Haiti 2012 - Day 1
DAY 1: Well my first day was long, hot and exhausting. The day started early at 6 EST to shower, have breakfast and catch the shuttle to the airport. There were the expected issues checking in with three huge heavy bags plus my carry-on etc. but it all worked out. The flight to Haiti was quick, under two hours and the plane was very nice. It was filled with American and Canadian volunteers, mostly Christian ministry groups and two large groups of senior in high school looking kids with their pastors. After traveling through Port-au-Prince I would never send my children here at that age in a group like that. We got off the plane and you immediately get on a bus and it is packed and hot and humid. The airport is still destroyed so you have to take the bus to the baggage claim area. You get off the bus and there were four men playing Haitian music and you almost felt like you were on vacation. Then you passed customs and the madness begins. There are CRAZY pushy men trying grab your luggage so you will pay them. You pay the guy who checks your claim tickets, then you pay the guy who grabbed them from him and put them on your cart. Then he hands the cart to his friend and says he take it out for you, you pay him. You get through the door and 30 more guys start grabbing at your luggage. You're using your elbows saying no very forcefully over and over - then we saw him. Our man with the Midwives for Haiti sign. He can up and literally started yelling and shoving the men away from us. He completely took charge which was awesome but then suddenly he let go off my cart and I ran after the guy yelling no and grabbed my cart but then our guy said its ok he's with us too! We all laughed and the two women I had sat next to on the plane walked by and said "look girl, you learn fast, good job!" We found our way to the big pink jeep and meet our driver Ronnell and his assistant. They got us all loaded up and I felt safer in the jeep. we got stuck in the jeep for about 30 minutes because a car blocked us in and the driver could not be found. Finally we were on our way.
Port au Prince was so intense. Broken buildings, broken homes, with an 85% unemployment rate the men seem to just sit around. The women are working walking with baskets of food and water stacked on their heads. wild dogs everywhere. concrete slabs and rubble and trash everywhere. some groups of men just slowly shoveling chunks of former homes. Children younger that Skye wearing fancy old dresses carrying huge water bottles on their heads walking along the very busy roads with no rules and no lanes. Our driver Ronnell is so amazing. I hardly have words to describe the way in which these people are living. The tent cities are still up after 2 years there has not been enough structural change to get people out of those tents. You could look down tore up roads and see small children running in the street. The driving down here is out of control - buses pilled with goods and people 50 high, family of 7 on a motorcycle, cars old and some new.
Once we were out of port au prince we begin our climb into the mountains. There were broken down cars and buses, people getting stranded. One bus was filled with probably 75 women and children and they had to walk miles in the mountains with cars swerving by for a few miles. It was hard to watch. As began to get into rural Haiti it felt less intense. The poverty was equal to port au prince but the people did not seen so angry. There were so many random animals; oxen, horse, donkey, roosters, goats, dogs just walking down the middle road.
A little further down the rode we saw the huge hydroelectric power dam the Tracey Kidder talk about so much in Mountains Beyond Mountains. It was beautiful to see but also to understand all the destruction it caused. Over three hours of driving and narrowly escaping a deadly mountainside accident we finally made to Hinche. The town is beautiful in its own way. We were greeted by Nadene the executive director and Jeff the chief medical officer who are both here. They have a very busy week planned for us. We got settled in the house and tried release the green hue from our faces. Slowly the color returned and they took us to a hill top out behind the house to see the view of all of Hinche at Sunset. It was beautiful.
The house is clean and the food is fine. There is so much to do here every day that I think the week will go by really fast but I am already aching for my girls. I think I might be able to skye you with this computer. I'll let you know and maybe we can set that up. I can check email on the house computer and use their wifi.
I think I had read the books and watched the shows and had been to Mexico or worked in rough parts of town but there is nothing that could have prepared me for what I witnessed here in Haiti. It is so broken and poor and violent in ways we cannot comprehend. I wonder what local people think about our presence her. I wonder what their solutions to their problems might be. I wonder if people stop to ask. Many times, when you travel to foreign lands there always some sections of American influence or around and you can find Americans just about anywhere - but not in Haiti. You drive for hours through countless communities and you will not see a single white person. I wonder what our presence means to them. I'm sure some good and some not good... probably both right on some level.