Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You are doing what to the roads?

The big thing going on in Samoa right now is the road switch. On September 7th Samoa will switch from driving on the right hand side of the road to the left hand side (apparently in the 60’s they switched from the left to the right). I listen to the radio a lot and have heard some very interesting news about it.

According to a fellow PCV, $3.5 million Kiwi dollars has gone into this project. Some of this spent money has been spent visibly (signs, tv advertisements, etc), but that is a lot of money and I’d like to know where it has all gone. The roads have been painted with new lines, speed bumps put up, and signs have gone up about keeping to the left of the centerline (most of those signs were covered, but a few of the bags were ripped off and the signs were legible). Commercials are on tv and signs are strung up in Apia demarking the day of the switch. Money was given to bus owners so they could change the buses’ orientations for driving on the left, but I doubt this will actually happen.

A big court case about the switch is also taking place and I’m sure much of that money has gone to this. There is a large group of people who are against the switch. Two villages have already said they will stop cars driving on the left hand side of the road when they move through those villages as their form of protesting. An organization (PASS – people against switching sides) has taken the action of the government to court. The group has a valid point; people can’t wake up one day and magically drive flawlessly on the left hand side of the road. The government is giving two holidays for this event (September 7th & 8th). The government’s reason for the switch is “to give all Samoans the equal opportunity to drive as many come from overseas (mainly AUS & NZ) and by driving on the right hand side they are at a disadvantage.” The decision should be ruled on sometime this week. I’m not sure what will happen if the group wins and the court says the government shouldn’t switch the road.

Second, the switch will start at 5:50 in the morning. At that time, police in Apia will stop all traffic and the cars will sit for 10 minutes pondering the upcoming switch. At 6 am, the cars will move to the left hand side of the road and then will pause for another 10 minutes of contemplation. At 6:10, driving will commence. This is going to be fun to watch, a total disaster, but fun nonetheless.

I had originally said I’m staying out of Apia during this time, but the closer we get and the more that occurs with it the more I want to be in Apia at that time. One word…roundabout. Oh yeah, I’m sitting on one of the benches near the government buildings and the biggest roundabout in country September 7th, 8th, & 9th just to watch the fun. Should I be working at that time, probably, but I have those government holidays so I might as well enjoy them.

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