Welcome to the CLA Classroom! These posts are designed to give an insider’s perspective on CLA (Culture and Language Acquisition) in Asia-Pacific. What does it feel like to be a foreigner in this country? What new sights and sounds assail us every day? How do people view us? How do we react to cultural differences? Be our guest and step with us into this jungle of new experiences!
One of our biggest adjustments in Asia-Pacific has been driving…what’s allowed, what’s normal, what’s expected. Rather than rules of the road, there are flexible guidelines and expectations from fellow drivers. Most roads are painted with two lanes, but that by no means limits the actual number of “lanes” at any given moment. This is a very practical culture, and on the road, we do what works. Our worst mistake in driving can be assuming that our “space” actually belongs to us. Driving in Asia-Pacific is a constant game of give-and-take.
Most of the time, we putter along on motorbikes like everyone else and conveniently weave along with the stream of traffic. On a few occasions, we’ve even managed to fit our family of five on a single 125cc Yamaha (without incident, but slightly to the detriment of the shocks). You can imagine why we didn’t manage to get a picture of that.
Bikes can be used to transport anything, from large bird cages to loads of groceries to sheets of plywood. All you need is a friend sitting behind to hold it for you. One day, I was driving home and passed by this sight from the photo above. These men are apparently on their way to some type of construction work. They have the tools for mixing cement, and, lacking a pickup truck, they are managing just fine by hanging onto the wheelbarrow from behind.
On my way to pick up the boys from school last week, I noticed a young woman driving her motorbike while texting. That brings texting and driving to a whole new level! Thankfully, it’s not too common.
We frequently have to brake for chickens that randomly run across the road. I personally don’t brake out of any special love for the chickens, but rather because I don’t want to go down in local history as the tall foreign lady who killed a prize-winning egg-layer.
In the States, our children were first-rate travelers and always napped well while driving. They have some stiff competition here, though, as we often see children asleep, draped over the handlebars of their parents’ motorbikes.
That’s today’s collection of moments “as seen in Asia-Pacific.” It’s just another piece to the puzzle of the CLA Classroom.