It is 5:30 AM and I am watching the sunrise in the east, listening to the surf off of the southern coast of Haiti.
Yesterday we left the guest house in Port au Prince at 4:45 in search of our team members and the supplies they were adding to our truck of relief supplies.
Our first stop was a few blocks away at ‘Parole and Action”, locally know as ‘P and A’. This is the organization that Elwood and his wife Anita currently work for.
It still takes a lot of patience to be an American and living on “Haiti” time.
It was after 6:00 when we left P and A with Pastor Bill in search of Charlie, the fifth person of team for the trip.
I drove and was Pastor Billy was navigator. He was also busy shouting into his cell phone as we twisted and turned on the side streets of Port au Prince trying to avoid the main streets clogged with early morning traffic.
After backtracking several times we found Charlie standing on a street corner waiting for us. By this time Port au Prince traffic was peaking.
When we approached the main road to leave town instructed to ‘vire agoch’, turn left.
I was facing 6 lanes of bumper to bumper traffic driving on a four lane road.
Driving in Port au Prince is like learning to swim. Just dive in.
I waited until traffic paused, not stopped, and forced the corner of my front bumper into a 6 foot gap that someone inadvertently allowed. Then I was committed.
This is the accepted driving method in a country where traffic signs are suggestions, usually ignored, traffic cops sometimes direct traffic and I can count on my fingers the number of working traffic lights I have seen in the last 16 years. (These are ignored too).
Along with the car and truck traffic, the street is filled with motos and pedestrians darting in and around the moving cars.
Whenever traffc stops, young men approach with dirty rags to wipe off your car for a few gourdes, or offer up their meager goods of phone chargers, bags of drinking water, soft drinks or food items.
Denise equates the experience with playing a videogame where hidden dangers pop out when least expected.
I actually am less stressed driving here than driving in Chicago or Atlanta.
It would be after 9:00 pm before we arrived at our final destination at Poute Sale on southern coast.
When we reached the mountains east of Jeremie the scattered simple homes on the mountain tops were litterly blown apart. The trees that were left standing are stripped of all of their leaves.
When we decended the mountain at first there was little sign in the lower elevations. But as we approached the outskirts of Jeremie sections of road are gone, fields are flattened and roofs are gone.
On the outskirts of town we turned north and followed the river upstream. Most everything is destroyed. The trees left standing have trash 12 foot off the ground. Fields are covered in two or three feet of mud.
Several kilometers up river where a crowd was huddeling under a mango tree. It had started to rain again.
“Stop” I was told by Pastor Billy.
I pulled over and we got out. Elwood and I were expecting to get mobed, but the crowd stood respectfully back a few steps and shouted greetings to us.
As the rain picked up we quickly unloaded the supplies. There was a wonderful moment when we were warmly thanked, then I turned the truck around and headed back and then on to Poute Sale to access the damage there in the morning.
By the time we arrived in Poute Sale we had spend 16 hours on the road.