Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, TouchGlobal swiftly responded and has continued to send crisis responders to serve in Haiti ever since. We have established a presence and plan on staying here for a long time, so we thought it wise to set up a blog that family, friends, supporters, and teams can check to find first-hand information about life and ministry at the Haitian Queen (the TouchGlobal Crisis Response headquarters in Gressier, Haiti).

This blog will be updated regularly by various team members and staff.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Truck # 3 and the Gressier Delivery

Truck #3 and the Gressier Delivery Part II of the vehicle saga from April 1-7, 2010

On the "Road"Again

Happy as clams in remote bay, we left the dock driving our long- awaited vehicles, with the knowledge that we would be returning the next day to pick up the white truck full of wheel barrows, shovels, rakes, picks, sledgehammers and other clean up tools, as well as boxes of blankets, garbage bags, first aid items, peanut butter, and our now infamous green shirts which make a fashion statement wherever we go.

We were told as we left, that the VIN number problem with the paperwork should be cleared up by 11am on Wednesday, which would allow us to start our trip by noon and get to Gressier around nightfall. We began the 8 mile trek back to Henoc’s house with jeep and the van to spend the night and prepare for our journey the next day.

Cap Haitien has seen a huge influx of people since the earthquake, and has grown by about 250,000 -300,000 people to over 1,000,000 people, all estimated of course. The net result of this influx is people everywhere, and traffic gridlock; the fact that the main road through town is closed and being re-paved only compounds the congestion.

As we sat in traffic, blowing our horn and listening to the kids call out “Blanc, Blanc” ( guess what that means for two white guys with a noticeable absence of color and straight hair), I couldn’t help noticing the architecture of the old city. It struck me as very reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans, where we spend quite a bit of time now since our family has relocated to that area from Pa. Take away the cars trucks, and blowing horns and remove the tvs and radios that were for sale on the sidewalk stands, and you have a picture of what the city of New Orleans may have looked like in the late 1800’s. Narrow, almost one way streets, tight sidewalks between the street, and the tall, narrow buildings with overhanging balconies, operational wooden shutters that are rounded to fit the arched window and door openings, and people milling around in no particular rush to get where they are going.

Having time to observe isn’t a bad thing, it’s just overly uncomfortable when you are stuck in traffic, and the overheating indicator light starts to blink forcing you too turn off the A/C because there’s limited airflow over the coil and engine radiator.

The 8 mile trek took us about an hour, even after getting out of the city, because the blacktop only runs for a couple miles before ending abruptly in a 6 inch drop off to the pothole pocked gravel roadbed.

After arriving at Henoc’s house, we walked next door to check on the progress of the Orphanage that has been under construction since before the earthquake. The first floor was in the process of being primed, and waiting for doors to be installed and the kids should be able to move in a week or 2 from now.

We ate supper, and were escorted to our quarters a mile or 2 down the road; a house that was leased by a missionary family for a year, and they only lasted about 6 months before returning to the comforts of their home nation. As night fell, we lit candles, kerosene lamps, and showered by flashlight because the power had gone off shortly after our arrival, and no generator was on the premises for us to utilize. The air conditioner that was poking out of the wall mocked us as we settled into our beds soaking the sheets with sweat. Charles and I slept in the one bedroom, while Arnold sawed several cords of wood in the neighboring room. I asked Charles if he was over his fear of sleeping inside, and he pointed to the ceiling and said “ twakay bwa” – wood roof. Less likely to die if the wood roof collapses on you in an earthquake I suppose.

Charles prayed for a good 15 minutes before rolling over and drifting off to sleep, while I read John Gresham by lamp light thinking this is what it must have been like in “little house on the prairie”.

Not long after the others fell asleep, welcome relief came to the muggy, humid night air as the rains came. Lightly at first, but soon reaching torrential proportions, the rains fell. I kept reading as there was now no way to get to sleep with all of the commotion. Charles rolled over and saw the light on and asked why I wasn’t sleeping, “Twakay bwa” I responded pointing to the ceiling. He laughed and rolled back over drifting off again.

The rains continued hard for a couple of hours, and I pondered what this might mean for our drive the next day, and how much spinning and sliding it may cause us. I “outened the lamp” as they say back in my home area of Amish country, Pa, and was sleeping blissfully in the cool night air after the rains ceased.

Truck #3 on the dock in Miami prior to shipping To Cap Hatien

We awoke with the sun the next morning; drove back to Henoc’s and had breakfast, then piddled around until 10 am when we left once again for Cap Haitien. The potholes were now puddles and the dusty road was now slicker than scum off a Louisiana swamp. We all had piled in the jeep, and I had given Charles the keys, and climbed into the back seat, leaving Arnold wondering why he was blessed with a front seat as I crammed myself in the back sharing the space with Gerline, Henocs wife, who was joining us for a ride into town. Arnold soon found out why he was seated in the front. Ever been to an amusement park, and ridden a ride so scary that there were permanent fingernail notches in the foam safety bar? That’s kind of what the dashboard of the Jeep looked like after the ride into the city. Arnold commented that based on how Charles was driving; he thought I was negligent in my spared use of the horn yesterday on the way from Cap to Henoc’s house.

