We had a little break from the usual downpour in the late afternoon but today it’s back. We didn’t have any errands so we came right home from Spanish School, dried off and are holed up in our apartmentito with dinner cooking (all those veggies from yesterday’s drive!).
School today was bueno. Haley got moved to Daniel’s class and quickly rose to the top of the heap. She won most of the games, was told to hold back on some of the answering during the flash card quizzing (she knew them before everyone else did) and Zoe also reports having a fabulous time with her profesora who is now her private teacher. All is well. Dan still hates it but I think he tolerates it better with Haley there. And the fact that they had a sub today was good too. Dan is not fond of his usual profesora. She no speak-a da English.
Topic change: driving!
After the weekend of driving a rental car and as we begin the hunt for a car to buy, now is a good time to explain how the driving works here. It’s a bit of a paradox. You have to drive aggressively but defensively. You pretty much assume that everyone else is doing the same and it all works out (although there is a reason why new cars here are nicknamed “pre-dented”). You can’t be timid here, but at the same time you have to expect other people to do bold and crazy things too. And not just people in cars but people walking and DOGS. We had to slam on the brakes at least 3 times just yesterday to avoid taking out a stray dog. This is compounded by the fact that it gets DARK when the sun goes down. Streetlights are not as common in all places and the road striping may or may not be recently done.
On top of this, there are not too many street signs. We have a new app that we use a lot – Waze – that is our navigational app. I navigate and D drives. But instead of me telling him to turn at XX street, I just say “go go go go TURN NOW” and it works out pretty well. And you wonder why Zoe was carsick yesterday.
You have to be prepared for people to do stupid things. Stopping in the middle of the lane to let someone out, a pedestrian crossing the street in front of you completely randomly, someone driving in the oncoming lane to get around a bus, etc. You just are prepared for the unexpected and use the shoulder – and your horn – a lot.
We’ve only been driving a few days – and we are now on foot once again – but we didn’t see too many cops out. There didn’t seem to be the kind of speed traps we have in the USA. Although we hear they exist. There are random traffic checkpoints where they need to see every paper and every stamp you have – and they can pull you over and ask for it for no reason – but that seems to be more in the city (Panama City), where we do NOT intend to drive if we can help it. So we haven’t been a victim of this kind of overt abuse of power yet. (That last sentence was from Dan… if you couldn’t tell. Ha!)
Another reason why the driving is like this is that there are not many lawsuits. If you hit someone, you get out, check the damage, exchange some money or make some agreement and go on your way. No insurance papers, police reports or rubbing your neck just in case it starts to hurt later. You just go along because that’s just life. So the stakes are lower.
I have to admit it’s a bit freeing to be able to do a little more of what you want, like U turns in the middle of the road and stopping on the narrow shoulder to go to a store. If someone is irritated that you are blocking a little of their path, it’s just the way it goes. Kinda nice, as long as you don’t get run over. No es bueno, that running over thing.
All of this is summarized by saying that Dan will do 99% of the driving here and I will avoid it like the plague.