Traveling in the rain


Rainy days in Togo are rarely light enough to just grab an umbrella or throw on a rain jacket and boots then continue the day. Rains in the Tropics are akin to torrential downpours. Often, they come with the feeling of being thrust into a thunderstorm, hurricane and flood combined.

This brings everything to a halt. As the rain rolls in, common practice is for everyone to run back home or find a nearby shelter until it is over. A sometimes good, sometimes bad effect is that all meetings and other obligations outside of home are canceled.

The one exception of this rule applies to travel. Amidst heavy tropical rains, even the most ill-prepared cars—those with broken windshield wipers, windows that no longer roll up, or leaks throughout the frame—continue on toward their destination.

I found myself in this situation a handful of times during my service and each time was quite traumatizing. Every second of even the shortest distances driven at slow speeds felt like death was coming. The rain makes it almost impossible to get a clear picture of the road ahead. Like mosaic paintings, windshield vision is blurred to barely recognizable outlines.
View from the front windshield

There would normally be a few seconds of relief when the windshield wipers swoop down. In a car with broken wipers the driver must reach his hand outside his window (thus one less hand on the steering wheel) and manually bring the adjacent wiper down.

Yet the drivers manage to keep their composure. They do not seem fazed by occasional skids off the road or bangs into potholes. They even maintain conversations with passengers and never lose eye contact, even if that means diverting attention away from the road.

The fact that Togo has one of the worst roads in West Africa is only compounded on rainy days. Fortunately, I always arrived safely at my destination.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lydia,

    I'm sorry I/we haven't been in touch. I hope your service is winding down in satisfying style. When is your last day? What are your post plans?

    I remember rides in Panama like the ones you're describing here. Roads were ok in most places but not the one going up to my village, and wipers on our little transport buses were often iffy.

    I brought my students to NYC last week - we went to the Museum of Modern Art to see the French artists' paintings and had lunch at a Senegalese restaurant in Harlem. Slow service, delicious food.

    Best wishes to you, Lydia!
    Doug

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