Tuesday, October 22, 2002

It had stopped raining so I walked into work this morning. Turned out to be a thirty minutes exercise in obstacle avoidance. Here are some of the obstacles I had to avoid:

Breakfast: There's a little ally next to our building containing about twenty or thirty very active kitchens and eating areas (plastic tables and chairs). Even though there’s hardly any room to walk down this ally with all the breakfasting going on, mopeds still favor the street as a handy shortcut, tearing down it with their hands on their horns.

Cars and buses: General rule of thumb for crossing the road here is to follow what the locals do. No walker pays much attention to the ‘red man’ mainly because it’s green friend is not the harbinger of pedestrian safety we all know and love. Green generally means that anything (mainly a taxi) driving directly at you will come at you from an unconventional angle with respect to the intersection, rather than the standard ninety degrees from your right or left.

Bikes: These are everywhere. It’s far worse than Amsterdam as there are no bike paths. They follow the highway code as a car or a pedestrian depending on what better meets their needs at a particular time. They also frequently have trailers or the rider is carrying something comical like a ladder or a pane of glass.

Mopeds: These pretend to be bikes, but travel about 20 miles an hour faster.

Water from above: Mainly from people’s washing that overhangs the pavement. Clothes are hung up anywhere there is space. Normally from frames protruding from upstairs windows, but failing that electricity pylons.

Water from below: My feet got ‘washed’ by the street wetting machine twice.. Once while was off the pavement avoiding general clutter, and once while crossing the road with some locals.

Shops: Many of these are just shop fronts which are pretty full of tat. The general shop activities are then free to spill onto the street. Bike repairing is a favorite.

I turned up for work a little sweaty (although the temperature has cooled considerably) and rather smelly courtesy of the stale water from the street washing machine, and the orange I busied myself with peeling and eating during my journey.

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