The experience of just landing in Port Au Prince (PAP) WOW!
They have no baggage claim..they take your luggage throw it in a small dark room….so while going through immigration and customs…you have to crawl through bags and red shirts.
Red shirts are men who want to carry or handle your baggage…they are all over the place..and they intrude your bubble of space. They don’t take no for an answer so you have to be rude and aggressive to take your own bag…cause if they touch it at all you have to pay them 2$. Trying to handle a group of 18 is kind of rough. Customs was a joke. They have one of those baggage guys take your form( I don’t even know if they can read) and he lets you go. So if you can get through USA security …..basically you can smuggle anything in. I guess that are not real worried about anyone smuggling anything into Haiti. :)
I lied on my form. I felt guilty about that. But I was told to do that. I had antibiotics and tuna fish. Confession time.
Then we got into the truck that didn’t seem so bad at first. By the end of the trip I called it the “Cattle Truck”.
All of the teammates on the trip are downloading their photos to one site so we can all share…..so here is the link:
There is over 3000 photos and they are not all loaded there will probably be more then ten thousand once everyone loads them. But here is the truck that I spent many of hours in.First of all there are no traffic laws. No speed limits. There is no organized lanes..even when it looks like there is. There can be a two lane road..but 5 cars across. Also motorized vehicles have the right of way so if a pedestrian gets run over by a car it was the pedestrians fault. I could never drive there. You have to be aggressive and crazy.
Driving through the city it’s crazy, smelly and over populated to say the least. Garbage every where. It was not unlike my last mission area. They would flip us off, throw fists and cuss if they saw a camera. They don’t like their pictures taken. A few reasons. Voodoo..they think it is some evil voodoo type of action. The other reason is because they have been exploited by people that come in with cameras. So we were told if we wanted to take photos in the in city we had to hold it up real quick and take it without them seeing.
The first night we arrived we rested. Then we packed up and left for the village. The village was on the northern tip of the island. if we swam across the ocean we would have been in Cuba. Just so you have an idea of how far we travelled. 8 hours in the back of the cattle truck…no shocks. breathing in the smells, dust and grime of Haiti. along with sweating in the scorching heat. we arrived in Berget ( sp?) and we were told that they had set up toilets for us and showers. The shower was a bucket of water with a tin cup we could use to clean ourselves. We were also told that we needed to use it conservatively because a little girl had to walk a mile to get that water for us. She was happy to do it but we didn’t want to cause more work.
The toilets were actually real toilets. But of course no plumbing so we were given another bucket with a cup in it to use it to flush. No problem. We all brought our own toilet paper. Perfect. However…us gals had kept having to clean the toilet everytime we went in the bathroom. There would be feces and urine all over the seat? And no flushing. So us American gals knew it wasn’t eachother. We just didn’t know what was going on and then we discovered why. While in the city we went to an American type food court. One of our team walked into the bathroom. The local gals just walk in the stall, they keep the door wide open, hover over the seat and do their business…shake their fanny over the pot ( instead of using TP) and pull down their skirts. Mystery solved as to the smells and why the seats are always dirty…and why they didn’t ever use our TP.
Getting back to the stark reality of the village.
B the time we had arrived there I had a thick layer of filth on me. sweating all day hopping around in the back of the truck. when I say filth I mean filth…and we couldn’t actually take a shower yet. In fact I didn’t get to take a shower for 3 days. Yeah 3 days. I am shocked I didn’t have a nest of something yucky in my hair.
I was not feeling well. I was struggling with eating and drinking. the food was actually good. But I just couldn’t bring myself to eat. which I think upset our host. She kept asking what I wanted to eat and she would accommodate me. It had nothing to do with her cooking but my body was not cooperating. That night laying on my cot I was struggling with keeping it all in. I started puking bile. I was to scared to walk to the bathroom..so I tried swallowing it as bad as that sounds..then it just kept coming up. So I sat in the doorway of our room and spit it out. Fear has a way of making you do things you wouldn’t normally consider.
I decided to go without mosquito net cause I just couldn’t breathe..adn if I had to get up again I didn’t want any restrictions. Well during the night Susan one of my team mates. turned on her light and starting brushing her net. Something had fallen on her head…so she was trying to brush it away. Then I heard a thud. She had hit something with her water bottle. I was afraid to ask what it was..I was thinking it was a rat….cause we could hear all sorts of creatures all around us..and there were plenty of rats, lizards and bats. So I finally asked she told me…she thought she had killed it…I immediately put my net back over my bed…good grief! I was so thankful it hadn’t fallen on me….I didn’t risk that again. The next morning we found out it was not dead. IN fact it had crawled back up the wall it was about 6-8 inches…tons of legs and a really thick worm like body…creepers! The guys killed it for us.
SO that was our first night in the village.