Haiti Week One
“Welcome to Haiti”
We were driving very fast down a VERY bumpy dirt and rock road. A three lane road had because a five lane road, not because the road widened, but because cars doubled up by preference and apparent urgency. It was dark and pouring rain. Everyone on the road was honking their car horns, warning the next car to get out of the way because they needed to get somewhere now. We were tired and hungry. We had awoken at 4:30 (3:30 Haitian time) and left Bangor. We went from Bangor to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Lauderdale to Port-Au-Prince. We had been stuck inside Port-Au-Prince airport for over 2 hours, waiting for our luggage, which ended up not coming until 4 days later. As we watched out our windows on the way to the house, the scenes we witnessed gave us a constant reminder of why we are here. There is much need in the city.
Leaving Fort Lauderdale, we could see specks of blue out of the window—the many back yard swimming pools. When we were landing in Port-Au-Prince, however, we also saw similar blue specks all throughout the city—the roofs and poorly constructed tents that were peoples’ homes. The earthquake devastated this city, but when you drive down the street and look into the eyes of its people, you know that this devastation existed long before there was ever an earthquake in Haiti.
Port-Au-Prince is not a clean city. Oh, it is beautiful, but it is dirty. Trash and rubble line the streets. Occasionally you will see a dumpster, but there is more garbage on the ground than inside it. There are outdoor markets all along the road—people selling food, shoes, clothes, bags, art. There is not a lot of water that is safe to drink. You can buy pure water, but if you cannot afford it, you risk getting typhoid fever. We cannot even swallow water in the shower without risking getting sick.
It seems that Haitians will do almost anything to get the attention of the government. On our third day in Port-Au-Prince there was a general stike and no cars were allowed on the street. This means that people cannot go to work and many children cannot go to school. All the people here for the building project, who are staying at the mission, could not go out and work today. These are not violent protests, but they can easily become so. If you were to drive in the street against protest, the protesting Haitians will throw rocks at your car until they have created enough damage that you cannot continue. These protest last sometimes two or three days, other times they last merely hour. Once the government acknowledges the strike, it ends.
We went to the airport a couple of times to pick up short-term mission teams. When our mentor, Dan pulled out some cash to exchange for change with another missionary, the beggars encircled him. We tried to make a tight circle to block them out, but they saw the money exchange. “Give me some money!” they started saying. Dan told us that you just have to learn to say “no” a lot. He said that as a missionary, you have to be very cautious and aware of where your money goes, and you can’t give money to all the beggars that follow you around just because you are white. We don’t know who they are, and we need to be wary of where our money is going. We keep finding there is so much to learn here.
We have had opportunities to help a lot here during our stay in Port-Au-Prince. If we have learned one thing while being here, it is that plans are never set in stone. Plans change ALL the time here. It is a good thing that we are such flexible people. We were planning to leave for the island of La Gonave earlier in the week, but weather and such things have set us back, but the stay has been great. Whether we are hanging and folding laundry, going to the job site in Mais Gate, sweeping the floor, washing dishes, or helping cook dinner, we have found ways to help.
We have been here a week, but it is apparent that we are still very fresh and we have much to learn about being missionaries here, and about Haiti in general. We are glad that we have 5 months here—it will give us a longer span of time to really learn the language and the culture. We need that knowledge to be really effective here. Continue to pray for us as we continue to learn and continue to serve the Lord here in Haiti.