Haiti Journal Entry: Arriving

Monday, October 31, 2016

Arriving in Port-au-Prince is a little daunting. I always feel that way when I am about to land in country I know very little about, especially when English and/or Spanish are not readily spoken. (Obviously, I don't speak Spanish, but I am better at navigating Spanish speaking countries than I am any other non-English language). So yeah it's a little daunting.

You know those white American girls who have always "dreamed of going to Africa" or who "dream of one day going to Haiti?"  Yeah, I have never been one of those basics. Ironically enough, I lived in South Africa for 10 months and ironically enough, I just landed in Haiti. I got up at 2:45am this morning, so my attitude is not the best and I find myself thinking, "why do I always end up coming to countries that aren't even in my top 10 places?" But here I am, ready or not.

Attitude check. Okay, let's go.

I am here with a group of MCC staff and constituents from all across North America. And I am in charge of herding them, making sure they don't die, or have emotional break downs, etc, etc, or something like that. It's a little unclear. Did I say this is a little daunting?

We're starting to land now. The first thing I notice is the mountains. I forgot about this. The mountains aren't often shown in the skewed media lenses. Everything is lush and green, at least around the edges. This is Port-au-Price after all.

Driving through the city is a different story, a collision of colors and grey cinder blocks, piles of trash waiting to be burned and people heading home from work, weaving down the sidewalks or compacted into the tap-taps. The street vendors are still hard at work, sitting with their goods on sidewalks, trying to sell as much as they can before the sun goes down. I see piles of fruit and a woman who has sandals hanging evenly against the wall, almost as if by magic. Nothing here is new. Like many developing countries, Haiti is one of the United States' dumping grounds.

No matter how many places I travel, I tend to forget how strict we Americans are about our road rules. Even those who do those rolling stops through stop signs. There are a couple sadly attempted stop signs here and are universally and completely ignored. They also aren't in creole.

Initially, it is best that I don't look out the window too closely as a motorcycle stops in between our van and a cement truck just in time. We will quickly learn that rules of the roads here are quite simple; the largest thing wins. Duh. Trucks, then buses, then cars, then motos, then people. Everyone gets it and finds their place in the ecosystem of vehicles, The blans (or white people) will get it eventually.

There still isn't a president here yet, maybe on November 20th. But there are a lot of people trying. Hundreds of posters smile down at us, large billboards, faded signs of the same candidate lining an entire wall.

I am ready to be out of the van by the time we reach the MCC guest house. Today is a Voodoo holiday in Haiti, but right now it is quieter than I thought it would be. It's also hotter than I thought I would be. There is a balcony outside our room and beyond that a tree with the largest leaves I've ever seen. I look down below and meet the eyes of a small black cat that I instantly love. Of course. We watch each other for awhile before a noise behind it breaks the trance.