July 10th, 2009

4th of July, Part 2

It seems that rather than champagne, sparkling apple juice was mistakenly served for the official toast at the offical 4th of July party. Oops.

That's nothing compared to the rather offensive gaffe committed by honoring a certain entertainer who died recently with a moment of silence and the playing of taps, which is supposed to be played only for military veterans. Never mind that many consider the entertainer to have been of questionable character, and that our murdered PCV did not get such honors from her government (although the host government did honor her sincerely it its speech). Who vetted that?

Wash me away

Well, it's that time of year again for me to become one cranky bitch over pretty much nothing at all. This is the sign that I need a vacation desperately. Just like last year and the year before, I am so down on this place and the futility of getting any real 'development' done that a change of scenery to recharge is in order.

Specifically, I find myself getting more than annoyed at things that are outside of my power to change. For one, the damn moto-taxis here are feeling to me like easy and justifiable targets. I could crush so many of them with our oh-so-heavy monster SUV. If I see another one of them pull up too close, squeeze into the two inches between my car and the moto-taxi in front of it, make a left turn in front of me from the right turn lane, drive straight in front of me despite my right turn signal showing where I'm going, I will harm as many of them as I can.

Then there's the crappy roads in our nice neighborhood. No one bothers to fix them except for throwing chunky debris (large pieces of concrete, rocks) into the sink- and potholes as filler. This is considered an adequate fix. Add to this mess permanent rainy season lakes in all of the roads and holes, and you get a town full of unwalkable and almost undrivable streets. Yes, yes, the monster SUV is well suited to roaring over all of this, but don't distract me from my loathing and disgust.

And don't get me started on the freakin' trucks here. On a good day, they are nuisances. They routinely double park on roads around the port as they wait their turn to pick up or deliver their loads, which leaves one narrow lane for most traffic to get through. Their drivers are horrible and think nothing of holding up traffic to turn, which usually takes about 20 minutes because they lack rear-view mirrors and their gears are all shot. They drive so badly that they knock over street lights and cement barriers regularly, and tear up the roads horribly by miscalculating turns and crushing curbs and the few patches of repaired road that exist in this city. This week, though, the normal annoyances have escalated into a total breakdown of order. I have had to alter my drive into or home from work every day because these colossal hunks of rusty junk are now triple-parking on the city's main thoroughfares! Triple parking! I have driven on the sidewalk, over traffic medians, and wherever I can to get around them. And I have sat stuck behind them when there is no escape route. How, pray god, can the government here allow these things to totally take over the roads? Why isn't there a port official or a gendarme out there kickin' some trucker ass to make sure that at least one lane is open for local traffic to move?

The jackasses responsible for paving the road we live on -- an interminable project which started last October and is nowhere near finished -- decided to tear up part of our driveway as a favor to us. The new road will be higher than our driveway, so I guess they figured that while they are at it, they will make the driveway apron level with the road. Nice thought, except that they are demanding money now to do it. We keep telling them that we didn't ask them to tear it up, so they shouldn't ask us for change. We are at a standstill with them, which means we can not pull into/out of our driveway and garage and have to park out on the still un-paved road.

Have I mentioned the beggar mentality that prevails even among the 'elite' here? The government issued a state of emergency the other day and paraded around in flood waters for the media to witness their concern for their people. They called a meeting today to see what assistance international donors are going to provide for people displaced. Keep in mind that it rains every year and floods occur every year. But OK, there are people flooded out again this year and they deserve to be helped -- BUT FIRST AND FOREMOST BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT. But the government is totally out to lunch. When we asked them today what does exactly their emergency declaration means, they said "it means that the situation is urgent." I'm not kidding. When pressed for details on what special powers or provisions they would enact (um, how about re-orienting parts of the national budget to meet critical needs?), or what they are doing to address chronic, predictable, structural issues, they had no answer whatsoever. But what they did have were lots of grave faces, pseudo-worry, and pleas for aid.

Given my state of mind, I pledge to stay in my house all weekend. It will do no one any good for me to be out stoking my rage on the pot-holed, truck and moto-taxi-clogged, rain-soaked streets here. Then again, there is really nothing to do here anyway so I guess it's a good time to plan vacation details.
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