For the first week or so that we lived on St. Kitts, I didn’t drive anywhere. It wasn’t that I was particularly afraid of doing it, I just had so many new things happening at once that it seemed like an insurmountable hurdle. For starters, I didn’t have a clue where anything was. When I learned to drive at the age of 15 back home I had lived in that town for my entire life. I knew the streets like the back of my hand, knew where to get gas if my tank was running low, knew where to go to get food, and knew where to go to find my friends. Here everything was new and it seemed like we took a different route every time we went out somewhere. I was just not real excited about it. But, I was tired of being stuck at the house all day with nothing to do so off we went to the Fire Department to get my driver’s license (yes you read that right). No test, just had to show my US license to prove that I knew how to drive. I didn’t even have to prove that I knew how to drive on the “wrong” side of the road or that I understood the traffic laws. Kinda weird…
Anyway, I drove home that evening and I felt like I did pretty well. The next day Kylie & I would have our first solo trip after dropping Matt off at work. Not only is the steering wheel on the right side but the turn signal is on the opposite side as well. Every time I tried to make a turn I ended up turning the windshield wipers on! Roundabouts are another new concept for me and there are several between the house and Ross University so that was a little challenging. Basically you never stop moving, you just slow down as you enter the roundabout and yield to those that are already in it. If you’re taking the next road to the left you stay to the left but if you’re taking any of the following “exits” you stay toward the right. I’ll admit that most of the time I’m probably in the wrong lane! After arriving back at the house that first day, Kylie spoke up from the back seat saying, “Mommy, you need driving lessons. I don’t feel so well.” Well, there went my self-confidence!
I’ve had lots of practice over the last several months but hopefully I won’t get so confident that I start doing some of the crazy things I’ve seen from other people on our daily commute. One thing we’ve noticed is that people will just suddenly pull off the road and stop with absolutely no warning. They also never seem to quite get off the road. Usually the right half of the car is still hanging halfway out in the lane which causes the person behind them to have to cross into oncoming traffic to get around them. I think maybe one reason they do this is because they can’t judge the distance between the left side of the car (since the steering wheel of most cars here are on the right) and the deep trenches that run along each side of the road. Back home we have ditches that are several inches deep but these are several feet deep due to the drainage needed after heavy downpours. While I understand their hesitation to pull farther off the road, I dread the day when I see someone get rear-ended because of that and I pray it’s not me!
I thought I’d seen everything the day I was driving back home and saw what we call a “box” truck with its back door open and a man riding barely on the edge of the back trying to hold up a stack of beer crates that had fallen over. They were taller than he was and every bump in the road caused them to wobble. The truck was just bouncing down the road like nothing was going on in the back (since they couldn’t actually see). I was just waiting on them to hit one of the huge potholes that are in the road here and bounce him right onto my hood. Thankfully they turned after the second roundabout. That was a scary sight but it hasn’t stopped there. We see something crazy just about every day.
Some of things we see are just funny, like the day we saw a guy driving around with two huge bullhorns on top of his car; you know, the kind you see during political campaigns. Well, this guy was just playing his radio through those speakers and it looked like he was driving his kids to school. I guess he thought everyone within a three mile radius could use some music for their commute. It was pretty funny for us. Then there is the herd of goats/sheep that line the main road. Like most livestock here on the island, they belong to someone. They just wander along the road until they get their fill and then I guess they go back home? I’m assuming they know where home is. It’s not unusual to drive by a cow or bull standing on the side of the road with a huge chain around its neck with a weight tied onto it. They aren’t actually tied to anything else. I guess the weight just slows them down enough to help catch them when it’s time to go home for the day.
Some of the things we see lack complete common sense. A few days ago we saw a guy, in a small car like ours, with a dresser strapped to the top of it with just a few thin strips of rope. He was driving with one hand and holding the dresser with the other…driving down the road…during the busiest part of the day…alone. A couple of days later we saw a truck with a stack of plywood and a guy just sitting up in the middle of it with nothing holding him on. All it would take would be for the truck to have to swerve to miss someone who comes to an abrupt stop (see above) and that guy would have been a hood ornament. Not something I’m looking forward to seeing. When Matt’s parents were here visiting I was eager to see what his dad (who is a retired superintendent for VDOT back home) would say when he saw the local construction crews grading a new road and dumping huge boulders down the side of the hill while there were guys sitting in dump trucks on the road right below them. This place is an OSHA nightmare!
Some things we’ve seen though are just sad. We were leaving the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and noticed a woman standing in the middle of the road holding a stick trying to run some teenagers away from her property. She was old and frail but she wasn’t going to let them get away with whatever it was they were trying to do. Also seeing all of the small children having to walk to school makes me sad. Some of them are just babies. One day I saw what looked to be a five or six year old walking his baby brother down the busiest road on the island to get home from school. That’s something you just don’t see where we’re from. There is too much of a threat of children being abducted. I just couldn’t do that.
I can’t end this post without mentioning the guy I saw yesterday riding his dirtbike down the main road as fast as he could go with no helmet while popping a wheelie. I’ve seen wrecks happen on this road people! They are not pretty! I’ve only lived here four months! You’ve lived here your whole lives! What are you thinking??? (That’s what I’d like to ask anyway.)
I’m sure we’ll have many more traveling adventures on our approximately 5 mile commute. If there’s anything interesting I’ll make sure to share. Until tomorrow… 😀