Haiti Day 1 and 2: Rachel’s Version

The last two days we have pulled ourselves out of bed at 3am to continue the journey to Haiti. No delays with flights and we arrived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic around 3:30 Monday afternoon. Pastor Lopez met us at the airport and drove us back to his home in the city. We were so happy to get rid of carrying the 12 huge hockey bags we were toting full of medical supplies. It was such a blessing to not have to pay all the extra money to take the supplies on the plane. It was going to be as much as another plane ticket! Upon arrival at Pastor Lopez’s house, most of us fell asleep on the couch and woke up to a delicious meal. The hospitality is unreal.

Early in the morning we awoke (2:45ish) to get ready to get on the road to Haiti and to our surprise there was breakfast on the table. We received word from Nathan that the earliest UN flight available was not until Tuesday morning and we would not be able to bring our supplies on that flight. So, we decided to take the bus. But that didn’t pan out either. So Pastor hired a fellow to drive us all the way to Haiti. Carlos spoke both Spanish and French (not Creole) and drove us for the 5 hours. I could understand him pretty well. He told me he was proud that he can get there in 5 hours when the bus takes 9 hours. Nathan took the bus. We waited at a Total gas station and slept until Nathan and Daniel picked us up to take us into Port au Prince. Driving into Haiti was interesting. The border was complete chaos. People were everywhere! Motorcycles flying by with too many people on them. Cabs (called Tap Taps here) going way to fast with too many people on board. We realized that using your horn here is not asking for permission, it’s telling other drivers that you are coming and to go faster or get out of the way. It was difficult to tell at the border what was for sale and what was aid. There were people in boats rowing food back to somewhere…hungry bellies I’m guessing. Living on a border-town in Sarnia, I’m so used to customs. However, we just drove right on through, I can completely understand how those people could traffic children easily. There were two gates we passed through and it seemed like there were just average people holding the doors open. There were not many armed or uniformed men patrolling.

Driving into Haiti we noticed a large UN compound present at the top of the hill. We continued on to the gas station without problem, just a few stares

It was so nice to give Nate a huge hug and he helped us load all our luggage onto Pastor Martinez’s Land Rover. The streets here are worse than Swaziland. It’s a wonder these vehicles survive! A fellow here told us there are not a lot of North American made trucks because they simply don’t last. I can understand why. There are more potholes and road bumps than actual road it seems. We traveled through Port au Prince. At first it was difficult to see the devastation until you got into the core of the city. But as you continued on, it was more and more obvious, more CNN style stuff.

It’s hard to truly express and I’m sure a lot of you have seen it on TV, but it’s different in person.

I don’t really have words just yet.

We got to meet the rest of the people living here. It’s kind of a mish-mash of everyone and anyone willing to help out. Nurses mostly, which makes me smile. We ate lunch together (peanut butter sandwiches) and then the 4 of us (Andrew, Connie, Perry and myself, crashed hard for a quick nap).

Nathan and Chris were on their way out the door to collect the Shelter Boxes Nathan has been blogging about. We unloaded 18 large tents with supplies included which is awesome! We are going to be setting one (or two) up today. I can’t imagine how you would decide who gets one and who doesn’t. I’m glad it’s not me making those kind of decisions.

After that, Nathan and I walked to the Canadian Embassy (don’t worry Mom, it’s just around the corner) and I’m glad I went because Nathan doesn’t speak ANY languages. Most everyone here (even NGO or UN/Aid workers are primarily French or Creole) and I’m lucky that my comprehension is much better than my conversation. We quickly met two children, ages 11 and 13 who spoke broken English and we started chatting.

The first thing he says to me is “my father died, in the earthquake.”

I’m speechless. Then he chatters on, asking me all sorts of questions: who am I, where did I come from, how old am I, what do I do for a living? We converse in “franglais” until we get to the Embassy. Nathan is trying to figure out how to get home. I ask the guard there if there is any information and he tells us to come back in the morning. I guess Nathan could survive without me as long as he had his phone and his app to translate from English to French. So our escorts wait for us and we chat all the way back. They are very nice young boys. I ask them where they live and they point down the road, I’m guessing the tent city, but I’m not certain.

It’s hot outside and we come in Pastor’s house to cool down.

Pretty soon, we get word that there is a family that needs a shelter. The mom has just had a baby and there is a bit of confusion as to when and where, but we know it’s recent and guessing she was discharged from the hospital today, the baby is 1-2 days old. Pastor comes upstairs to ask us if we can go set up one of the Shelter box tents for them in his backyard. So outside we go in the dusk (6pm) and start setting up this large tent. The family moved right in.

After reading about healthy breastfeeding and mother/baby issues this week for my classes I am wondering about how this new mother is managing. My heart goes out to her and the family. I want to help and then realize that we kind of just did? But it doesn’t seem enough. Dinner is rice and beans. Pretty delicious. And for dessert, mango! Super delicious. The boys sat with Pastor to ask him about priorities. He looks worn out. After dinner it’s dark and the day is mostly over. We email, read, chat and go off to bed one by one. I am early to bed because I’m still sleepy from travel. I shove in my ear plugs and get ready for barking dogs and crowing roosters to sing me to sleep.

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2 thoughts on “Haiti Day 1 and 2: Rachel’s Version”

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