The wind made the roads so dusty we found it hard to see. Looking out the window the ocean bordered us on one side and towering white cliffs on the other. The cliffs looked like sandstone and a driver told a team member that after the earthquake these same roads had been covered in rubble and debris. It was then that we realized we were in Haiti. There hadn’t been any signal of a border crossing, at least not to my knowledge. We crossed from the Dominican Republic to Haiti without a customs officer checking a single passport.
The cliffs beside the road gave way to simple stone houses, some extremely unstable. A multitude of other homes are made from wood poles and plastic roofs. Cindy, the lady beside me in the bus says, “Oh that’s a new tent city, that wasn’t there before.” She and her husband have made six monthly visits to Haiti since 2005, where they help run an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. This was her first trip back since the earthquake hit on January 12th and I could tell she was disturbed by the change in scenery.
We got closer to Port-au-Prince and the number of tilting or collapsed buildings grew, and we weren’t even in the worst hit areas. After another hour, while stuck in some typical city traffic, I noticed yet more piles of rubble and tires by the side of the road. I said to Cindy, “Are these from the earthquake?” She said, “Yes, it’s all since then.” We navigated several Haitian traffic jams and drove up what is called “hi-jack alley,” from a time when men with guns would block cars on the road and rob them, or worse. This nation definitely has its share of problems.
When we reached the place where we would stay, we found it in direct contrast to the chaos we had witnessed outside. The orphanage caters to children with special needs and I could tell they were loved. The green grass and trees appear foreign to the rubble lined streets and tent-cities outside, though our own version of a tent city dots the field.
The facilities are basic, a lack of water means each person is allotted three cups of water to shower with, bucket style. The humidity sticks to you like a glove and keeps you just as warm. Two Haitian ladies make our food. They may have both lost their homes in the earthquake. The language barrier has so far stopped us from communicating too closely. The previous team members still here tell us, “Just hug them everyday.”
Tonight I will go to bed after having over 38 hours with little to no sleep. At the orphanage, which is next to Port-au-Prince airport, we will apparently hear planes take off about five times a night. This is an improvement on the first weeks though, when planes were flying aid in approximately every ten minutes. The team spirits are high with the anticipation of what will happen tomorrow. Some team members will serve at the hospital on the airfield, while others will take a mobile clinic out to those who may not have been reached yet.
What will tomorrow bring? No one can be sure of that, but we know we’re in a place where new and great things can happen. This is an opportunity to see a new future begin in Haiti.