Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Distance in Haiti

Did you know that time is a measurement of distance?

In Haiti it is.

It doesn’t matter the number of miles it is between The Apparent Project and the metal workers at Croix de Bouquet. On Sunday, it’s a little over a 30 minute drive. On a Friday afternoon, it’s a 3 hour drive.

Miles don’t matter. Well they sort of do, but they don’t – because distance is a function of time, not of miles.

So, I guess that would be, if you put it into a formula…..

D = m(mt)/S

Distance

Is equal to

the mileage. The physical distance you have to travel on the road,

multiplied by

the time of day (expressed in military time)

then divided by

the size of your vehicle

In other words, it will take you less time to go through part of Port Au Prince in a big truck at say 10:00 in the morning than it would to go that same amount of distance at 5:00 in the afternoon in a small car.

Driving in Haiti. I’ve ridden a lot but I haven’t driven.

It’s not for the faint of heart…….

Tom

Haitian Rules of the Road

Listed below are an American’s view of the Haitian Rules of the Road:
1. Size matters. If you are driving a big truck you have the right of way over a small truck.
2. Do you know how many people can fit on a “Tap Tap?’ (Haitian taxi – often made out of rather old pick up trucks). One more.
3. Lines on a road rarely exist and are rarely followed.
4. Honking your horn can mean the following, “Ready or not, here I come!” “Hey get out of my way!” “Wadson, my man, how are you doing?” “Open the gate, I’m home.” “Moooove your cow or I’m going to run it over.” There are many other possibilities.
5. Speed bumps are often referred to as “silent police..”
6. Hang on at all times. Or risk a traumatic brain injury.
7. Don’t open a bottle of carbonated beverages in a moving vehicle unless you do it very slowly and carefully.
8. It is impossible to avoid pot holes and rocks but it is good to try anyway.
9. Mufflers and exhaust pipes are optional.
10. If you drive a motorcycle (aka a moto) you can fit all sorts of things on the moto that you couldn’t in the U,.S. I’ve seen as many as 7 people on one moto. I’ve seen a washer, a pole with live chickens tied upside down heading to market, just to name a few (disclaimer – I haven’t seen all of them – some of them have been pictures from friends who live in Haiti)

These are by no means the actual rules of the road in Haiti. But in these, the experience of riding in Haiti, especially riding in the back of a truck, hopefully comes through a bit more.

I’ve seen pictures of many interesting things.

It has very little similarity to driving in the United States.

Tom

P.S. Did I mention that because you are outside, you will get to smell of the smells and feel all of the feels? Smell the flowers – and the exhaust. Smell the meat market and the burning charcoal. The list could go on and on…….

The Plane Touches Down

I distinctly remember the first time we came to Haiti. The plane touched down and parked several hundred yards from the terminal. So we got our carry on luggage, go down the steps and walk across the extremely hot concrete to the terminal.

Keep in mind, if you come to Haiti in the summer, you are coming when the temperature is hotter than it is in Miami but not that much. If we travel in July, the high temperature is maybe 20 degrees higher than it is in Michigan.

But if you travel, say in February, when the high temperature in Michigan is maybe in the 20’s, then you are going to be looking at a temperature difference of maybe 70 degrees. Plus we all know how much the air heats up when the rays of the sun are bombarding a concrete parking lot. The “feels like” temperature is probably easily 15 degrees higher than the air temperature is. That’s a big adjustment compared to temperatures in places like Michigan.

In 2003, we would be “herded” into a building (most people in the first world would call it a glorified pole barn.) My recollection of this building is that I would not want to be in it in a hurricane. Once the paperwork and customs and such is done, you would go to the “second” part of the building.

The baggage claim area.

Normal airports have a “conveyor belt” that spins around and the luggage gets put on the conveyor belt and people grab theirs from the belt.

Not in Haiti, not in 2003.

There was a straight conveyor belt and the luggage was being thrown on one end of it and there were employees on the other end who would take it off and stack it in rows on the floor.

How did you find your luggage? You climbed over other people’s luggage, moved it around and dug through it until you found yours. Chaotic to say the least.

Not so any more. In 2017, we pull up to the gate, the door opens and we walk out into a typical airport terminal.

There is air conditioning, it’s organized, all looks relatively new and everything works. The escalators work, the luggage carousel works, it feels like a “normal” airport.

We get our luggage, load it on carts and begin to head for the door. That’s when it happens. We almost immediately are surrounded by men. Most of these men are talking in Creole with a little bit of English mixed in. It’s just a bit intimidating.

“Oh no! Are we getting robbed?” No, they all want to “help” and put a hand on your luggage cart so that you will feel like you have to pay them/tip them. While it is still intimidating, it is significantly better because the “official” cart helpers have a uniform on and because they don’t allow nearly as many of them. A vast improvement over past years.

And then you meet up with your driver. If you are with an organization (like we were with The Apparent Project), then there will be a truck or some sort of vehicle to bring you to your destination.

Our vehicle of choice was a Mitsubishi crew cab pick up with a cage in back. They put suitcases and such on top of the cage and Rico (our security guard) even road up there. Then there were 5 of us who rode in the back and 5 in the cab.

We pulled away from the airport and the real adventure starts……

TV

Landing in Port Au Prince

I want to apologize for the delay in turning more of my notes about my trip into blog posts. Let’s just say that upon return, life got in the way a bit…….

So, where I left you last was on an airplane beginning the descent into Port Au Prince. A couple of things that struck me, as they often do when landing in Port Au Prince……
– The contrast – the contrast between the mountains and the flat dry plains
– The contrast – the contrast between the beautiful ocean water and the “stuff” that gets washed out into the ocean from the rivers and streams.
– The contrast – between the new buildings that have replaced earthquake damaged structures and the tin huts that are crammed so close together that they are literally almost on top of each other.
– The contrast between decay and progress.

I could go on and on, but let’s just say that Haiti is a study in contrasts.

Many contrasts – and unfortunately it doesn’t make being in Haiti any easier.

Tom

One of the first towns we have seen on the north side of the bay.

Once again, this is in Haiti and look how dry that part of Haiti is……

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