Haiti-Day One (a journal entry)
Well, I just saw my very first cockroach scuttle across the concrete floor of my bedroom from underneath my baggage…I must be far from home. We arrived in Cap Haitien this afternoon. The flight over the ocean in the puddle-jumper was beautiful; smooth and sunny, I was able to catch-up on some much-needed rest. Even as we were landing I started to see a whole different world; cows and dogs walking along the air strip, people hanging around inside the fencing, garbage piled up along the wall. Our baggage was delayed and eventually got to us on a cargo plane. Everyone told us to be flexible. It’s probably one of the words that was mentioned the most in preparing for our trip…’be flexible’. I’m starting to understand why. As soon as were out of the airport (and it’s a stretch to call it that) we walked out of the door into a cage surrounded by people wanting to sell things, children asking for money and water, men hoping to make a buck by carrying your luggage. Chickens scampered around and women carried big bins carefully balanced on their heads. The heat hits hard and the air is thick with humidity and the smell of Haiti.
Our trek through Cap Haitien was even more eye-opening and in looking back, the commotion at the airport seemed calm and orderly compared to the rest of the city. My world couldn’t have been more turned upside-down. I felt as though I saw every one of the one million people living in Cap and they all had something to sell, or buy, or move. The streets were filled with all sorts of commotion; venders lined the sidewalks selling the most random assortment of goods, every other table had piles of sugarcane with women sitting behind it on the worlds smallest chair chopping some more, cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles all had their own rhythm for maneuvering around the city without hitting people, each other or the crater-sized potholes, goats nibbled atop piles of smoldering garbage street-side, gas stations were watched by armed guards, and every once-in-awhile a UN truck or tank plows through traffic. Yes, this is indeed a different world.
After we survived our bumpy hour-long ride we got to our oasis-of-a-house in Haut Limbe. We settled ourselves and then went for a hike up the mountain to see a reservoir that was built to bring water to the entire community. What a view. This place in infinitely more beautiful than what I had thought it would be. I hate to say it, but I was expecting dirt hills with the occasional dried-up shrub. Further down the hill some little kids were singing at the top of their lungs while carrying a pole. The froze as soon as they spotted white folks. All-of-a-sudden they started yelling out “BONSWA” and waiving their hands over their heads to get our attention. All little ways up some boys sang out while running some goats down a path until they spotted us. I definitely feel like a spectacle; Caucasian, female, blonde, blue eyes. Everyone stops what they are doing to look at us. Some shout out “BLANC!”
As we settle-in for the night my mind is racing. What kind of crazy world have I been dropped into?