Tuesday, July 6, 2010

To Moto or Not To Moto

We had another session on bicycle maintenance. Today we learned how to change our bicycle brake pads, and how to grease the brake lines. Mmmmhmmm. We did. Paul (Togolese) is the instructor, and lucky for me he used my bike to demonstrate. I will more than likely never have to change my brake pads again for as long as I’m here, since my bike was used in the demonstration. I really like the bike maintenance classes. First of all Paul instructs in French only so that makes it funny and challenging at the same time, and second, I have found it very rewarding to learn how to change a tire, patch a tire, and change and grease the gears. I like maintaining it better than I like riding it. Go figure??!!?? It’s a Tech bike(brand name) with twenty-one gears for god sakes. It might as well be an automobile, technologically speaking. Most of the volunteers that I’ve met ride their bikes 20 to 30 miles weekly on a regular basis. I will not be doing that, but I will be riding it within my village, and I might ride it to nearby villages.

Today we also had some training on the “Moto” (motorcycle) We were all fitted for and will receive motorcycle helmets. In fact riding on a Moto without a helmet is grounds for immediate dismissal from the Peace Corps. Riding on the back of a Moto (cab) will be a very frequent mode of transportation for us/me. Riding a motorcycle was the number one thing I forbade my kids from ever doing, although I know they all did it. I hate motorcycles…but I won’t have any alternatives to this mode of transportation. From what I understand, I will need to take a Moto from Tchekpbo to Tesvie, and then in Tesvie catch a bush taxi…no way around it, unless I want to bike the thirty or so miles to Tesvie. A bush taxi is a van, and they stuff them full of up to 12 to 15 (hot, sweaty and stinky) people before they take off for a variety of destinations. I’ll probably take be taking a moto at least once a week, and a bush taxi, a couple times a month.

S o today, I strapped my Moto helmet on, jumped on the back of Pauls (our instructors) Moto and went for a ride. Women cannot hold on or hang on to the person who is driving. That fact is actually part of the training. If we try to hold onto the driver he will think we are flirting (for godsakes) So the only thing you have to hold onto is literally the seat you are sitting on….(or the seat of your pants). We also can’t hold on to the driver as we are getting on the Moto, for the same reasons. I was scared to just have the trial lesson with Paul, BUT I DID IT!!!! And I have photos to prove it. Paul drove very carefully and my fears subsided quite a bit, but I still wish I never had to do it again. Bush Taxi Drivers and Moto Drivers are notoriously reckless. I have to be careful just walking in their paths. I have been told, though, that the people in my village will care about me enough to find a “safe,” reliable moto driver for me, and I will be able to use him on a regular basis.

So….I’m thinking of all the different exotic ways that one could be injured in Africa…. Malaria, snakes, wild animals, mayonnaise…it sounds as if the Moto and the bush taxi is at the top of the list. Doan worrie….I’ll be careful!

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