I have a love-hate relationship with Haiti. I mostly love this country. But some days, I hate it. Absolutely loathe it. Actually, it’s not quite that black and white. It’s much more of a roller coaster where I love it one minute, then literally the next, I hate it. Then, a few minutes later something happens that makes me love it all over again. Then yet another something happens and I want to get the next flight out of the country and never come back again. Saturday was one of those roller coaster days.
It started out well. A colleague and I attended a demonstration on an irrigation system that a non-profit wants to introduce as a social enterprise in Haiti. After that, I went to Le Plaza Hotel and met up with a lovely young woman with whom I used to volunteer when I first arrived in Haiti in March 2010. We traveled to Leogane together to attend the wedding of a very dear friend.
It felt wonderful to be back in Leogane and to see so many familiar faces. Of course, I was especially happy to see the kids in and around Belval Plaza. I missed their cute little faces. It was also great to see so many volunteers that I worked with still in Haiti.
Unfortunately, due to time/curfew restraints, my travel companion and I had to make an early exit and return to Port-au-Prince. As we entered the city, it began to rain, so I decided to wait out the rain and have dinner at Le Plaza Hotel. As I was taking in my surroundings, I spotted a familiar face. Dressed in a soccer uniform with a group of other young Haitian men was the owner of a print shop I worked with in Leogane. He was in Port-au-Prince to play in a soccer tournament. We spent quite a bit of time chatting before going our separate ways.
The rain had finally stopped, so I decided I should be on my way. As I walked outside to find a taxi, I was on cloud 9. It felt so good to spend the day reconnecting with old friends and colleagues. I hopped on a moto taxi and made small talk with the driver as we made our way from the Champs de Mars to Tabarre. When we arrived on Route de Tabarre, just before the American Embassy, I was stunned by what I saw. The canals were overflowing with water, causing the entire road to flood. In fact, it looked more like a river than a road. Empty plastic bottles, styrofoam containers, shoes and other debris were floating in the brown, muddy water. I’m certain the water was also filled with human and animal waste.
The moto began to tread through the water along with other vehicles. At first, everything was fine. Then we stalled…in the middle of the road. The driver could not get the moto to start. Cars, tap taps and debris were slowly passing us by. Then out of nowhere, a large truck came barreling down the road, and splashed me and the driver with water. I screamed from shock and disbelief. The dress I wore to the wedding was soaking wet. Brown water was dripping from my hair into my eyes and mouth. The driver yelled to the driver of the truck, calling him a pig, but I doubt he heard him because the truck was long gone.
Somehow, the driver got the moto to start. As we continued forward a few feet, I finally saw the turn off for the road leading to my temporary home. As I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I was home free, the moto suddenly stalled again. I pleaded with the driver to get me to the turn off. He began to physically walk the moto, battling against the current. After a few minutes he stopped, saying he was tired. We were back to sitting in the middle of the road. He tried to start the moto again. After a few attempts, it started.
Finally, I reached the road leading to the house I’m staying in. But that road was flooded too. I had a flashback of the week prior when Felix came to visit me. After looking at something on the ground, he looked at me and said, “Be careful. When it rains, you’re going to have a problem.” Boy was he right.
At that moment, I broke down into tears. I was so close to home, yet so far away. I cursed Haiti and everyone who lives here. I told myself I was packing my bags, and going back to my own country, my own home. With those thoughts in mind, I was more determined than ever to get back to my room to pack up my stuff and get out of here.
So, I flagged down the driver of an SUV I saw turning onto the road. I asked if I could ride with him. He unlocked the doors. I opened the door to his car and hesitated. The car was spotless. It looked brand new. I was wet, filthy and smelled bad. Seeing the apprehensive look on my face, he looked at me and said, “Pa gen pwoblem. Chita” No problem. Sit down.
And with that, my love for Haiti instantly returned.