[NOTE: I decided to change everyone’s name for privacy reasons, so go ahead and check the last post to see the changes that I made. Thanks.]
As soon as we step out of the airport, everything around me explodes.
The noise is the first thing that hits me. There are people everywhere, and they are yelling and horns are honking and music is blaring out of already blasted out speakers.
Then, the heat. It washes over me, suffocating me and leaving me dazed. I’d been used to below zero weather and snow for the past few months, so this is a very big shock to my body.
In the fenced area, there are about fifty Haitian men.
My father, another man, and I are pushing small carts with three or four fifty-pound suitcases on each of them.
Immediately, about fifteen of the Haitians gravitate toward our group.
And they try to take the carts away from us.
One of them hurries over to me. “Do you need help.” It’s a statement, not a question. He roughly grabs the cart and tries to take it away from me.
“No, thank you,” I say. I try to steer clear of him, but then, another man grabs the other side of the cart.
“Let me take that.” It’s Ted. I breathe a sigh of relief.
“Thanks. I guess you are scarier than I am.”
He drives the cart away and I follow next to him.
We leave the fenced area, people still trailing behind and around us. My dad is trying to ward off two men who are seemingly arguing about who touched the cart first: who should help him push the cart.
We reach the parking lot, which is really just a dirt space filled with cars, and the leader of our group, Pastor Peter, and his wife, Ellen, let out an exclamation. Two Haitian men are walking toward us, and they both head out toward them.
The taller of the two Haitians breaks into a run toward us, and the other one follows in a more reserved fashion. Reuben slaps Pastor Peter on the back, smiling. It’s been a year since Peter and Ellen have seen Reuben, and it’s apparent. I can tell that they are very happy to see one another.
Pastor Peter introduces us to Reuben. I’ve heard a lot about him over the past few years, and it is good to finally meet him. He speaks English well, but it is heavily accented, and I have a little bit of trouble understanding him at first.
They are just as happy to see the other man–as he is with them–but this man, who’s named Christopher, is much quieter and reserved.
They help us and our enormous amount of luggage into the back of a brightly painted truck with a cover over the back. The back is very large, and it has seats built in around the perimeter.
When all of the luggage is loaded, there is barely enough room for all of us, so Christopher sits in the front seat with the driver.
As soon as everyone is seated, the driver starts the “Tap-Tap” …
… And we begin bumping down the dirt road.
I can’t describe what I see on the street.
First of all, there are bright colors everywhere: vibrant reds and yellows, deep greens, bright greens, saturated oranges, and the tannish color of the dust that’s everywhere.
Then, the people. There are people on the street, to the sides of the street, looking out of doorways and windows … I’ve never seen so many people just walking around outside before.
And finally, probably the greatest thing on this list is the traffic.
The street is choked with other tap-taps, smaller tap-taps, but with twenty more people stuffed in them.
The tap-taps and various motorcycles weave around other vehicles, and each tap-tap lunges forward whenever a space appears in the sea of people/tap-taps.
In Haiti, there are no traffic rules.
There are no lanes.
There are not very many traffic lights.
It is a free-for-all: you go forward whenever someone’s not already there.
So, The trip to the Orphanage is a very tedious one.
On the way, Ted, my father, Juliet Poe, and I get to know Reuben a little bit more. That’s good–we’ll be spending the next four or five days with him as our translator.
We finally arrive at The Home.
The Home is an orphanage for girls that my church runs. Reuben, the Haitian man, is the Director.
And my job?
I am here to teach the girls how to knit.
The orphanage had been moved to a different house since the last trip, and from the pictures that I’d seen of the old home, this one is a lot better. It is in a relatively nice area of Port-au-Prince, and it has high walls around it.
When we arrive there, the first thing that I hear is singing.
All of the thirty plus girls that live in the Home are singing.
I don’t understand a word they’re saying, but it is beautiful.
Reuben pushes back the big, metal fence with spikes on the top, and the tap-tap drives in.
All of the girls start shrieking with joy.
We step out of the tap-tap, and they all stop, all of the sudden shy. They smile at us, and then look away when we smile back.
Joe, Pastor Peter’s cousin from Texas is already there. I can tell that he is happy to see the familiar faces of his relatives.
We walk into the Home, Reuben eager to show us around.
So that is the first thing that we do when we get there. We look around at the school area for the girls. We look at the kitchen. We look at the bedrooms. We look upstairs.
After we finish looking, we all kind of wander off.
Dad strikes up a conversation with Christopher and that lasts a long time.
Ted sits and the girls climb onto his lap.
Joe, Ellen and Pastor Peter follow Reuben as he tells them things that need fixing around the Home.
Juliet tries to get the girls warmed up to her, so she jumps up and down, encouraging them to do the same.
They have a fascination with American hair, so she lets down her long hair, and they take hold of it and begin twisting it around, braiding it, and even trying it on their own heads.
The rest of the day is kind of unclear to me.
I remember my first Haitian meal: rice, beans, some awesome onion sauce, and beef … goat … stuff …
I remember playing ring-around-the-rosey with the girls and Juliet.
When we went for their doctor’s appointment, they played with my hair, too.
I remember laying down for a nap. This was a bad, bad idea coming here, Josiah. What were you thinking?
I fall asleep, and when I wake, those thoughts are still swiming around my head.
I walk into the next room, and it is dark outside.
A woman, who I’ll later know as Jane, Reuben’s wife asks me what my name is. It’s a little hard for her to pronounce, so she askes for a nickname. I am at a loss for words. I can’t remember any of my nicknames.
Juliet speaks up. “Monkey,” she says.
To the day we left, Jane calls me “Monkey.”