We began traveling on Wednesday. Two plane rides and several hundred miles later we landed in Florida and stayed the night at a wonderful little abode. Jesse was so tired she giggled non-stop, in a half dopey state when I freaked out because she would rub her feet on my leg in bed. It was just weird. Then to freak me out more she tried to cuddle. We ended up playing monopoly cards until almost one and then getting up at 4 to get to the airport. After a greasy breakfast of McDonalds we boarded the plane. It was a simple two hour trip to Port Au Prince but it allowed for much reflection (and a short nap.) As we took off I looked down as the houses and streets turned into monopoly sized pieces before disappearing below clouds and felt my own worries shrink as well.
We landed in a hot and sweaty airport similar to that in Fiji. After breaking the language barrier through hand gestures enough to get our passports stamped and grabbing our bags we headed outside hoping to see a man donning a similar powder baby blue shirt. Indeed we did. Brian was waiting there for us with a truck big enough for 3 people inside. Haha, a few, including myself did get in the cab and the rest piled in the back where plywood had been built up to make walls. It was held together by a piece of rope. Children swarmed the vehicle and asked us for ‘agua agua.’ They do not speak Spanish, and neither do we, but they thought we did. It was hard to turn them away when I wanted so badly to give them my extra container of water but we had to be firm.
We had to make several stops on the way from Port to Gonaives. The sun blazed down on those in the back but caused all of us to sweat. We saw the tent cities dotting the streets and Brian stopped at one. It was one of our first interactions with the people of Haiti. We piled out of the truck and stood watching the people. They were scared at first, I think. The children would wave from a distance and then hide quickly. Curiosity eventually overtook their fear however and they swarmed the truck. We did not even know how to say ‘we don’t speak Creole’ so they chatted on to us and asked us questions that we just had to shrug our shoulders too. Their water supply was a supersized water bladder covered by a large tarp. They would bring buckets to the pump to fill up and then walk back home with them on their heads. I wondered if the tents did not offer more protection than what they were use to. Light and airy they would let in a breeze yet keep the water off of them. I am still un-resolved with that.
We stopped for lunch at a little western union and had cheeseburgers with sweet ketchup. That international ketchup is killer. Remind me if I am ever a full-time missionary, to bring my own ketchup okay? 4 hours switching between the cap of the truck and the back, we finally made it home. Emery (the full-time missionary and leader here) rents a house here. It is a nice three story building with several rooms just filled with bunk beds for short term missionaries who need a place to stay. As I am writing this he is currently making more bunk beds as they have a large team coming in June that he currently cannot house. We were hot, sweaty, tired and dirty from the trip up so after putting our stuff down most of us crashed on the couches in front of the fans for a few hours.
Later that night Brian took us to show us the town. I thought to myself ‘we just drove through the town’ but I was wrong. We drove through one part of Gonaives but not the part Emery and his team minister too. They drive to the south end of town, to Jubilee. When the truck hit that road right after the large crucifix of Jesus, children started gathering. They would see us and run behind the truck yelling ‘white’ in Creole. The moment our feet hit the rocks they surrounded us excited to see us. Looking around the devastation was horrific. The houses are mud huts about 10×10 held up by sticks with roofs of tin or whatever else they can find to keep the rain out. The children are mostly naked some with a scrap or two of clothing. Almost all have herniated bellybuttons which can cause some serious problems and even lead to death. But the biggest issue was the weight. Their eyes and hands grabbed my heart and attention immediately. They begged for water, or food or money. It broke my heart that I could not give them anything. I cannot be a part of a cycle that breeds welfare handouts, even to the most needy. They cannot think that every time a white man comes that they will get something or they should expect something. Emery’s rules but good ones to follow.
Two hours later we were covered in dirt head to toe. The kid’s sticky, sweaty, dirty hands had touched every piece of exposed skin and hair. They had fawned over us like prized possession and would fight over whose turn it was to hold our hands. The rain began to fall and again we loaded up in the truck to head home. Spaghetti never tasted so good. The showers are dirty enough that you have to wear shoes in them and rewash if you touch the walls but I have never felt so clean. We went to bed at about 7 pm listening to the pitter pat of rain drops and thoughts of what tomorrow would hold.