Our Day – Jess’ Perspective
Going in to today I had a feeling it was gonna be a crazy one. I decided I would take notes on it and try to remember as much as I could at the end of it. Then Matt thought it would be fun for each of us to write it from our own perspective. So here is our day from my perspective….
We woke up this morning at 5:00am, got dressed, I made a quick cup of coffee (which is a must for getting the kids this early) and we headed over to Marjorie’s house to pick her up to cook the kid’s breakfast. We drove over to the orphanage in the pitch black dark. Our headlights were the only thing in the whole area giving off light. As we pulled up to the orphanage you could see kids scattered across the yard (and some behind their building) bathing out of buckets of water. Other kids were at the well pumping their water for their showers and others were getting dressed in the dark. Matt and I were both greeted with hugs and tired “Bonjous” (good morning). We stayed at the orphanage until all of the kids were ready then piled 5 kids into the backseat (along with Marjorie), 1 in my lap in the front seat, and about 20 more in the bed of the truck (as crazy as this sounds, it is a common way to ride in Haiti). We dropped Marjorie off at her house and arrived at the school to walk the kids in. At that point one of our older boys pulled me aside to tell me he didn’t have socks to wear to school that day and was going to get in trouble. I told him I didn’t have any socks (meaning with me) and he promptly pointed to the white socks I was wearing. What else could I do but take my socks off and give them to him? We walked the kids in and went back to Christianville to shower and eat breakfast before the real adventure would begin….all of this happened before 7:00am.
At 8:30am we left for Port au Prince. Aside from spending time with the kids we have 2 main goals for our time here in Haiti before we leave April 2. The first is to get our Permanent Residency here and the second is to sit down with a couple of Haitian lawyers and try to decide who we should hire. Neither of these things are small tasks. Our trip in today was to try to do both of these things….add on the fact that Matt has never driven in Port au Prince before and I knew it was going to be a crazy day! Our first stop was the bank in Carrefour which is on the way to Port au Prince. We had to get a letter from them stating that we have a bank account. This is required for our Permanent Residency. It had to be ordered and we paid around $60 for it. We will have to go back in to pick it up on Thursday. They also tried to get us to open up a checking account but the minimum balance was $1000. I feel certain we will need this at some point but could see Matt begin to panic (Matt does not do well with things he has not planned for) so we decided to wait until May to open up the checking account.
We left the bank and headed into Port au Prince. Up until this point the traffic had been minimal. The first lawyer we were meeting called us and told us she was running late and could we please find a place to wait for her in Port au Prince? I told her we did not know our way around and were not comfortable with this. We handed the phone over to our friend Isaiah who was with us as a translator (did I mention everything is done in a different language?) and he was given the name of a bank where we were to wait for her. We circled several buildings not sure where to go (Matt driving beautifully at this point but getting VERY frustrated). Isaiah got out of the car several times to ask directions as we waited inside the car with people coming up to our window from every direction trying to sell things such as plantains, drinks, water in a bag, and even toilet paper. There were times I know Matt felt completely irritated and times I was pretty nervous and somewhat scared. Today was a day I truly understood the meaning of praying continually. We finally realized where we needed to go and of course did not have a place we could park the truck. We circled the block in heavy traffic (by heavy I mean bumper to bumper, no road rules, and cars and trucks pushing their way in anywhere they want to be). The only place we could park the truck was down a side street where there were men trying to make money by washing cars. They were not happy about us parking there so we figured we might as well get our truck washed so we could park! We headed into the bank where we were greeted by several men with machine guns guarding the place. We walked through a metal detector and we were asked to wait for the lawyer. We waited for about an hour in the lobby of the bank, the lawyer calling about every 20 minutes to let us know she would be there soon. As we waited many people came in and out of the bank, several were men with guns and specifically 1 with a double barrel shotgun. The first lawyer finally came in and took us up to her office (which we now realized was inside the bank….that info would have been helpful earlier). We met with her, she gave us her fees, and answered our questions. We left hoping that the truck would still be where we left it….there it was and clean too!
We had Isaiah call the next lawyer to find out where we should meet and he asked us to please meet him at the Presidential Palace….I am now convinced that this was him trying to sound like he had connections because we never ended up at the Palace. We drove into the center of Port au Prince toward the Palace (pulling over every few blocks to ask for directions). As we drove there were street vendors everywhere trying to sell everything from black school shoes, mangos, clothing, and books. There is also no trash removal system in Haiti so the streets are littered with it. Amidst all of this are goats, stray dogs, and people everywhere you look. We have seen this so much at this point that it should no longer be shocking but it is always hard to see. Around this time, the second lawyer called to ask us to meet him at a hotel instead. Next began the search for the hotel (stopping every few blocks to ask for directions) and Matt’s frustration level was growing. After circling in heavy traffic and many one way streets, we finally found the hotel. It had an actual parking lot (thank God for that or I think Matt may have blown up at that point). We parked the car and the lawyer met us and led us into what can best be described as a tropical resort. There was a beautiful pool, patio area, and restaurant where we proceeded to get hamburgers, Caesar salads, and cokes. We talked with the lawyer which was an experience as he promised us several times that he could get anything done we needed for the right price. He is also a presidential hopeful for the 2015 election so that should be interesting!
We left the hotel, got lost about 3 more times and tried to find our way back to the National Road which would lead us back home. Somewhere in the midst of our driving we looked back and a little boy around age 9 had jumped into the cab of our truck. Isaiah asked him repeatedly to get down and he refused. We finally had to pull over and Isaiah got out and made him get out….it was not easy!
We made our way back to the National Road and headed home. I have never felt so happy to pull into Christianville. We got back to Christianville just in time to take some of our afternoon kids back to the orphanage after school which. As we pulled up to the orphanage word quickly spread that the previous night one of the younger boys had taken one of the older boy’s watches, sold it to another little boy at the orphanage for 10 Gourdes (this is less than a quarter), that little boy then traded the watch with a child at school for who knows what. We tried hard (amidst the language barrier) to solve this problem as well as punish the kids involved then headed back to Christianville for showers and dinner. As we end this crazy day, I am thankful for God’s protection, thankful He put us here, and thankful for the experience!