Today I close the chapter on memories of the Haitian earthquake. I will begin a new chapter in this book. I will focus on the life that is flourishing in Haiti. First though I must give you an appreciation for how conditions were for the various aid workers that made their way to the country in early 2010, myself included.
I stumbled across this chapter in my memoir… It is difficult to imagine just what a mean feat the entire expedition is without some appreciation of the physical circumstances that must be endured by the volunteers. Apart from the pervasive dust and heat, volunteers spend many hours cramped in buses travelling over extremely rough roadways. Food consists of dried goods and essentials consumed for their nutritional value. Some days this may be supplemented by a hot meal. Bottled water tastes almost like honey to your parched throat and for the first time I find myself draining every drop of water from the bottle. Most nights volunteers sleep on the ground in sleeping bags or on low cots, at least two nights were spent on the seats of the buses. Running water is a commodity and as such bathing becomes an every other night experience. Many areas of the country are without electricity so one must quickly get accustomed to the starlight which is in itself a magnificent sight to behold.
A Tense Moment
For anyone glued to their television set in the weeks following the earthquake, it was impossible to miss Anderson Cooper relate stories of escaped prisoners from a collapsed jail, rapes of women within the camps and the danger faced by contingents transporting food supplies. This was our encounter… Night travel is definitely not recommended and there were enough media reports to warn us of the dangers. During the time we were there Haiti observed three days of fasting and praying. As such we would see large gatherings of people during the day and night. On our first night we stopped our entourage as there was a large crowd in the street and for a few moments we were not certain of what was taking place. A tense few minutes ensued and our mood was quickly changed from one of boisterous rejoicing to tense watchfulness. We resumed our journey once we realised that a police vehicle was nearby and that it was merely a large church service that was taking place in the streets. We were on our way to St. Marc having made our way from the border.
Stranded at the Border Crossing
Yes, we were stranded! After several hours of setting up clinics and feeding members of various communities we arrived at the Haiti/Dominican Republic border only to find ourselves locked out of the DR and stranded in Haiti. This is what I found in my memoir… The night met us camped out at the border crossing into the Dominican Republic. Despite the crazy, three hour, belly jerking, pothole riddled dash to get there on time; we found that the transport from the Dominican Republic failed to show. Wow, so close and yet so far. The border gates closed, the sun disappeared and night set in with us sitting, lying and sprawled on the gravely ground of the roadway and the hard seats of the bus. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated wet wipes as much as I did just then, as it was the closest to a bath I was going to get for at least 40 hours! I was simply exhausted.
The True Meaning of Gratitude
Five hours, nine security checkpoints and one bathroom stop lay between us and our flight to Trinidad. The security checks have been implemented since the recent attempt to traffic children out of Haiti.
One month and a few pounds heavier later, I can truly appreciate what I have. I pray to God that I will never have to see the day my very survival depends on another. To see someone turn away in defeat because they can no longer help me or to see pitying eyes averted from my naked, unwashed and under-nourished body. I know I am blessed.
… I find myself longing to go back. It’s almost like the land of Haiti grows on you. Despite the rigours and hardships, it is difficult to turn your back on the vast need there. The people of Haiti need us as much as we need the disorderly sanity of our lives to remain intact…
Three years later, in 2013, I am still grateful for all that I have. Thanks for sharing this journey with me through my raw thoughts in my memoirs. I have officially put the full stop in place. Can’t wait to tell you about my more recent discoveries of the land of Haiti – next post!
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