Yesterday very well could have been a foretaste of what hell may be like. Haha. Well, actually it isn’t very funny, nor was our trip very fun. Allow me to share with you about our 14 hour day in the truck…
We started got up at 5AM which one would think, “Wow, you guys got a great jump on the day.” Wrong. We got up too late. I think to get a great jump on the day to go to PAP, you have to be leaving Jacmel no later than 4:30AM. So, we got up and started loading the truck with food and supplies that we were delivering to the orphanage that we oversee in Tintayen, about 35 minutes north of PAP. After sweating profusely in the early morning from loading the truck, we shoveled a quick non-refrigerated yogurt into our mouths and chased it down with some oh so flavorful bottled water. To finish off our breakfast of champions, we stuffed our faces with strawberry creme filled cookies. Yes, we were now nourished well for such a long journey.
So, at 6AM, I pulled out of our driveway with my wife in the passenger seat and Isabela wedged in between us because the truck was so packed with stuff. Being so comfortable, having been so well fed, and having gotten such a long night sleep, I’m surprised that we didn’t start out our drive by singing camp songs together.
The drive to PAP from Jacmel, on a “good” day, should not take more than 3 hours. Sometimes, we have made it there in about 2 and a half hours. But on a bad day, oh man, it could take 5 or 6 hours…it just depends on what is going on with the roads. Sometimes roads are flooded with water, and so all the cars have to be re-routed down tiny little streets to go around the flood. Other times, “construction” work is being done and roads will be completely closed, again forcing some long detours down tiny little streets. Some slowness to the drive also occurs when someone like us, who got out of the house oh so late, gets stuck in the traffic created from market days. Driving through the market, which takes place right on the street, involves constant honking of the horn and constant prayer that your side view mirrors don’t slap any elderly haitian women carrying their fruits on their head. These drives through the market, especially those near cite solei, where people set up their fruits and vegetables right on the ground near piles of trash, mud puddles, and in direct line of the blackest of smoke and exhaust coming out of trucks that would make an emissions inspector quit their job for life, also involve the same questions Maria and I ask each other, such as, “Hey, should we stop here and buy some nice juicy mangoes?” Or, more sincerely, “How in the world can people actually buy their fruits and vegetables from this place?”
So, our drive there involved the latter, of course, as we drove through this market. Thankfully, I did not clip any elderly haitian women this time. Our drive also involved a road closure due to construction, so instead of it taking a normal three hours, it ended up taking 4 hours, most of the time being passed by Maria and I constantly telling Isabela to stop leaning up against us and pushing her away towards the other person. Our car battery charger port does not seem to be working, so Isabela’s portable DVD went dead just after 45 minutes.
We picked up Oscar, the orphanage Director, in PAP and drove with him to Titanyen because we heard that there has been a lot of violence in Titanyen lately because two villages are fighting against each other because one was given electricity and the other was not. So, we decided it would be best for us not to drive into Titanyen by ourselves.
As we pulled up to the orphanage, it was wonderful to see all the children jumping up and down with such excitement to see us. They all tackled me as soon as I got out of the truck, yelling, “Papi Cody! Papi Cody!” It was fun. The heat there was unbearable! It felt like 100 degrees. And with all the kids hanging on me and hugging me…well…it was really hot. Good thing I had my trusted “don’t leave home without it” sweat rag with me. Sadly, because our drive took us so long, we were only able to stay at the orphanage for about 35 minutes. We took a picture of the new girl, a very cute 4 year old whose Mom recently died, so that we can add her to our sponsorship program. So, if anybody is interested, her picture should be up soon. Her name is Filona. She’s a cutie. And she is doing very well, as are all the other children, at the orphanage. We will be bringing some of the older kids down to Jacmel at the end of June for a week of ” discipleship camp.” These kids are going to have such a great time. We will teach them the bible, sing songs, make stuff, play games, go to the beach, and just have an awesome time sharing the love of Jesus with the kids. We have a youth team coming from Alabama during that week to help us out.
So, after visiting with the kids and taking care of some business, we headed back towards PAP to go to Agape Flights to pick up our mail and whatever other packages were there. Agape closes at 12 noon exactly on Saturday, and we didn’t leave Titanyen until about 10:45, so we knew that we would have to hustle to get to PAP on time. Hold it! I just remembered that the words “hustle” and “Port au Prince” cannot be used in the same sentence, mainly because the rule of Delmas doesn’t allow it. You see, Delmas is the main road that runs through the middle of PAP. It is a road that is JAMMED with cars, tap-taps, motos, vendors, beggars, and pedestrians walking faster than any slow moving vehicle filled with any missionary family that would be stupid enough to think that they can actually hustle to get somewhere quick!
By the grace of God, we inched our way up Delmas to make it to Agape by 11:56AM…4 minutes before close. We thought that we would only have a few letters to pick up, but we were so wrong. We had about 12 boxes of stuff that we had sent over from the states which had already arrived. Great!…kind of…not really. First of all, there was nothing special about these boxes. Its not like there were 15 boxes of care packages sent from other people which would cause us to brim with excitement as to what was inside. No…there was no need to be brimming about anything with regards to just stuff from our house. “Oh look at this box! It has our paper trays, stapler, hole puncher, left shoe of Isabela’s barbie, 3 already used up and expired Visa gift cards, and a pair of wool socks that, hopefully, were put in there accidently.” So, yeah…no brimming. The other slight problem, or hassle, was that we had to go shopping to get food and supplies for our upcoming team. So, that meant that we would have to first load the boxes in the pickup, but then when we got to the store, we would have to unload them from the pickup and put them inside the truck locked up, otherwise we would come back from shopping to an empty pickup.
