We’ve all heard this talk about African time, and africans being relaxed and easy going, but the drivers of Bamako belie that saying. If being on a motorcycle makes me scared for my life, being in the front seat of a taxi makes me afraid for everyone else’s because I can clearly see the craziness of everything. Cars, taxis, sotramas (kind of half-way between a van and a truck, about the size of an ice cream truck, sotramas are the public buses of Bamako and hold up to 30 people), bicycles, donkeys and pedestrians are constantly dodging in and out of the road, in and out of the way. Once, a motorcycle almost hit my taxi, and today my taxi almost hit a small boy. Bamako is not a place where traffic lights or traffic cops are respected, and it isn’t a place where you cross the street without looking both ways about 20 times.
Today I went to the Lybia Sofitel Laico Amitié Hotel (not sure which it’s real name is, there’s also something in Arabic written on the front) to find out about getting a gym membership, and when I left it was about 4 pm – that’s usually rush hour at home, but here, rush hour seems to be every hour. I was waiting on the corner to get a taxi, and a bunch of them kept going past in the opposite direction. They would stop on their side of the road (across four lanes of traffic) and wave me over. Um, no thanks. So, I waited for quite a while, figuring that there was nowhere else I needed to be and hoping that the storm that was threatening wouldn’t break. A man came to stand next to me at the corner, I didn’t even notice him – in Bamako, there’s so much to focus on, it’s hard to notice everything. Then, a huge truck came rattling by, and the man, who was closer to the street than I was, suddenly stepped back and put an arm in front of me to usher me back, as close as I could go to the wall that was behind me. In doing so, that man saved my feet from the truck’s wheels. Then, he walked away without even looking at me.
Thanks, kind stranger!