We stayed in Dessalines, which is about 90 miles north of Port au Prince. Originally we thought that we would be sleeping on the floor of the church or at the pastor's home, but when we arrived, we found five tents set up for us! Surprise! :-) The pastor we were working with brought us mattresses to sleep on, and the three of us girls on the trip with all of our belongings shared a 4-man tent for the week. It was cramped and dusty, but humorous. :-)
No running water, so every night we would take cold bucket showers...I had never been so dirty in my life!
To get to Dessalines, all ten of us plus the pastor and our driver, piled into an old, barely-running 1990's minivan. It would have been tight with 12 of us in a minivan anyways, but we had half a dozen boxes of supplies to bring with us and all of our luggage. So, the guys tied all of our backpacks onto the top of the van with rope and all of the boxes went where the back seat would have been. That left two seats in the front (including the driver's seat), one row of seats in the middle, and a wooden bench facing the middle seat for all of us to sit on. It was crazy!! We occassionally rotated seats and planned where to place our legs like a puzzle...lets just say that the three flat tires we got on the way up were welcome stretch breaks! I'll have to post a picture. And, although Dessalines is only 90 miles away, the roads are mostly unpaved with gigantic potholes, so it took us over five hours to get there. But, I have to be honest, there's no way you can go through an experience like that without bonding with the people who are suffering with you, so it was bonding to say the least, and our drives ended us being some of the highlights of the trip for me!
Everywhere else, we walked...we probably walked an average of 6-10 miles each day, which really was great!
Haiti is the poorest country on the face of the earth. Food is scarce. And since the earthquake, the cost of food has almost doubled. People are literally starving to death every day. But Haitians are also incredibly generous, and every afternoon around 1pm, the pastor's wife would cook us a big meal.
On the side of the roads in Haiti are women selling produce that they and their husbands farm from their gardens - lots of okra, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, bananas, plantains, etc. However, meat is a rare commodity. Every Wednesday, market goes on in the center of town and that's the only opportunity to purchase meat unless you have your own livestock that you can butcher. So, if you're eating meat on Monday, it was purchased on the previous Wednesday and no one has refrigerators or ice, so it's been sitting out in 90+ degree weather for multiple days. Lucky for me, I was informed of this half-way through the week!
But the food really did taste delicious! We had rice and beans at almost every meal with some type of meat (chicken, goat, mystery meat?) that had been simmering with spicy sauce and vegetables all morning. Usually there was a plate of raw vegetables (onions, peppers, and tomatoes) and fried plantains. We also had a dish for dessert one night that was hot, sweet pudding, and it was SO good!
At night, if we were hungry, we, as a team, would boil water to make MRE's (meals ready to eat) like they do in the military. They weren't too bad.
Clean water is non-existent once you get out of the capital city, so every night we had to pump water from the well and then filter it ourselves and add iodine of water purification drops. Unless you added some zip-fizz or gatorade, you were stuck drinking warm water that tasted like a swimming pool. One of the first things I had last night when I got home? Cold, clean water out of the tap with ice and a slur-pee! :-)
The time in Haiti is three hours ahead of Seattle, so it wasn't difficult to adjust our schedules. We woke up every morning around 6am (that is, if we slept...the roosters in Haiti are terribly confused creatures, and they started crowing every night around 11pm and kept going all through the night!). Tuesday through Friday of the week, my friend Lexie and I ran a clinic out of a building next to the church while the guys did construction (really, really hard manual labor without a lot of basic tools). At 1pm we would break for our meal, and then finish up our projects and play with the kids for much of the afternoon. Every night the church would have service outside in Creole - it was awesome! Haitians certainly know how to worship! And, after a cold bucket shower, an MRE, an hour around the water pump filtering and a team meeting, we would settle into our tents for the night.
The temperature was in the 90's, but rainy season is coming up, so the air is thick with humidity. I started sweating the moment we landed in Haiti and, with the exception of my 10-minute bucket shower every night, I didn't stop sweating until we arrived back in Miami again. (And for those of you who know me well know how miserable I am in anything over 80 degrees! It was rough!) There were a couple of nights with no breeze, and I would fall asleep in a puddle of sweat...so gross. Twice while we were there it rained, and while every Haitian person would run inside, our team would run OUTside and yell, "Alleluia!"...we were quite the spectacle...10 white people (or 'blancs' in Creole) dancing outside in the rain!
My legs are covered in mosquito bites.
I never once got sick.
And, even with the heat, swimming pool water to drink and 6-day-old meat, I can't wait to return...
More to come later! I can't wait to tell you about the clinic and how God led us while caring for the sick and injured!