LOWE: Instructor puts students in the driver’s seat
There are infinitely more enchanting locales than the Access Nova Scotia parking lot in Bayers Lake Business Park. But that’s the spot where Kesabi Dhungana-Bhujel’s asphalt aspirations kick off.
“My dream,” the 28-year-old says, “is to drive.”
Dhungana-Bhujel is a Bhutanese immigrant — slim, soft-spoken and a whiz with a turn signal.
“I like to drive the car because I have children,” says the mother of an 11- and a two-year-old.
“They like to go everywhere. And sometimes, the bus, it’s a half-hour away, an hour away. It’s difficult, no?”
Dhungana-Bhujel uses the Access Nova Scotia parking lot to practice backing into parking spots under the counsel of instructor Abdul Abawajy of Adde Zem Driving School.
Steel-nerved Abawajy is the granddaddy of Halifax’s newcomer driving scene — student accident-free since he started up in 1999.
Abawajy cranes from the passenger seat of the moss-green Nissan Cube before Dhungana-Bhujel fires up and slips the transmission into drive.
“Don’t get scared,” he tells me.
After a close call with a median leaving Access Nova Scotia, Dhungana-Bhujel heads west on Highway 3 and into the residential neighbourhood around Ridgecliff Middle School in Beechville.
Abawajy directs Dhungana-Bhujel with near-ceaseless monotone repetition. And the occasional steering-wheel grab.
“Turn your head and check. Turn your head and check. Turn your head and check.
“Foot on the brake. Foot on the brake. Sow down. Slow down.
“Straight your car. Look at that car. See that car? Stop, stop, stop, stop. Go, go, go, go.”
“Abdul,” Dhungana-Bhujel says later, “he’s the best. Everyone says.”
Today is Dhungana-Bhujel’s fifth hour behind the wheel.
“First time, I came and start to drive,” she says, “I am very nervous. Now, a little bit, it’s OK.”
Dhungana-Bhujel and her family — eight members in all — came to Halifax in 2009.
“I like the cold,” she says, smiling.
“I went ice-skating last (winter). I fell five or six times. I like to learn new things.”
Few folks — men or women — drive in Bhutan or Nepal, where Dhungana-Bhujel lived for 18 years. People use buses or bikes, mostly.
Her lessons with Abawajy have been Dhungana-Bhujel’s first time behind the wheel.
“I like to go straight,” she says, giggling. “Otherwise, it’s difficult, no?”
Dhungana-Bhujel’s biggest challenge, she surmises, is backing into parking spots.
After our Beechville jaunt, Abawajy directs her back to Access Nova Scotia to work at it some more. He has taught Dhungana-Bhujel to stop perpendicular to the spot she wants to take and line up the car with the spots beside it.
“Remember how we count?” he says. “One, two, three — that’s where we stop. Hold the steering. Now let it go, let it go, let it go. Straight the steering. Good, good, good. Annd stop.
Soon we’re back out, trolling around Washmill Lake subdivision.
“What’s the speed limit here?” inquires a zen-like Abawajy, eyes ahead.
Dhungana-Bhujel locates a sign “70.”
“You are driving 40. You have to concentrate.”
Her face, her torso, her poking-out elbows says she’s doing nothing but.
Dhungana-Bhujel hopes someday to have a car and to drive to work. In January, she started weekends as a housekeeper at the Chocolate Lake Best Western. Her husband, an English teacher, works maintenance.
After 10 or 15 hours with Abawajy, Dhungana-Bhujel should be ready for her road test out at her parking-practice haunt.
And after that?
“Sometime, I’ll go shopping,” she says. “I will not wait for the bus.”
Lezlie Lowe is a freelance writer in Halifax. Follow her on Twitter @lezlielowe.