Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Haiti 2012 - Getting there is more than just traveling

Traveling is almost always tiring. In the case of going to the remote mountains of Haiti, it can be an ordeal. God saw fit to grease the skids for us this time down...meaning all flights were on time as hoped. Tuesday started at 3:30 am to prepare for the trip to the Miami airport...the 2 hour flight to Port-au-Prince was uneventful and allowed a bit of napping. When Haiti came into view, our eyes were fixed out the window taking in all we could with that single sense of sight: The bare mountains, tan, dry earth, the beautiful blue water with the occasional small home-made sail boats used by the fisherman, and the increasing amount of white stuff floating in the water (presumably trash).
I expected to see widespread devastation as a result of the earthquake, but other than the increase of blue roofing and occasional tarps, it looked just as I had left it three years ago... Lots of tin roofs and half-built houses. We were surprised to get to use a gangway to enter the airport...a luxury I had never experienced in Haiti...but evidence of the earthquake soon became evident as many parts of the airport are under reconstruction.
Other than a 2 mile drive to the other end of the airport, we elected not to stick around in Port-au-Prince...having heard of recent unrest where the people are most desparate. The other senses started kicking in... The smells of diesel, the feel of heat and humidity as the temperature neared 90 degrees, the sounds of men speaking Creole fast and ardently... Chickens and pigs roaming... It is definitely a different world here.
The other sense to get in on the action in the sense of Time. Waiting is a constant reality. Wait in line. Wait for the flight. Wait to land. Wait for them to get our bags. Wait for the NEXT flight to arrive so hopefully your bags will arrive (and they did!).
The main roads are still in good shape (thank God!), but we still had a couple hours of driving on the REALLY bad road into the mountains. Surprisingly, the state has projects going to put concrete on some spots most prone to wash-outs, but all in all, I would say the road is worse than before (or at least as bad). The legs and rear-end were quite happy to disembark from the truck.
Our sense of taste finally got in on the action as we sat down to a dinner of beans and rice, fish, carrots, beets, peas, and bread. A feast fit for any Haitian Kind... but simple by our normal standards. (In our first 24 hours, we have already eaten more meat than the average Haitian eats in a month.) However, the food was delicious and the portions plentiful, so we quickly recuperated from our travels and settled in to learn more about the folks with whom we would spend the next week. Fr. Fanuel is a gracious host, trying his best to anticipate our every need. Baba is our interpreter. Max is the Jack of all trades who is here to help us make some progress on our projects.
Early to bed... To be awakened by the church bells at 6:15... That is...if we were actually sleeping through all of the roosters that started in at 4 am. I know by the end of the week we will be able to sleep through it as well as we sleep through a Homily at home. ;)
Today (Wednesday) we learned more about the political intricacies involved in making things happen in Haiti. Two years ago, there was running water in town. We found out that the water is not working. Great, we thought... We can fix that! However, there are multiple people and organizations involved, and Fr. Fanuel advised that we not touch that system this time. We came prepared to work on electrical systems, but priorities seem to have changed... So, we will be discussing this evening what CAN we do?!
It would be easy to allow the sense of frustration and hopelessness to overtake us when we hit roadblocks preventing us from accomplishing things. But then we spent an hour playing ball with the kids in the street and our sense of humanity and desire to help came back. The Lord tells us we must give preferential treatment to the needy. We NEED to help in order to bring about the Kingdom of God. Our sense of purpose prevails.
Now all of our senses are involved. I guess that means we are finally "there".

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