Traveling through Cebu is definitely an interesting experience which many people would find very, very unpleasant. Almost as soon as I got in the bus, Lee handed me a rag to cover my nose and mouth. I do not have nearly as strong a nose as some people, but the smell made even me a little nauseous. Here there isn’t much of a difference between the homeless and the working class; they either live on the streets or in tiny outdoor rooms made of scrap materials. Everyone is packed together, and many of them drop their drawers and simply relieve themselves on the street.
City smells are bad enough, but the smell of an impoverished city is much worse. In addition to the sewage, people light little fires anywhere, and no one follows emissions standards, so as soon as you feel like you can bear the normal nasty smell, you pass through smoke or get stuck behind an exhaust-spewing truck in a tunnel.
But, actually, that’s not the worst part. You’ve never seen crazy drivers until you’ve come to the Philippines. The D.C. beltway? New York? Country roads. Here they don’t know the meaning of traffic lanes or crosswalks. Lanes are painted in parts, but motorcycles and sometimes regular vehicles will regularly go the opposite way down the road toward oncoming traffic to get past a row of cars. There don’t really seem to be laws. Police will sometimes direct traffic but that’s about it. Matthew jokes that intersections should have names like “Free-For-All Intersection.” Furthermore, people and stray dogs, even little children, just step right out in front your vehicle. Not long after we got in the bus, we barely missed a stray dog that darted in front of us, but the truck coming the other direction hit it, and we heard it bark and yelp. (Thankfully, I didn’t see it.)
The only up-side to all of this is that traffic only goes about 25 mph on average. And, the highways only go up to about 35 mph. Somehow, though I really can’t comprehend it, there are way fewer car accidents and injuries here than in the U.S. Maybe it’s because everyone is just expecting everyone to weave in and out of lanes. No one else seems very dazed by the status quo either. Everyone walks nonchalantly into the street and when we lightly bumped a cart in front of us, the people riding didn’t even turn around to look. Actually, everyone, even Matthew and Lee seem quite capable of driving in this mess (the bump was when we were practically at a stand-still and Matthew had turned around to talk to me), and all I do is pray and trust God that He will take me only in His timing. And, praise God that traffic is usually very slow. I have to say, I don’t usually praise Him for that.