We dropped Gerline off where she needed to be and went searching for a gas station. We were on “E” and the engine sputtered a few times after hard acceleration, so we knew it wouldn’t be long till we might be taking advantage of the guys on the street that sell Gas by the gallon jug, if we didn’t find a gas station soon. We finally found a station down by the dock, and pulled in relieved… until the attendant said,” nou pa genyen” we don’t have any. What is a gas station without gas??? Just a station I guess. We drove carefully around the city saving gas as much as possible, more like a normal ride in a car, and finally at the fourth gas station, We found gas. Charles immediately drove up to the front of the line, bypassing the 5 or 6 motorcyclists waiting patiently for their turn to fill up. There was only a short period of heated exchanges with those in line, after which the attendants filled the tank, but not to the satisfaction of Charles. He got out and ”topped it off” himself, before asking me for the 3500 gourdes to pay them.( I’m still not sure how much that is in US dollars) I told him to also get brake fluid for the van, since the rear wheel cylinders had started leaking fluid, and we needed to replenish the reservoir. “Yo pa genyen” I heard again, They don’t have any; Ok- it’ not a service station either.

After leaving the..uh…station, we found a roadside stand that offered our choice of oil, power steering fluid and brake fluid. We bought 2 bottles of brake fluid, just to be safe. We went back to the office to meet Rico, and were informed that he wasn’t there but was working on the clearing up the VIN number problem. It was 11AM. We chatted with Charles, the secretary and another older gentleman that I think was Rico’s aged relative. We did what we have become accustom to doing when we need official approval for something… We waited… and talked…and learned some more Creole… taught some English. ..and waited some more. At 12:30 we were informed that we could go to the dock and meet Rico, or his associate Rodney there, and we could get the truck. Not bad, only 30 minutes late. We are still in good shape to make the150 mile, 7 hr trip to Port au Prince.

After grabbing something to drink, we waited…and waited… Oh good! Here comes Rodney! He informed us that he needed one more authorization stamp. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes as he strode purposefully toward the office that contained the last hurdle to be cleared.

The sun was hot, so we sought shade under the canopy of the first gas station where we had stopped at earlier in the morning, and told those seeking gas-Yo pa genyen. At 1:15 Rodney finally returned and we went and sat in the same customs office with the same customs security guard as the day before, only today he didn’t have his TV phone. After another half hour, I saw the hood pop up on the white pick up truck. As I stood up and craned my neck to see what they were doing, the guard noticed what I was looking at and offered the “parking” pass to so I could go check it out. I woke Arnold up from his nap, and we both went to see what the problem was, both happy to just see some progress being made toward getting us and the truck out of customs.

We walked over to see about 5 Haitians gathered around the truck with Rico, trying to get the truck to start. Someone had apparently left the ignition turned on when they parked the truck. A couple of Haitians left to get a battery to jump the truck. When they returned, I noticed that they had not acquired any jumper cables. I was surprised to see one of them lift the battery they brought, flip it upside down and place the terminals directly on top of the truck battery as a means of jumping the dead one. DO NOT try this at home! I was pleasantly surprised, though, when Arnold turned the key to hear the truck turn over, after several attempts, the engine finally roared to life, and we were on our way out of the dock for the second time in 2 days, with more of the things we had come for. Only one more to
It was well after 2:30 when we drove back to Henoc’s house for the final time to retrieve the van and FINALLY begin the return trip to Port au Prince. As we started down the road, I began to calculate…leave at 3pm, 7hr trip if nothing goes wrong, arrive at 10 pm, gets dark at 6-7, at least half the trip in the dark… This will be an experience; and we aren’t supposed to travel after dark.

"Fording" the river
As we started up the mountain trail on the first part of the trip, it started to lightly drizzle, then the higher we went the more it started to rain. Knowing what’s ahead, this is not good if it continues to rain like this. We threaded our way up the side of the mountain, avoiding the gullies, potholes and rocks as best we could. When we reached the plateau, the rain mercifully stopped. (Whose been praying??) We spent the rest of the trip, avoiding the same obstacles but add in the occasional goat, chicken, cow and horse. We climbed steep grades, straddled ruts, and forded rivers, all before dark… not much changed after dark though either.
At one point about 2/3’s of the way through the trip, Charles stopped the van, and popped the hood on the van- Oh no here we go I thought. Are we going to have to fix a vehicle with few tools in the dark in the middle of nowhere? Nope- Charles just needed to add some brake fluid- glad we bought 2 bottles!

Just as we were completing the fill, a vehicle traveling towards us in the opposite direction, pulled up and stopped, with the window rolled down; “Kevin!” I heard the driver call out. Now who in the world would be out after dark, on the road, in the middle of nowhere, deep in the heart of a foreign country, calling my name? Of course, It’s Caleb Lucien- everywhere just when you need him.

He asked if everything was OK, and we reported to him that it was. He cautioned us about driving after dark, and then left us on his way home…driving in the dark. We reached the outskirts of Port au Prince at about 10:30, and Charles stopped the van once again and informed us to stay very close to him as we drove through the city.

We raced through the deserted streets of town faster than I even thought possible, bouncing across the potholes at 50 MPH, not stopping for anything, doing our best to see through the misty darkness. We arrived safely back to the Haitian Queen around 11:15pm ate supper and turned for the night, exhausted but content. God had provided all that we needed and I’m sure some that we didn’t know we needed or in ways we still aren’t even aware.

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