Monday, January 31, 2011

The beginning

Can I just say that the internet in Haiti is an interesting experience?
First, you have to catch it when the electricity is on, which is only at random times each day.
If you're lucky.
It is also very slow.
So here we go!

The trip to Haiti is convoluted and full of opportunities for error. I spent Friday on planes and in airports. My life that day seemed to run in three-hour increments. It started with an early rising, 4am, and meeting my fellow traveler, Ashlin, at PDX. The first leg, to Chicago, I was squished between an elderly couple. His wife spent some time running through the litany of dear husband's ailments and surgeries. I can't recall all of them, but there were four hip replacements, five hernias, cancer, Coumadin and Crestor and so many others that I was surprised he was still kicking. I almost forgave him for the coffee breath he wafted in my face every time he turned to look out the window.

The flight from Chicago to Long Island was delayed. When we finally boarded, I sank into the front window seat with relief. Handsome young thing in the aisle seat and I exchanged triumphant sidelong glances as the last passenger boarded without usurping our middle seat. Too soon, it turned out. A chic young lady dashed on at the last minute and asked, Is it okay if I sit there? Our sidelong glance was disappointed. CYT proceeded to fall asleep on my shoulder. When she awoke, very embarrassed, she confessed that she had imbibed a couple of beers while waiting for the flight. She then plugged in her iPod and sang out loud for the rest of the flight.
Which was kind of like sitting next to myself.
Only more annoying.

The rest of the trip to Fort Lauderdale was fairly uneventful. We found a nice Haitian porter to load up our six humongous bags and bins and caught the shuttle to our hotel. Our driver was also Haitian. Apparently, there is no lack of Haitians in Florida. We did our fair share in supporting Haiti's economy right there in FL. Tips rule! Lisa was waiting for us at the hotel. By the time we arrived it was 11pm and we had to be up again at 3am.
Good times.

After about one hour of sleep (note to Lisa: I do not snore. You heard yourself, ina dream!) and a nice hot shower, we went back to the airport with our (now) seven humongous bags and bins and various carry-ons and accoutrements. Check-in was very unique. No security on this one. Baggage overages cost around $500. MamaBabyHaiti sent lots of supplies with us, as it is the most efficient way of getting them there.

So, here we are.
Me, looking decidedly worse for wear.
And feeling it, let me tell you.
Lisa, my intrepid world traveler friend. 
Ashlin, a young thing with a big vision. 
And the mighty propeller, of which there were two. And I'm happy to report that they kept spinning all the way to Haiti! 
The airport at Cap Haitien is not a place that I would recommend arriving alone, or without people to meet you. The porters are crazily aggressive and demand their five pounds of flesh. Our people shepherded us to the waiting car and we got out of there without too much damage. Driving through the city was an adventure in itself. Roads are full of potholes, often just mud and rocks. People just hang out on the sides of the roads, watching as you drive past. Motorbikes, spewing fumes, and taptaps, the ubiquitous pickups crammed full of people, are the main sources of transportation.
I cannot say that Haiti is a joyful place. The glances that followed us were not friendly or even curious. I sense a lack of purpose, of any kind of thought for what happens beyond this moment in time. Cap Haitien itself is dirty and smelly and I can't imagine living in such a place. It is the second largest city in Haiti, but does not look very big from the air. There are no street signs and every road looks the same, differing only in the degradation of the surface.

We are in the village of Morne Rouge, which is green and tropical and has a certain beauty, if you can get past the cement and trash and the knowledge of the poverty and lack of enlightenment that hides behind every wall. The problems on this island are so immense and so ingrained into the psyche of its people that it boggles the mind. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about Haiti. Knowing the history does lend some measure of understanding of the Haitians' plight, but it does not offer an easy solution.

I need to go to bed. Hopefully, tomorrow we will have electricity again and I can introduce you to the amazingly wonderful people who are manning this birth centre. Till then, nighty night, and say a "thank you" tonight for your clean water and your 24-hour-a-day electricity and all of the other trappings of civilization.


  1. Glad you arrived safely! Can't wait to hear about the rest of your adventures. :)

  2. She fell asleep on your shoulder!? Wow. But I had to laugh at her then singing along with her ipod. What a trip! Sad what you say about their lack of purpose and difficult living conditions. Hopefully having people coming in demonstrating some hope and ambition will ignite a few sparks that will spread.

  3. Note to Lisa: yes she does, I've heard her.

  4. This post made me laugh out loud (in places) ... you should be a travelblogger and no mistake. And I think you look wonderful, and just as intrepid and just as much a visionary as the others. Maybe more so.

    Where there is no vision, the people perish!

    Haiti sounds and looks incomprehensibly sad. I cannot wrap my mind around it but i will try. I do count my blessings each day, of being born and living my entire life in the greatest country on the face of the earth, and for the great privilege of knowing the truth about life.

    Thank you for all you're doing that I could not possibly do because I would be too afraid. May God bless you and bring you home safely, my friend!

  5. This REALLY is interesting. Thank you for posting!

  6. I am still in total awe of you. I was scared to death when Max and I were in some parts of Mexico on our honeymoon and it looked nothing like these pictures. You are doing a great thing here and I am sure it will change you in so many ways. Keep safe and keep us posted as often as you can. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

  7. I'm still tired from your flight to FL and only 1 hour of (non-snoring) sleep before Haiti! What "group" met you in Haiti that thankfully was there? Thanks for the post and the pics... and for being there... God bless and keep you safe!

  8. Wow Sue! Adventures before you even hit the Island! The prayers are still coming!

  9. Believe me when I say I was born in the right century. Wade would have fit the trek of 1847 without a problem. Women tend to adore electricity, running clean water, washers, dryers, stoves, etc. Pioneering is NOT the life for me! Glad you arrived safely, hope your return is uneventful. I sat next to a couple as you described on my way from Denver to SLC once, I was glad the flight was less than 2 hours!! Stay Safe!!!