Friday, July 30, 2010
Mommy - what's that?
Not long ago Ford and I were reading a book together when he pointed and asked, as he often does, "what's that?". I looked and saw that he was pointing to . . . a traffic light. Yes, my little boy was wondering what that strange thing with multicolored lights in the street with all the cars and trucks might be!
I think back to our life before we left the States and I can count 3 traffic lights between our house and the grocery store, 5 between our house and preschool and probably 15 between our house and church (aaalll the way down 280). We were out and about in our car most days and since we lived in a modern American city we encountered many traffic lights as most Americans do. But now we live in non-urban Kenya where I drive a couple times a week around our small town. The kids sit in my lap, or in the front seat or in the way back totally unrestrained (my friends aren't believing the car seat fanatic would let her children ride around utterly unrestrained but, well, this is Africa). At least I don't let them drive motorcycles or ride on the TOP of my car like other missionary kids around here. So my son has no idea what a traffic light is. I tried to explain it but you really need to see them in action to understand.
So while we were in and around Nairobi last week I made sure to find some traffic lights! There are some in the "City Centre" that I remembered seeing and we were headed down there to visit the immigration office. It is a bit confusing though because most of the traffic lights are at roundabouts (those things we formerly called traffic circles) which, in our mind, totally defeats the purpose of a roundabout which is to keep traffic moving. So you have a roundabout with traffic lights at each entrance which is just a total mess!
Anyway, the first lights we came upon were not working. No surprise there. Ford was just terribly disappointed. The second set of lights was not on either. Now he was starting to thing this whole "red, yellow, green" thing was a sham. We finally find a roundabout where the lights are on but there are policemen directing the traffic and effectively overriding the traffic lights. So as he sits thrilled watching the light and waiting for the turn from red to green so he can shout "GO!" he is once again disappointed as we continue to sit through the "Green is for Go" light so as not to take out a Kenyan police officer and make a suicide leap into traffic in the circle.
He does get the gist of the whole idea of a traffic light now though. It's funny that cultural things like that kind of creep up on you. What kid in America doesn't know about a traffic light? What kid in Kenya does? Ours are kind of in between so I guess it makes sense that he sort of gets the idea but has never seen the beauty of an actual intersection with traffic lights managing traffic!