After 23 hours of travel, and a quick nap at home that started at 3 AM and ended at 430AM, I took my first hot shower in a dozen or so days.
Reflection was a big part of that shower. Reflection and scrubbing the shit out of my hair, which was filled with a week and a half of sweat grit and tropical dust. It’s funny, when I first got on the plane at the beginning of the trip, I never imagined it would be the president of Haiti that would almost kill us.
Let me start by saying that things have changed. Last year I slept on the concrete roof of an old school. I washed myself out of a bucket of cold water. And when the edge of tropical storm Emily touched the area one night, I just sort of accepted the fact that sleep would be scarce as I tried make my tarp cover stop the falling rain, combat the blowing wind, and guard against the encroaching puddles. This year we slept in a house, on beds, with running water, a sink, a shower head, a flushing toilet and nightly electricity. As you can see in the photo below there’s even a thinking chair in the bathroom. You know for thinking but not pooping. Or I guess it could be used to seat a companion, if you don’t like doing things alone. They’ve grown so concerned about safety that they actually put a towel on the floor to prevent us from slipping on the ultra-slip tile. I feel like I’ve gone soft.
The one thing that didn’t change about the accommodations was the food. The women who feed us take great pains to make sure that we don’t go hungry. And in that endeavor they succeed wildly. Twice a day. Breakfast and dinner with an almost unlimited supply of peanut butter sandwiches in the interim.
Edelin, our Haitian host, built the home we stayed in specifically to have a place to house volunteers when they come. This makes the trip a little bit more marketable and will hopefully draw more volunteers to the Ranquitte region of Haiti. He is passionate about improving the plight of his little corner of Haiti. Especially that of the children. In the past year he built the house we stayed in, established an orphanage and a free school for children in the country side, bought new land to expand these, ran a feeding program where children from all over can get a hot meal and take some home to their families, and went to university full time to get a degree in international relations. He’s 27. If the sweet shoes and calculus didn’t convince you, Edelin, just by doing what he does, will make you feel inadequate for not doing what you could. Keep in mind he did all of this in one of the most economically depressed countries on earth, where somehow everyone is poor but everything one can buy is very, very expensive.
The adventure isn’t gone, though. Far from it. It’s still an 8 hour ride on rugged “roads” through some of the most beautiful landscapes that could possibly exist. There is a phrase in Haiti which describes both the literal makeup of the land and the figurative challenges that face the country. Mountains beyond mountains.
The take home lesson here is that Haiti is safe-ish. As safe as the US or anywhere else you could go. When the US State Dept. issues a travel warning or when the media reports paint Haiti in a bad light, it is sensationalism. I’ve been there. You might know me. And if you do, you know that I wouldn’t put you in harm’s way. Unless it was for the purposes of comedy. All this is mostly to say, Meyer family, send your children. Haiti awaits their arrival.
As for how I was almost killed by the president of Haiti, you’ll have to check back in a couple days to hear that story. I need to go to Taco Bell. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve eaten a Doritos Loco taco and I’m developing a tremor.