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Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Crossing the road in southern Europe is very funny. You arrive at a zebra and find a car parked on it so move on to the next one. Another car pulls up just as you are about to cross and parks in front of you on the zebra. The driver and passengers get out and head somewhere nice. They look baffled when you shake your fist and threaten to call the proper authorities. Later you find yourself negotiating with a busy road and start to feel like Jaques Tati in whatever film it is where he can't cross the road. Fnally someone stops to let you cross but the car behind them thinks the car is stopping for the hell of it so decides to overtake. You jump out of the way into a car coming on the other side. Everyone beeps their horn, gives the finger and  life goes on. Much later you get to a zebra with traffic lights. There are other people so you feel safer. The lights are red yet several cars still go through with the drivers checking to see if the green man has appeared. He hasn't so technically they think they are in the right. Everyone starts to cross when a driving school car appears. I notice the instructor is obese and gesticulating madly. He is shouting to the pupil to 'go!go!go!' . The pupil has a look of horror and points to us in a way that says 'what about them?'. The instructor insists and the pupil weaves his way through the bemused locals. No one says anything. When things have calmed down you realise this is going to be repeated all day every day. There are cars and zebras everywhere and you start thinking it's time you learnt to drive and join them all. Then someone stops to let you cross the road. You are so stunned by this but they insist and do that thing with their hand, like they are giving you some privileged 'after you' moment. You hesitate, you start to cross, they start to drive, you stop, they stop. This goes on for a bit till the driver starts calling you names. It's hysterical. One day you arrive and it's chaos. There is a Dial-a Ride unloading people in wheelchairs from the back of their mini bus. There are cars double, triple parked on both sides. Lorries unloading beer crates. You start thinking about converting to Catholicism or maybe Hinduism. Nothing matters. You cross for the hell of it. It could be funny. Finally someone you know sees you and gives you a lift. You see a different perspective. Your friend approaches some speed bumps. They drive on the other side of the road to avoid them. You wonder whether you should have taken that teaching post in Kabul.

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