The streets here in town can be scary and even dangerous (though not all the time). But there are ways that you can be neighborly when you’re on the road. Here are a few of them:
1. If you are going somewhere with a large group of people, and you’re the only one on your moto (the generic word here for motorcycle, motor scooter, etc.), take someone along. Motos are made for 2 adults plus up to 2 kids, so if you’ve got room, offer to give a ride to someone who doesn’t have a moto. If someone’s on a bike, it’s hard to keep up with everyone on motos, especially if you’re going a ways away. Believe me – I know.
2. If you are all stopped at a red light and it turns green but the people in front don’t go, beep. Here it’s not rude, but actually a very friendly thing to do. You see, often on a moto you pull up too far to see the light, so you rely on those behind you to let you know when it turns green. Also, even if you AREN’T too far ahead to see the light, it can get old pretty quickly to crane your neck all the way up to see the light when you’re so low to the ground on a moto. So I tend to look up and then look away, look up and then look away. If it turns green while I’m looking away, I appreciate those little beeps to let me know it has turned and I can go. And no, I’m not afraid to beep and be friendly to them, either.
3. Here, turn signals don’t automatically turn off when you turn, so it’s easy to forget to turn it off and you can go down the road for quite a ways without realizing that your turn signal is still signaling. If you notice someone else’s still signaling, you can pass them and, as you’re passing them, let them know (either by saying it or symbolling it with your hand) that their turn signal is still on. Much appreciated. This is the same for kickstands that were forgotten to be put up, clothes that are hanging down and look like they may get caught in the wheel, and tires that are low on air as well. How else would you know if someone didn’t come alongside and tell you?
4. If you notice someone is wanting to turn left in front of you, clear that space. Often they’ll have to move over a ways to the left in order to do that, so instead of passing on the left at that time, swerve more towards the right and go around them that way. It makes turning left so much easier! And how will you know they’re wanting to turn left, you may ask? Well, there is the turn signal. But everyone’s turn signal doesn’t work, and, as I mentioned above, some turn signals are on because they forgot to turn them off and not because they are actually turning. So you can pay some attention to turn signals, but that’s not the most sure way. Instead, to turn left, the first thing you usually do is to turn your head and look behind you over your left shoulder to make sure no one is coming. This is likely because many motos are lacking mirrors to see behind them. (When I first got my moto and it had two mirrors, I was told by a friend to take off at least one, since it wasn’t stylish to drive around with two anymore. Needless to say, I still kept both mirrors.) It’s after you’ve turned your head over your left shoulder, if it looks like you can move over (ie. if people are nice and deciding to pass on the right instead of the left) you can now put out your arm, like old fashioned turn signals in the US or what you’d do on a bicycle in the US. And it’s as you’re putting out your hand that you can turn on your turn signal if you want.
Even though I have two working mirrors and usually can have a pretty good idea of who’s behind me, now that I know the steps for turning left, I often turn to look over my left shoulder just to tell everyone else that I’m turning left. Then I put on my turn signal and put out my arm if the coast is clear. Well, except at night. At night, the rules change, since turn signals can be seen better than heads and arms. If you have a working turn signal, all you have to do at night is make sure that no one’s coming (by using your mirrors or looking over your shoulder), turn on your turn signal, and turn.
To give you an example of how this process of turning left works and how being neighborly goes with it, let me tell you about my drive home the other day. I was driving along just fine, about in the middle of our lane – with room to pass the slow people (including un-motorized things) on the right, and room for people to pass me on the left. I came up to a moto in front of me with a left turn signal on. But since I didn’t see either of the other signs that he was turning, I passed him on the left. Out of curiosity, I watched him in my mirror after I had passed, and, you guessed it, he wasn’t turning. (But I hadn’t told him he had his turn signal on and that he should turn it off, see number 3 above, since I wasn’t 100% sure that he wasn’t turning soon.) Shortly after I passed that guy, I came up to another moto. I noticed that the driver of this moto, as I got close, looked over her left shoulder. Aha! She’s going to turn left. I scooted over more towards the right side of the lane, allowing her to move to the left. And guess what? She turned! See, I did know how to be nice and help them turn left safely and hassle-free.
How are you neighborly on the road? Does it look the same or different than it does here in Burkina Faso? Do you see why it’s important to learn the culture wherever you go? That makes you able to know how to be neighborly, and, even more important, how to show people Jesus’ love.