Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rocky Roads

A number of challenges abound for countries in Africa.  My guess is that one of the biggest is infrastructure.  I was never so aware of infrastructure until I moved to Africa.  It's not a sexy exciting topic for most people, but its presence causes implications that feel like help or hindrance on a daily basis. Where I live infrastructure is a constant, conscious thought.  (This blog post is coming on the heels of a 25 hour power outage, and a few hours later, a 10 hour outage. Ugg.  I just want to use my toaster one of these days.)

Though the roads are not our biggest infrastructure challenge, they do provide some good entertainment, so I am starting there.  The roads in our country vary.  Some highly traveled roads are not so bad.  Then there is the typical city road:  (Filmed this a few blocks from our house.)

It can be tricky looking out for the millions of pedestrians lining the roads when the potholes require swerving every few meters at low speeds.  It makes city travel slow at best. Asphalt or gravel attempts to fill potholes, though appreciated, wash out after just one powerful rain. Many roads have not been repaired in decades.  And those that have, have been done in the most entertaining way...

How to Repair a City Street, Africa Style

1. Steal bricks from nearby homes and fences being built. 


2. Find a crappy road full of car eating potholes. (easy) 


3. Make a cardboard sign.  "FIXING ROAD, DONATIONS WANTED."
4. Spend two weeks standing next to sign.  Occasionally sort of fix the road while collecting donations.
5. If enough money is received from grateful neighbors, finish placing bricks in potholes and move on.  If enough money is not received from grateful neighbors, take bricks out of the road.  Return to step 2.  Repeat.

This method, though humorous, is an ingenious way that self motivated people in our city create jobs for themselves.  In a country with 85% unemployment, this is genius. 

Potholes and sinking sides are not the only challenges with roads.  Rarely is debris cleared unless by nearby property owners. Knocked over signs and roadway lights (as pictured below) are left to rot, un-repaired, on the side of roads.  One street down from us there is a three block stretch with five downed utility/light poles alone.  They slowly become a part of the scenery.

On a positive note, hydrants can be found near roadsides around the city.  Here, one sits at the end of our close.