Where do I even start
Okay, things I have learned in Haiti thus far:
- 200 Haitian children have more energy than 5 white guys from Canada, a lot more.
- If you are having a nightmare that constitutes you being a state of perpetual sweat chances are you might not be having a nightmare, you’re just spending the day in Haiti.
- When concerning yourself with the Haitian electrical system one thing is of utmost importance, Come to terms with the fact that there are quite literally no minimum standards.
- Bug spray and deodorant are your friends.
- Tap the side of the toilet before taking care of your business… you never know what critters may crawl out. Thankfully that is a lesson I did not have to learn the hard way.
- When in a car: Buckle the heck up.
- Pedestrians not only don't have the right of way ever. They have no rights period. Apparently if a driver hits a pedestrian a lot of times he will just keep going.
Alright here is the low down on today. I had the opportunity to go into Port-au-Prince (PAP from here on out) with a man who works with Haiti Arise named Pipy (pronounced Paw-pee) to get electrical and construction supplies. I would be lying if I said I was not slightly nervous about driving into a town that I am nowhere close to familiar with; accompanied by a person that I do not know in the slightest who speaks fairly basic English. Let your faith be bigger than your fear. The other part of me was ecstatic to venture into the unknown and the mystery that Haiti holds. One of my teammates asked me last night if I was actually going, Im doing it! I exclaimed, consumed with curiosity to explore that world that awaited. Pipy and I embarked on our journey early in the morning. God be with us.
About that ride in It was relatively uneventful aside from. Okay just a quick aside: Mom and Dad if you're reading this now wouldn’t be a terrible time to stop reading and know that today had a happy ending. Back to the story: It was relatively uneventful aside from the above average speed we were travelling, the pedestrians that dodged our car merely moments before we would have hit them, and a few very close calls with oncoming traffic. Pipy told me that today was market day and that was soon very evident as we spent a lot of our time in (creole for traffic jam). We finally made it to the electrical wholesaler and I was impressed to say the least as It was equivalent to wholesalers back home. I tried relaying to Pipy what we required, he has done electrical work so he was fairly familiar with a lot of the material we needed which was a huge blessing. I was slightly concerned things wouldn’t be correct as sometimes in Canada its hard enough to get everything right when your speaking English, throw in a language barrier and things can get really bad really fast. My concern was alleviated when I looked at the computer monitor and all the part names were in English. PTL! They had almost everything we needed and some things we didn’t such as two guards with shotguns sitting at the front door. There were still a few things we had to pick up so Pipy told me would visit another store. Little did I know God still had a lot of adventure in store for us.
We started the next leg of our journey and encountered more….. can you guess what we encountered?....... More Blockis! What seemed like hours passed, Pipy and I talked … well tried too.. several of our conversations ended with us looking at each other and bursting out laughing because we knew we were losing each other within our lack of ability to speak each others languages. My creole is only as advanced as the phrase “mwen pa pale creole” which essentially translates to “I don’t speak creole”. Mad skills. I had told Pipy on the way to PAP that I needed four plain t-shirts as well for a group activity. He decided we should attempt to acquire those next.
Next thing I knew I was walking down an alley that was no more than six feet wide and lined with small shacks full of clothing on either side literally as far as I could see. I thought to myself “If I am going to get mugged, its definitely going to happen here”. We talked to a few vendors and one had three shirts but couldn’t find a fourth. Most shirts there were riddled with graphic logos, I needed something much more plain. I asked him how much for the three and, through Pipy, the storeowner told me 2000 goud which is roughly $33 USD. I told the salesperson I needed him to find me a fourth shirt that was plan like the other three. Pipy and the storeowner talked more and Pipy told me the storeowner came down to 1750 goud. I told Pipy I didn’t really care about negotiating on the price for the shirts I simply needed a fourth shirt (I used a lot simpler terms but I think the message got across). I ended up taking the three shirts for 1750 and finding a different vendor who had a plain shirt. Ask and you shall receive. We got out of the cramped little alleyway and continued our journey. There was a point where we drove around a block a few times, I looked at Pipy as I noticed he seemed confused. He looked at me and grinned while saying we are lost. I just laughed knowing we would find our way. Even though I walk through the valley of shadow and death I will not be afraid for God is by my side.
Eventually we got to the Canex construction building that is essentially home depot. I saw another white person there, woot. We acquired the rest of our supplies, mission accomplished. As we left Pipy asked me if I would like to see downtown PAP, I hesitated wondering how sketchy it would be but decided I had come this far, I wanted to see every aspect of Haiti that I could. Dive headfirst into the adventure that is the unknown. On our way we almost got into another accident and I had noticed Pipy kept saying Haitian every time we had a near miss. I asked what meant and he told me it means. A little while later someone ran out in front of our vehicle and I exclaimed Papy burst out laughing. Its cool how despite us hardly being able to communicate humour comes across so clear. We came over a hill and the ocean appeared on the horizon. Downtown was just ahead with a coagulating group of pedestrians filling the street. It was slow moving but eventually we made it through the crowd. The area reminded me of the slums in Nairobi. Seas of garbage lined the roads and rotting food served as the primary scent that clung to the air. My stomach turned and I felt sick watching people sit on buckets outside of tiny shacks surrounded by garbage. People took care of business in the streets and stared at us as we drove by.
We finally got out of downtown and grabbed lunch. I managed to find vanilla coke which cost 25 goud (roughly 42 cents American). God provides in some very delicious ways. I spent a lot of time paying attention to our surroundings on the drive back. The remains of a gas tanker that had exploded laid on the side of the road and Pipy told me it could be months before the wreckage was cleaned up. At some points on the trip back the ocean was literally a stones throw away, the beach was littered with metal shacks. I wanted to make a comment about how awesome it would be to have beach front property but I kept my mouth shut assaying something like that wouldn’t sit well on my conscience. I asked Pipy what it would cost to have a place on the beach and he told me it was not much. I tried explaining that land value went up in Canada based on its location especially where waterfront property is involved. He looked at me confused. It really made me think about what I see as valuable in life and why. I have started putting some serious thought into reevaluating how I spend my time and resources.
I got back just as our team was starting VBS. I feel like I’m dragging this out so Ill sum this up pretty quick. Playing tag and wrestling with a couple hundred Haitian kids (not all at once) in 30+ C weather is exhausting. Nuff said.