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Driving!

img_0224.jpgThe most stressful part of our daily living is driving. Really, you have to experience it to believe it. Yesterday I had several errands to run and was in traffic for a couple hours. My whole body grows tense and my neck and head hurt. The recent snow took a couple weeks to go away. The cold winter has caused even more potholes than normal and some streets are still covered in a thick layer of ice. Rhonda finds she gets a sore neck everytime she drives.

It is hard to describe but below is some information from a travel web site about Azerbaijan.  The web-site says, “Most Azeri roads and streets are in such a state that it is practically impossible to break the speed limits, exception made for some avenues and streets in Baku which are kept in tip top shape. Side streets and minor roads have all kinds of debris, open manholes, and are pot-holed, unmarked and unlit. Even in some areas in the centre of the capital, streetlights are barely noticeable. Villages and rural areas are woefully under equipped with earth roads and puddles like great lakes. Drivers pay little heed to traffic regulations, so expect a certain degree of artistic liberty when driving. Azeri driving behaviour is not incredibly dangerous nor aggressive, but don’t depend on drivers to stay in their own lanes. Nor will they always pay attention to traffic signals or other drivers. Horns are an endemic phenomenon: personalized car horns are considered trendy in Baku and you’ll see the noveau riche in their  Hummers, Mercedes and BMWs often with two horns going at once - an ordinary one, and one that plays a tune, the theme from the film the Godfather is a favourite… Barking cars can also be heard. Often family cars are loaded with cargo in a way that could rival a Pakistani truck - beware as it is not uncommon for it to fall. Pedestrians constantly cross the street everywhere. With the number of cars on the road growing exponentially, parking tends to be very creative, you will realize this as soon as you get out of the airport terminal. Note that “left-hand” turns across traffic are absolutely forbidden. You have to find a way to get to the other side of the street and then make a “right-hand” turn. Sometimes this means driving a kilometre or so out of your way and reversing direction. Sometimes, you’ll find cars backing up a one-way street just so they can “legally” head in the direction they want to go. Drive defensively at all times. Always carry your vehicle registration papers, passport and driver’s licence. Also, make sure that your car’s paperwork gives you authorization to drive it. An international driver’s license is valid in Azerbaijan if you stay in the country for less than 4 months. After that, you’ll need to get a stamp from the traffic police (79 S. Vurgun, tel. 984 002). If a policeman signals you to pull over, he’ll use a siren or point with a baton. Above all, stay calm and don’t get out of the car. The officer will shake hands with you first, introduce himself, then ask for your license and car’s documentation. Answer his questions, but don’t volunteer information. Be ready to apologize. The officer may be looking for a bribe, but will eventually let you go without one. The police’s obscure fines are more often than not, not for the local road fund, most are open to bribery to counteract their miserable wages.”

Whoever wrote the above information has a complete understanding of the situation here. I just laughed and nodded as I read it the first time. I am worried however, that my driving skills are getting worse. I seem to be picking up some habits like not using signals or staying in my lane. At least I never have to worry about falling asleep while driving.

Have a safe week,

David

 

 

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