In an effort to be more adaptive during this visit and any future visits to Tanzania, I made arrangements to rent a vehicle from a village taxi driver. Having my own car allows me a freedom of movement that cannot happen when one is relying on our hosts to arrange drivers or share rides. That is the theory of course.
The challenges to driving here include a steering wheel on the left side of the vehicle, driving on the left side of the road, and no sidewalks… which means all roads carry an abundance of ‘foot traffic’: women carrying huge banana baskets to market, men pulling heavy wooden carts, many small children in school uniforms walking to and from school, and goats, chickens and cows with their own ideas as to who has the rights to the road.
There is also very little by way of paved roads. Tarmac exists only in town on the very main thoroughfares. All other roads are packed red dirt with varying depths of potholes, some the size of small craters. The last bit of challenge comes in the form of steep one lane roads up into the villages with dizzying drop-offs at regular intervals.
In this place, there can be no automatic moments or day dreaming while driving, that bad habit in America of sometimes not even being aware of how you drove from one place to another, because you have been thinking about so many other things. Driving here requires absolute presence of mind at all times, or you may find yourself face to face with a wayward cow or slipping off a precipice, only to become a distant memory in the minds of a few storytelling locals.
After several days of driving both in town and up into the villages, I have developed some level of comfort or ‘acclimatized’ as Alphonse says, to driving here. His son Zadi has laughingly named our zig zagging road excursions ‘the Dance of the Potholes’. For me, I am appreciative of the endless opportunities to learn and grow, as I reach past my fears and into new surroundings. Let’s pray that the people of Uru will be as appreciative of this ‘American ICBD woman’ learning to drive through their villages!