| Mar 22, 2010
Well, as many of you know if you have been reading my blog up to this point, I came down to Haiti almost 7 weeks ago... but down here, so much happens in just one day that it seems like it was much longer ago than that. Since then my life has changed so much in so many ways. I haven't written about it in quite a while because I have been far too busy taking it in to even worry about putting into words.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of strange events that have somehow become quite normal and at times even expected. It is hard to find a day anymore where something actually comes off as being a surprise. Just last night I was talking to Donnie, the head of our mission down here in Haiti, about this. When I first arrived in country, we would drive down the streets and I would be amazed and in awe of all I saw around me... not only the destruction, but also the people and their cultural differences. Driving down the street my eyes would be glued to every image around me. Now, however, everything has become so normal. I don't even notice the destroyed buildings around me anymore and I don't even get shocked anymore by the culturally bizarre things I see people do. If anything, they just make for a good laugh. But that's life as what's normal now. Expect everything to be hectic and bizarre, and it is.
I was able to get some R & R time back in the U.S. After a wonderful and restful time, I made it safely back to Haiti. The first thing I had to deal with in the country was the baggage claim. Unlike most countries where they have a nice rubber conveyor belt that runs all your baggage through, they do things a little bit differently here, they do it Haitian style. They rope off an area inside an old hanger surrounding a cargo door. They unload all of the bags into that roped off area while all the passengers watch standing outside the rope. Then after most of the bags are unloaded, some brave souls jump in and grabs their bags, which is quickly followed by someone else unhooking the rope and a free-for-all convergence of passengers onto the pile of bags. There is yelling, pushing, grabbing... Then you walk outside and get swarmed by dozens of porters who are just dying to carry your bags for you and don't take "no" for an answer very well. Despite the commotion, it's really a great experience that just screams, "Welcome to Haiti."
After all this, I got home and began to settle in and catch up on my emails thinking I was going to be able to ease back into things. Shortly thereafter, I got a call from Donnie who was about 45 minutes away saying, "How quickly can you get here, there's been a team (not a Medical Teams International team) of 7 people who got in a bad car wreck up in the mountains, some of them are critically injured. I need your help." After waiting 20 minutes for our driver Wilson (who was out doing errands) to show up, I loaded up my backpack full of bandages, swabs and IV fluids and raced toward the mountains. Traffic is ridiculous here, so Wilson decided to take the back roads to avoid traffic. The back roads in Haiti are awful, one has to wonder if technically they can even be called roads. As we bounced up and down on these roads with the emergency flashers on and the horn blaring, I was attached to my phone trying to text Donnie to find out the rest of the details and the exact location of the accident while simultaneously talking to one of our HQ guys trying to arrange transportation for a partner church group we had in the country. After making it far up into the mountains I finally got a call from Donnie saying, "We didn't make it in time, the helicopter evac beat us to it."
Coming back down from the mountain I realized that the HQ guy and the church group still didn't have a ride, so we swung by and picked them up to take them to dinner at our place. We got back to our compound when one of our Haitian staff approached me and said, "I think there's been a misunderstanding, Margaret (the cook) only cooked for 3 people and there are 10 of you." So here I was with a group of people who had just been stranded for the past 3 hours, back at our compound ready to feed them the meal we had promised, only to find out that there wasn't enough food... Great... Plan B anyone? Wilson, "I think there is a restaurant open that is near here." Me and the HQ guy, "Done." So we headed out to the restaurant and ended up having a quite pleasant evening. It's that kind of dichotomy that makes this line of work so interesting. One minute you are racing up a rough mountain road to go and attempt to rescue people, the next minute you are sitting at a table with a bunch of people doing your best to host them... And that ALL happened just within my first few hours back in Haiti...