The Initial Culture Shock of Haiti

Read Day 1 Here

Tuesday, Nov. 27

I slept so-so last night, as the roosters start crowing incessantly around 3 a.m. We woke up around 6, I showered, and we had a great breakfast of oatmeal, mango, crunchy toast with hot pepper peanut butter and guava jelly, and sausage. Our guides Patrick and Robenson arrived and we loaded a covered truck with all our food for the week, a gas stove, our luggage, and all the water filter supplies. (Heavy sand bags, gravel, buckets, and tubing.) We didn’t have quite enough supplies, so we fought traffic through Port-au-Prince to a factory to pick up a few more things. Actually, our incredible driver James fought the traffic. He actually bought the van (complete with AC) for $42,000 and has to pay it off in 3 years. He doesn’t speak English but he’s quite the entrepreneur, if you ask me.

A Port-au-Prince street, seen from our van.

I was still amazed at how busy the city was. There was a market right next to an open water supply (a mostly dried up creek) just filled with trash. Everyone seemed to stare at us very apprehensively.  We left Port-au-Prince and drove along the ocean past several rural areas. There were random goats, chickens, and even cows grazing in fields filled with trash. We also saw groves of banana plants, which were owned by farmers.

On the road to Arcahaie we saw a few tent cities.

We arrived at the Methodist Church (ran by Pastor Moles) in Arcahaie around 11. We unloaded all the supplies, keeping out enough for 20 water filters that we were going to deliver soon. The pastor’s aunt and a couple other ladies prepared lunch for us, as they did all week. They worked in a concrete room with a bed, chair, and no table, but they had been properly trained to sanitize the food. There was no refrigeration, yet amazingly we never got sick. We had white bread with spam or peanut butter & jelly with tortilla chips for lunch.

The United Methodist Church sanctuary in Arcahaie.
The first half of our water filter supplies, ready to be delivered.

After lunch we loaded supplies for 10 filters in the van, and 5 set out to deliver them to the homes with James, Robenson, and Oldi’s help. (Oldi is part of the team that was hired to teach the locals about the water filters.) Delivery was slow because it was incredibly hard to find the correct house. There were no addresses, no street signs, and barely real streets. (Mostly gravel, very bumpy.) Robenson & Oldi would just stop & yell to people nearby, and they’d point us in the right direction. At first it felt like the adults were staring at us like we were unwelcome tourists, but I think they were just apprehensive. Once we started waving, their eyes would light up and they’d wave back. The kids, on the other hand, absolutely loved us from the start. They’d high five, say bonjour, etc. Most of the homes were concrete with open windows and curtains. In one home a very old man was lying on the floor, with several kids holding him up. We were told that we drop off the filters first so they know when to expect us, to make sure they’d be home, and probably to prepare their homes for us. After the drop-offs, we returned to the church around 4 and the other group headed out.

One of the beautiful girls who came by the church every day to play with us.

There were several kids hanging around the church, so we had the best time playing and interacting with them. I used an English/Creole dictionary to go through words with a few kids. One boy, named John, went through every word in the book with me. He spoke English very well. Some of the kids said they had studied 4-5 languages (Creole, French, English, Spanish, & Latin) in school. They didn’t have public school, so not all children even had the opportunity to learn. But it was obvious that many of them craved it. We laughed and played with the kids, tossing a ball, arm wrestling, throwing rocks, talking, etc.

Obison and Fred showing off their “guns.”

Once the other group returned and it got dark, the dinner bell rang. We prayed before eating pork with peas and onions, tiny soft rolls, mango, canned fruit, and rice. They turned on the generator for a few hours in the evening so we’d have light inside, and we had an evening devotional lead by Matt. Whitney’s husband Fred set up a mosquito net over my bed so all three ladies had nets.  Mosquitoes really didn’t end up being a problem, but I was glad that I wasn’t the only one in the room exposed. The guys slept on cots in the sanctuary, and the women slept on cots in a back room. There was an indoor toilet & shower, but there was no toilet seat and we had to pour water in the tank to get it to flush. The shower was just 1 small stream of cold water, but it felt nice after a hot day. Without much to do after dark, we were in bed by 9.