We had heard about a new supermarket named “Giant” that had opened up in PAP since a few other smaller ones were destroyed in the earthquake. We were warned that it was pretty far up in PAP. But since we had already fought our way through the Delmas nightmare to get up to Agape, which was kind of far, we figured that we had no choice but to keep going up since we were told that it wasn’t too far from where we were. Oh that was such a relative term, “not too far”. I wish that our warning not to go was more like a bull horn blown in my ear screaming, “DON’T GO” rather than a simple statement of “It’s kind of a haul to get there.”
So, after the second “Battle of Delmas”, we finally arrived at the “Giant” supermarket. It was about 1:30 PM. We hadn’t eaten anything, except for our early morning breakfast of champions. Preggo woman was HUNGRY! Cool, calm, and collective was about to burst and scream after warring on Delmas. Just a quick side note…the truck is a stick shift…Delmas is a hill…yeah, now I think you understand. So, the outer lot was already jam packed with cars and there was no room, so we parked below where we were told that there was actually a parking garage. Umm…what I had in mind was not what we were about to drive into. This multi-story parking box, I mean, garage was tieeeeght! I mean, yes, it was multi-story, but each story was about the size of my living room. It was almost impossible to back the truck in to the spot that the attendant has found for us. This was not a 2 lane garage, one for entering and one for exiting. No, just one lane in and the same lane out. So, that means that if you are driving in and going down to the second level, and somebody else is coming from the 2nd level and is leaving…yep…you guessed it. Its a STALEMATE! And one person has to back all the way back up from where they came in order to let the other person pass by. Crazy!!! And yes, we had a few stalemates…the first one, we bowed in a humble missionary-like, Jesus loving manner, and backed all the way back to let the other person pass. But the second time we ran into a stalemate…man, I was like General Custard at the last stand…I wasn’t going to budge. By this point, I was so irritable that I may have even gotten out and fought the guy if it had come down to it. Thankfully, it didn’t. haha. No, not funny!
Once we parked, we unloaded all the boxes from the back and wedged them into the front so that we could lock the car. At this point, we were so starving that I sent Maria and Isabela in to buy some sandwich meat and bread so that we could make sandwiches and eat before going in to shop. While they were gone, I thought about my little girl in Heaven and was glad that she did not have to experience such hardship any longer. I prayed for peace to return to my soul since I had lost it long ago somewhere between Delmas 78 and 92. I am thankful that God is a restorer of peace to the troubled soul.
So, after eating like savages, we went inside to shop. That experience was fine aside from fainting upon seeing that the price of blueberries was over $8 for a tiny container. Ok, blueberry pancakes are out. haha…not funny.
After taking well over an hour to shop, we loaded up our pickup with all the food and re-loaded all the boxes from Agape back into the back of the pickup and secured it with ropes and tarp. We excitedly opened up our container each of ice cream that we purchased as a treat for ourselves. First and only spoonful….freezer burned. Nasty! Trash. Let’s go. Thankfully, there were no stalemates getting out of the parking box. I was not in the mood to fight. But we still had to buy some other meats, so we had to head back down Delmas on our way back and stop at the Deli Mart. That stop should have lasted only 10 minutes, but prego wife decided that she needed to buy some other odds and ends. An hour later, we were off and heading towards our 3 hour drive back home to Jacmel. It was about 4PM and we were in PAP heading home. Not.Good.
The traffic back down Delmas was a nightmare. My leg was literally starting to hurt from being on and off the clutch all throughout the day. We couldn’t wait to get home. Only 3 more hours, right?
Just outside of PAP, there was a road detour that was straight outta hell!!! I’m not kidding. We were re-routed down streets that were a complete grid-lock of cars, buses, motos, and people walking at the speed of light compared to how still we were. We were inching every minute. My leg was throbbing at this point. And to top it off, I was getting super annoyed with the people who are always trying to pass you even though once they pass you, they can’t go anywhere either. That’s the way they drive in Haiti. Everybody drives as if they are fleeing Egypt because the plagues are coming. Its crazy! Its true. A haitian driver will ALWAYS pass if he can. He or she will never just stay behind. They are all in a hurry and the question that I always ask myself is, “Where are they in a hurry to get to?”
So, just as I am battling traffic and trying with everything in me to remain calm, this idiot, yes idiot, guns his car trying to pass me in a traffic jam where there was literally no room for him to fit. And the guy hits me!!! I jammed my horn as if I was stuffing it in his face. I threw up my hands at him and was yelling, even though the windows were up. I was so mad. The guy in the car just kind of threw up his hands in a motion of subtly admitting that he made a mistake. Further on up, I got out and looked at the truck. Just a little scratch. It wasn’t the scratch that bothered me at all. It was the fact that this guy made a move that nobody in their right mind should ever have made. And for him, it was just another day of driving.
After the endless detour from hell, battling night-time driving, and battling night-time driving in the rain…in Haiti…after the earthquake where there are still areas of the road that are damaged, we finally made it home to Jacmel. We pulled into our driveway at about 9PM. Our drive back had taken us almost 5 hours.
Conclusion and lesson to apply in life: Stay away from Port au Prince as much as humanly possible if you live in Jacmel. Its not worth such hassle…even for the American sized “Giant” supermarket with its “Giant” parking garage. We will do our best to buy all of our food here in Jacmel. Our Port au Prince excursion was a nightmare.
And now today is shot too because I have to spend all my day repenting for the horrible attitudes that I had yesterday. See…its just not worth it.