Monday Chris wrote about the manifestation in St. Marc that had our delivery truck going down back dirt roads, getting flat tires etc, just so we could deliver filters.
Well, Haiti likes to keep things interesting! I mean, why live boring when you can live with excitement???
Ryan, Olivia and I went into St. Marc this morning to go to the store. One of our new neighbors gave us some beautiful papayas yesterday, but our blender has been broken and we hadn’t replaced it. One of those things where we kept saying, “Hey, we need to get a new blender!” I knew they had the kind we wanted at Deli Mart, and I needed a few other things.
As we were driving through town we got to a spot where a truck was stopped in the road. It looked like he was trying to get around a tight corner and some guys on the road were starting to get animated. I went around and told Ryan that we’d probably take the beach by-pass road on the way home.
We went a few more blocks and came across a truck parked across the road. This is where any missionary in Haiti says, “Um… now what?” We found a side street, went down and continued into town, only to find another truck blocking the main road, except we could cross the street, so we did, then took another parallel street and came out back on the main road. I could see the corner where the grocery store is, and while there were some big rocks across the road, they didn’t block the road off completely and I could drive around them. And, the truck that was parked across the road there wasn’t parked blocking the side street where the store entrance was, so it was all good. We went in, we did our shopping, and when we came back out the truck by the store was gone.
While we were in the store I asked the staff why everything was being blocked up. Earlier that morning a MINUSTAH (UN) vehicle got in an accident with a motorcycle taxi and a child was killed. Having driven in St. Marc for years, I can guess that the motorcycle taxi probably veered in front of the vehicle, and yet it was the UN vehicle’s fault, simply because it was a UN vehicle. The taxi’s in St. Marc are like flies, veering in and out and cutting you off. When you drive you have to be scanning all around the front of your vehicle and your mirrors constantly. And on the section of road where it happened, there is very little shoulder, so people just park on the edge of the street, there are people selling things all on the sides of the road, there are people walking everywhere, and in many cases traffic is reduced to one lane. People complain about traffic in Port Au Prince, but driving through this section of St. Marc is so much worse.
When we left the store I decided to take one of the side streets with the intention of connecting up with a back road that would take us back home. Except, when I got to the road that would connect us with the back road, there was a mob of people blocking it. There was a road right before the mob where cars were still coming in and out of, so I eeked my way in there, wove in and out of side streets and ended up on the main road back out of town. Until I got to the edge of town and came across another road block. At that point I phoned Chris to see if he had any suggestions. I wasn’t sure if I could find a side road that would connect with the new back road Chris had told me about that would bring me out on the other side of that last blockade. I decided to turn around a try. Worst case scenario I would get stuck in town for a few hours.
As I was driving back into St. Marc I saw another car that had been right in front of us in line. I decided to follow him and soon realized he had a motorcycle driver leading him. The motorcycle driver lead us all the way out of town onto the back road Chris had told me about. As we got closer to the main road we came across another blockade. This time it was people throwing logs and branches down on the road. And here I get to explain another cultural thing about Haiti – People like to feel a part of things, even if it doesn’t directly affect them.
I knew that the road I was on connected with another back road somewhere around where I was, but as I asked around people assured me I needed to be on the road I was on, and a couple of men from the community went to talk to those that were blocking the road. In a couple minutes the car in front of me and my vehicle went through, while the others that had lined up waited to see if they’d get through.
We went down the road a couple more minutes and came to a river crossing – as in you drove down through a small river/creek to get on the road again. Not a big deal under normal circumstances. Except this is Haiti and nothing is ever normal here. You see, a truck driver with a trailer and a backhoe on it tried to cross the river, and got stuck. Right across it, blocking most of the traffic going back and forth. I got out and walked down to see if it was possible to go around to the side. I decided it was.
I got back in my car and talked to a couple of the guys on the road. I told them I thought I could get through and one said, “I’ll help you for a bit of money,” as he rubbed his fingers together. I assured him that I was fine and didn’t need any help. I actually assured everyone on the road that I was fine and wouldn’t have a problem getting through. I crept by the truck, got to the river bed, waited for a guy to move a moto on the other side, then Ryan said “Gun it!” and I Dukes of Hazzarded my way across and up the other side. I *may* have said something like, “Everyone here thinks white women don’t know how to drive!” when I came up the other side.
We were soon back on the road, leaving all the manifestations behind.
On our way back we stopped at the new land the mission purchased back in December to relocate to. Yesterday Michelet, Evens and Ryan started working on the road going in. It’s a lot of trimming and filling etc. Today was the first time that I’d driven right down to it and onto the property, which was really fun.
It’s so exciting to see this project starting because it’s something we’ve been working towards for literally two years. It’s going to be along process, but we’re excited that it’s finally happening.
One of the big things we were looking for in a location, was that it was a place where our family could really connect with the community. Our closest neighbor is a few minutes walk away, and her family is the last one out there. The rest of the land around us is all fields and used for agriculture. I haven’t been out there as much as Chris has, but one thing that’s important to us is establishing relationships with our neighbors.
Last week Chris took Olivia out and stopped to see Sylien (our neighbor) for a visit. He was really impressed with her willingness to chat about stuff that most Haitians wouldn’t talk with a foreigner about. It was personal, something that is a rare gift here in relationships.
Yesterday when he went to check on the work he stopped by to say Hi and she gave our family two beautiful papayas. I stopped by with Olivia today to say thank you and had a bit of a visit. I love that she saw us coming and came out to meet us, exchanged cheek kisses, scooped my daughter up into a hug, and then walked us back to the road when we left. And yesterday when the guys started work, there was some discussion, as always, about what needed to be trimmed etc that ended in the family owning the land connecting to ours saying, “We need to help Chris. It’s good for us to have a mission here and foreigners here. We want to help them.” It’s so different from the experience we’ve had at our current location.
As Sylien and I walked back to the main road, Olivia took off running across the field. It made this mama’s heart so happy because we want our kids to be able to run and play in the community. I’m so happy that Liv is already feeling comfortable enough to just run. I know it’s the type of place where everyone will know where our kids are, even if we don’t, and that they’ll keep an eye on them.
So, by noon I’d already had a really full day, but in Haiti, in’s all in a days work!