Friday the 13th

I’m not a superstitious person at all and don’t plan on starting any time soon.  I do like to make fun of superstitions.  Is that bad?  I wanted to share one time on our trip where things got a little heated.  That will be the closest to a Friday the 13th story you will get.

We were headed back from our work site in Bono for the day on Saturday.  One of the guys was asking our security if we could stop in the market and get some bananas for the trip back.  That started the whole conversation of what a banana was.  In Haiti they call bananas figs and they call plantains bananas.  We finally made it through that confusion and our security guy told him no, not on Saturday.  We had to drive through the market and across a river to get to the work site.  The market had been big, but not overwhelming every other day.  However, Saturday this place was packed.  We had a driver that we had not had before and he seemed a little unsure of himself.  Back to the journey to the mission.

Our driver stopped and let someone out of the front and off he went into the jungle.  He turned to us and said “bano” which from my limited Kreole means bathroom.  The guy is in the jungle and our driver puts it in reverse and goes about 50 yards in reverse down the road.  Then we turn into a side road.  The guy comes out of the jungle and can’t find us.  Our driver pulls out picks him up and puts it back into reverse.  Apparently he had missed a turn.  I’m not sure how they find anything in Haiti.  There are no street signs or house numbers.

We are back on track and getting ready to go over the river into the market.  People had set up along the path we normally take so we are going to have to drive the length of the river to get back on the road.  Or so we thought.  Our driver stops in front of one persons selling some produce and rice and lays on the horn.  I guess he is expecting her to pick up and move everything.  Meanwhile, some older lady starts dancing around the back of the tap-tap and grabbing at people.  She gets to one of our translators and he smacks her in the head with his shirt and yells something at her.  Then we start moving forward.

I look out around the front of the truck and see an 80lb bag of rice in our path. BOOM!  The truck hits the bag of rice with the front passenger side tire and can’t get over it.  The driver continues to try to get over the bag while we are all yelling at him.  He rips the bag open and then puts it in reverse.  The lady is yelling at the top of her lungs at the driver and she runs to get the bag of rice.  Rice is pouring out as she moves the bag, yelling the whole time.

The driver ignores her and continues on to the road.  We have to drive around the other vendors to make it to the road.  We finally double back and make it to the main road.  The lady has made her way through the market and is waiting on us in the middle of the road.  I’m not sure how much an 80lb bag of rice is, but our driver should have paid for it.  She gets out of the way and we continue to drive the whole time the driver and the lady arguing.  Up ahead their is a tap-tap loading people in and a truck to the right with a flat tire.  Our driver is still arguing with the lady and tries to squeeze through the small opening between the two trucks.  I’m pretty sure he grazes the guy changing the tire.

Now, let me set the stage.  I’m sitting in the back looking at the lady who is yelling at our driver.  By this time most of the market is watching this scene.  Then the guy on the right who is changing his tire with a machete jumps up after being bumped.  He has a machete in his right hand and has his left hand in the cab yelling something in Kreole.  After getting nowhere he comes to the back of the truck where all of us are sitting.  I don’t care what language you are speaking, when someone is yelling at you with a machete in their hand you start to get concerned.  I look at our security guy and he is off in lala land looking down at the truck bed.  The Haitian man with the knife is still yelling at us and is slipping in some English words.  These are not words that I use, let’s just leave it at that.  After his tirade our security guy yells something at him and the guy hands his machete to another guy to finish changing the tire.  I’m not sure what our security guard said to him, but we were all in agreement that he should have said it 5 minutes earlier.  The angry Haitian man wave as we left and all was well.

Needless to say it was nice to get back to the mission on Saturday and glad that Sunday was a day of rest.

Exodus

When we landed in Port Au Prince, Haiti last Thursday I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The airport had been destroyed by the earthquake and some temporary structures had been built.  The customs and immigration area has been moved to an old hanger.  The door opened and we walked down a long hallway.  We all congregated around the exit and held up our passports making sure nothing had been lost.  In the distance we could hear music greeting us to Haiti.  We walked closer to the music and the warning of, “Say goodbye to the air conditioning” rang through my ears.  We walked past the musicians and out the door.

We were hit with a wall of heavy air and heat and crowded onto a tram, standing room only.  They shuttled us to immigration where we had to be cleared to enter the country.  It was a huge metal building with no air flow.  We walked in and there were no signs just a woman in uniform pointing at lines of people and shouting something to us in Creole.  We got in line and had our passports and visa applications in hand for someone to review.  The lines went fast and then we waited for someone to drop off our luggage.

It was not like a baggage claim area in any other airport I’ve been to.  A man rolled out a big cart and everyone’s bags were on it.  Everyone rushed over to the cart and dumped bags on the floor to get theirs.  It was a free for all.  People pushing one another and it was crowded.  We finally got our bags and it was time to go through customs.  Customs was pretty lax and it was time to head to the outdoors.

