Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Haiti 6 Log

Haiti 6 - Preparation Day - January 4th, 2011

I spent the past few days packing.  This morning, I got up at 4:30 am, loaded the car up, said goodbye, and drove the four hour drive down to Frontier Camp in the wee hours of the morning.  The rest of the day was spent repacking, loading, driving the rest of the distance to Houston, finishing with a major packing party with the whole team that evening.  Aside from our own personal belongings, we brought down food for the camp, medical supplies, school supplies, camp supplies, construction supplies, tools, a canopy, and a bunch of other miscellaneous paraphernalia necessary to running a camp! We ended up with 44 bags (checked and carry-on) and the grand total of 1,500 pounds of luggage!

Having established a buddy-system and assigned luggage, we headed to bed.  2:30 am comes early...  I can't believe that I'll be in Haiti tomorrow.

Haiti 6 - Day One - January 5th, 2011 - Travel Day 1

We woke up at 2:30 this morning, hastily gathered and loaded our luggage into a horse trailer (best available method for getting 44 bags to the airport in a rainstorm), piled into three vehicles, and set off for the airport at 3:30.  Each member of the team had a prepackaged breakfast and lunch to make for easy travel.  Most of us ate our breakfasts during the drive - although none of us were very hungry that early in the morning.  We reached the airport at 4:30 and unloaded all our bags from the horse trailer - I'm sure this made an amusing sight!

Getting 16 people (with 44 bags) through check-in is always an interesting experience :) but we got through at last and disposed of our checked baggage.  Now, burdened only with our carry-ons (which carried almost all of our personal belongings for the entire 10 day period), we made it through security without any issues and settled down to wait for our plane.

View of Haiti from the air
We flew from Houston to Miami, Florida and from Miami to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The flights were smooth and uneventful, and for the most part we were seated together as a team.

Arrival in Port-au-Prince Haiti:

We arrived in Port-au-Prince and disembarked in the airport.  The immigration and customs lines seemed about a mile long, but at length we managed to get through, gather all our luggage, and exit the airport.  We were instantly swarmed by Haitians trying to carry our luggage for us.  We managed to navigate our way out at last and after a short wait in the Haitian sun (it felt so good after winter in the U.S), we met Gersan and Betty Valcin (the Haitian missionaries that we work with at the camp) and drove to their house.  We had kabrit for dinner tonight (that's goat in kreyol) after which we had our first team devo.  We will be doing an in-depth study on the last week of Jesus' life - I'm looking forward to it!  We're heading off to bed early now because we'll have a long day of travel again tomorrow.   

Haiti 6 - Day Two - January 6th, 2011 - Travel Day 2 "Tap-Tap Ride"

I slept so well last night after the little sleep we got yesterday!  A rooster started crowing about 4:30 am and kept it up until the six of us girls sharing the room got up around 6:00.  We were so excited about being in Haiti at last that we didn't really mind.  The plan for today is to get an early start since we are driving all the way from Port-Au-Prince in the south of Haiti to Limbe near the northern coast.  In the past, the teams have generally flown - we'll be the first team to experience the 6 hour trip in a tap-tap!  Hans, our team leader and summer camp director at Frontier Camp, warned us that we'll probably enjoy about the first 3 hours of the trip (the part with the smooth roads)... and then we'll be ready for it to stop.  Still, I'm looking forward to it.

Tap Tap Travel:

The tap-tap is basically a big open flat-bed truck with walls.  There are wooden benches lining the sides, but we spent most of the 6 hour the trip standing up.  In addition to our mountain of luggage piled in the middle of the floor, we were also transporting several large barrels of diesel (some of the diesel splashed out into the floor of the tap tap and the Haitians poured water on it to clean it up - it made for a slick loading of the tap tap and a messy few hours of travel until it dried up).
This is a distant view of a tent-city outside
of Port-Au-Prince. The tent-cities in the
actual city itself were much more crowded. 

It took about 45 minutes to get out of Port-Au-Prince and into the countryside.  We drove past several huge tent cities - results of the earthquake.  Hans said that many of the people living the tent cities still have standing houses, they're just too afraid to go home.  I can't adequately describe the living conditions in the tent cities - rows upon rows of tents piled almost on top of each other, piles of trash rotting in the streets or being burned (this is a common sight throughout all of Haiti), canals of filthy water piled high with trash and children wading through - it is not surprising that cholera has become such a huge issue.  

Haitian countryside - the picture's not
very clear because the road was just
a little bumpy! :)
Well slathered with sunscreen and with nalgene bottles full of clean water, we set out around 10:30 (a little later than we'd intended, but you get used to being flexible in Haiti).  We drove for several hours along the east coast on one of the best roads in Haiti and made fairly decent time.  Everyone laughed and joked and enjoyed the rushing wind and the beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea.  Soon however, we turned away from the coast and began the long part of our trip through the mountains.  The roads quickly deteriorated and became narrow, curving, and filled with pot-holes.  The countryside through the mountains, however, was beautiful and made up for all the jolting!  

It's hard to describe Haitian driving to someone who has not experienced it.  Drivers attempt to avoid pot holes at all costs, even if it means going into the other lane while cars are approaching... Many of the mountain roads take hair pin turns around the mountain sides and horn blaring is necessary here to make sure that there is not a car coming the other way.  Several times we rounded a mountain curve right as a huge truck was coming around the other side and both vehicles had to brake hard and then inch past each other.  We saw only one metal guard rail on our trip.  The rest, where there were any, were made out of bamboo!
Our tap-tap

It was an exciting trip to say the least and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  I think everyone started to get a little tired towards the end - 6 hours is a long time to be standing in the back of a truck bouncing over mountain roads, but it was really neat to see how the team bonded and worked together without complaining!

We arrived at the Jacob's Well campsite after dark and were greeted by the three members of the advance team!  It was so good to see them again!  After unloading and organizing our luggage, we enjoyed our first dinner at the campsite and headed to the cabins to enjoy the brand new bunks that the advance team built for us.  I've never been to the camp before, but from what I've seen in pictures, it looks nothing like it did only a year ago!  I can't wait to see what the camp site looks like in the daylight!  Tomorrow, we'll start work projects.

More to come later...

~ A Servant of the King


Amy K said...

All I can say is, wow! Did anyone's head ever touch the top of the tap-tap because of the bumps?

A Servant of the King said...

Haha, yeah it was exciting! It had an open top, just one bar running down the middle. So no one really hit their heads... a couple people got bruised knees and shins though from losing their balance over rough roads! :)