights to tell me when I can and can’t cross the street. The other day, for example, I stood for three hours minutes waiting for the happy green walk sign to appear while watching a street that was practically devoid of cars. The fact I waited just proves that I’m slipping.

While my car dodging habits are making me twitchy in this law abiding new life, they aren’t the only skills that are growing rusty. Ever since those first shopping days in India, I perfected my negotiation skills and became something of an expert at bartering for everything from cloth for new shirts to taxi rides across town. Sadly, it turns out that when you get into a taxi in London they expect you to pay what’s on the meter and don’t believe in finding a middle ground between what’s in your pocket and their exorbitant fees.

I’m sure there are other questionable habits and skills I picked up over the last five years but I have to admit that negotiating the price of dinner dinner and playing chicken with buses are two of the things I find myself missing most here in the boring old, law abiding Real World. I guess that means that I’m simply going to have to go out and find some locals to corrupt to my way of thinking. After all, positive changes like these can only happen one person at a time.

12 comments:

Karen Peterson said...

I can imagine how hard a habit that must be to break!

I'm one of those law-abiding walk-sign-waiters that gets REALLY confused/freaked out in countries where that's not the way it's done.

Melissa said...

Why hello! And where, young lady, have you been?! ;)
Returning to a western life is an adjustment, that is for sure. Glad you're back!

Eva Gallant said...

Welcome back to "civilization"; as uncivilized as it may seem!

sprinkles said...

Welcome back, I've missed you! I hope you'll post more regularly now.

I can't imagine bartering for everything.

Barbara said...

Sounds familiar! What I found somewhat disturbing was that when I was back in Canada and driving in a high school zone and the students sauntered across in front of me - it is actually against the law to hit them! Crosswalk or jaywalk - imagine!! :)

ladyfi said...

LOL! I still enjoy jaywalking in Stockholm for a bit of fun...

the grouse said...

I'm hearing you.

We're about to move to Paris. I'm particularly looking forward to going to pay for my sandwich with one arm resting on the glass counter top waving money in the face of the server and other elbow digging into the person next to me ;)) hahahaha [evil laughter]

Miss Footloose said...

Typo! I found you again! I'm catching up on your earlier posts, but am now responding to this one.

I so know what you mean about adjusting to different traffic cultures. The good and the bad. Be careful!

Two years after we left Armenia, where the biggest road sport is to see how many pedestrians you can wipe off the road, I am STILL in serious defensive mode.

I'll stand at the curb waiting to cross, and in the US and Europe all traffic stops dead, and I still wait to make sure they're not going to rev up the engine as soon as I put a foot on the zebra path.

As far as driving the car, yeah, I know, be a good girl! In Armenia, or West Africa for that matter, being a good girl in traffic got you literally nowhere ;)

Glad to see you back. Don't know what I missed earlier posts in June.

Connie said...

You forgot to mention the 'magic hand'... a magic signal that is supposed to stop cars in your path when you are walking or driving. I have to watch when I go back and drive in the US... you know, all those pesky rules like stop signs, lights, lane marking, one way signs, curbs, etc.

Lydia said...

I second Connie! I think the second proudest moment of my life was when my little 3 year old used the 'magic hand', straddled on my hip while we crossed the Corniche. *sniff* I'm so glad I'm back in the land where driving/crossing the road is sport again! (though my trainers just may melt to the pavement if I stay still too long!)

Voracious, T said...

Same problems here in California. The only thing worse than being bored spitless is my fear of *forgetting* that I'm bored spitless. [sigh]

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember when your Dad and I had to get assistance to cross the Corniche in Cairo. Talk about embarrassing.
Glad you're back and keep posting!
merthyrmum