We were told early on not to give anyone our bags or even touch them unless it was our guide, Jacque and he would be wearing a red shirt.  We met up with Jacque and followed him out the door.  The doorway was small and people were trying to squeeze through the door.  Our group got separated from one another so we had to stop and wait.  There were men with red hats standing outside trying to take our bags so that they could get a tip.  They were pretty insistent.  This is when I started to regret bringing the two huge bags of donations.

We ran outside and had to go down the road for almost a mile to get to the trucks waiting on us.  This is where it started to hit me that we were not in the US anymore.  As we walked to the pick up area we were still fenced in on the airport side.  Haitian people were on the outside of the fence yelling at everyone on the inside.  Whether they were asking for money or asking for your items were unclear.  The guys in the red hats were following us trying to take our bags o get a tip.  Security were walking around with sawed off shotguns, handguns and other weapons.  I assume they were security because they were in plain clothes.  Jacque was rushing us out of the airport.  It seemed like we were being rushed out for our own safety.

We made it to the trucks, loaded all our luggage and we were off in the streets of Port Au Prince to the next airport Tortug Air to take us to Port Au Paix.

Home sweet home

Daddy and I made it back into the US last night around 9.  We touched down in Miami and had to rush to make it to our connecting flight to Atlanta on time.  We landed in Atlanta around 12:30 am this morning and finally made it to the truck at 1:30.  We stopped in Commerce, GA at 3:00 after pumping up an almost flat tire for a shower and some sleep.

We pulled in the drive way around 2:00pm and B2 ran out the door and jumped up in my arms.  It was a great feeling turning in the drive way and having my family greet me with wide arms and open hearts.  Everyone looks like they have changed so much!  B4 was a little hesitant to come to me at first.  It may have been because of my glasses, but she finally came to me and started smiling.  It is great to be home.

Thank you all so much for your prayers for me and my family while I was in Haiti.  I have so much to share with everyone I really don’t know where to start.  I want to share every single story and moment.  I wanted to let everyone know that I was home and safe.  I will leave you tonight with a picture and the story of my new “special” friend Mickel.

Mickel is 15 years old and lives in the community of Bono where we started construction on the church.  He speaks a few words of English but mostly Creole.  We started playing around with each other while passing buckets of dirt to each other.  He seemed to always be next to me whether we were in the empty bucket line or the full bucket line.  I hit him with empty buckets and he would try and hit me with full buckets.  We had to talk through an interpreter but we communicated pretty well.

On the last day of construction Mickel came up to me before we left and simply asked me, “Daved, you take me home with you?  You be my special friend?”  My heart melted.  I’m not sure how it would have went over with me trying to get through immigration with a 15 year old Haitian?  We carried on our conversation through our translator.

This is only one small story and one small connection that I made in Haiti.  I know it is cliche to say that I will never be the same, but I will never be the same.  I feel for someone who would visit Haiti and experience what I have and not be changed by it.  By the experiences and the spirit of the people.  I worked side by side with Haitian men, boys and girls to build their church.

At one point while I was passing buckets of dirt I looked over and a 5-6 year old girl in a white dress was tugging at my shirt for me to toss her an empty bucket so she could help.  It was a blessing!  I’m pretty sure I will be posting for the next couple of weeks with stories and pictures to give Casey a break.

Sunday Update

Just a quick update from David tonight.  They were in church for about 4 hours today, most of it was in Haitian Creole but he said they sing the same songs that we do.  The little Haitian kids enjoying rubbing his dad’s hair and beard, especially when he was bowing his head to pray.  They done more construction on the church today and will do the same tomorrow.  Their last two days will hold some other adventures.  David was able to lead devotionals last night.  He said that it’s tough to watch the kids there fight over their scraps and left over water.  The church across from them took the weekend off from the 4 am singing, but he’s sure they’ll be back to it tomorrow.  He has no idea what time it is at any given time, they have no clocks.

That’s it for tonight, everyone have a lovely Monday!

Just a Quick Update

Talked briefly with David this afternoon, they had just arrived at the mission station and set up their tent.  Yes, I did say tent!  They will be sleeping on the cement roof of the mission station, apparently it is the coolest place (cool as in breezy, not to be confused with “cool” which I’m sure it is not).

A few things from our short conversation:

He has already lost one contact but luckily he did pack his glasses.

No problems getting his bags through even though they were pushing the weight limit.

Flights were okay,  he flew behind the pilot in a 12 person plane from Port-au-Prince (the capital of Haiti) to the area where the station is.

They (the group) were quickly escorted out of the airport in Port-au-Prince, I’m sure there was a good reason for this I’ll let you make your own assumptions here.  I think he is glad to be out of that area.

They were getting ready for bible study/devotionals and supper when I talked to him.  FYI – They are an hour behind us because they do not observe Daylight Savings Time.

They are very tired from a long day of travel.

Please pray that they are able to rest so that they can begin working tomorrow.

I’m still very unsure about how often and how we will be able to talk.  If he is able to “tweet” using Twitter the updates will show up on the right side of this page.   I’ll be sure to continue updating you if and when I receive calls and/or emails.  Hopefully in addition I will have a post up tomorrow night but this is it for tonight because I must get ready for our busy day tomorrow and order our groceries.