Stepping out my front door and turning to lock it, I start on my way to work just as I do every weekday morning. Moving to the left, I look out to the left at the street. Just across from me I see some neighbors setting up their stand, one of whom we recently had a small argument with when she came over to the women who launder and clean house for us, Dani and Julie, to pick up the trash in front of our house, trash which did not belong to us. She started yelling at them. We hadn’t asked Dani to pick it up, it wasn’t our trash but rather another neighbor’s up the street that washed down. It was very confusing and the woman entered our house without asking, that’s where things took a big turn. Eventually we cleaned the trash and returned to our neighbor, offering apologies and expressing a desire to understand. It seems the woman’s mother would come across the street and pick up the pile of trash that Julie swept from in front of our house. We went ahead and agreed to clean it up so she wouldn’t have to.
When I reach the intersection, I turn right.
Directly behind me now and one block away is L’opital Alma Mater, where I went when I was having some stomach problems and, more recently, an ear infection. After accidentally giving myself swimmer’s ear, I conferred with a nurse friend and went to a pharmacy to get some antibiotic eardrops. It took a few pharmacy’s to find one, and it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for but it had a steroid and antibiotic. It went away after a week. Then it came back a week later after spending the 4th of July weekend at the beach. I went to the hospital and waited 4 hours to see the doctor for five minutes who confirmed that yes, I had an ear infection. WHICH IS WHY I DIDN’T GO TO THE HOPISTAL IN THE FIRST PLACE. He prescribed me Tylenol and Ciprox D eardrops. I went to the hospital pharmacy and they didn’t have the Ciprox D. I went back to the doctor who said I could buy it in town. I went to EVERY PHARMACY IN TOWN and couldn’t find it. I called a friend who was in Port-au-Prince to see if they could find it and they went to 4 NICE PHARMACIES and couldn’t find it. So in the end I bought what I had bought before, put 2 drops in 3 times a day for ten days and I finally think my ear is better. And that is why I never want to have to go to a hospital again.
I walk past a bunch of cars as I pass by the mechanics, waving to Tiden if I see him, and turn left at the next intersection. Michlen’s passes on my left, where I get lunch most days. It always serves rice, some sort of bean sauce, and either legim (a vegetable mash with chunks of meat, it’s my favorite), lalo (a spinach type topping mixed with meat), or sòs vyann (a meat sauce) on a regular basis. Once in a blue moon you can find and okra topping or something which is always fun.
A couple of long blocks straight ahead is the daily market. I go there a few times each month if I need a few random ingredients but mostly leave the big shopping to a Haitian friend. She knows where the good stuff is and she gets the Haitian price.
I don’t go all the way to the market, though I’ll pass it on an adjacent road as I turn right at the next intersection, walk past the metalworkers, and make another left. I’ve made it to National Route 5 in about 5 minutes and will remain on this road all the way to my worksite.
Just behind me is the police station. A block ahead of me is a bunch of motos, street vendors selling locks, small electronics, phones, soccer balls. When I reach them, I navigate through foot traffic, peoples pushing wheelbarrows and women carrying impossible loads on their heads. There’s donkeys, mules, and small horses laden with wares. I hear people calling “blan!” and if they’re not too obnoxious with it I give a little wave. Catching eyes with some I unconsciously smile, mutter a bonjou, and bob my head in greeting, forgetting that with my mask and sunglasses, it is unlikely they can see any of my face or hear what I say. Most of the people I pass are not wearing masks. Weaving through them on the side of the street since the sidewalks are full, I do my best to avoid motor traffic as well. I guess I’ve done a pretty good job so far since I’m still here.
Passing the gas station, the road takes a dip down towards the river. Along the river is a road where, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, it bustles with activity. Market day. Each of those days focuses on something different. I can’t remember what Mondays and Wednesdays are, but Fridays are meat days. You can hear the cries of goats and pigs as they are being herded along or loaded onto motos. It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between the cries of a goat and of the children because the children’s “blan!” when I pass sound remarkably similar to a goat’s “blah!”. Looking around, I check to make sure it’s not a child I hear and keep walking.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are quiet and tranquil. It’s silent on the market road. I prefer those days.
I don’t turn on the market road though and continue straight onto the bridge and over the river. It’s the easiest part of my journey to traverse. On one of the days I was walking with Sami, a large truck had blocked that whole bridge to no vehicles cold pass. Some cars and motos were passing through the river beneath. No one seemed angry or preventing other people from walking past the truck so we just toddled on past. We found out later that they were protesting the mayor whose term ended but elections couldn’t be held and he just stayed in office. No one really likes him.
Too soon the bridge ends and I arrive at the other side of the bridge. I’m about halfway to Grepen.
This next part of my walk is also my last part. I am technically in Grepen, but not my goal which is the agronomy center. It’s one long dirt road that’s pretty wide and curves in places, passes a couple of wells and homes, has some traffic, both motor and foot, with some animal, and is generally pretty tame. Here, when on my own, I can let my mind wander.
It’s been over 6 months since I’ve arrived in Haiti. It’s been over four since the first announcement of COVID-19. I’ve spent more time in a COVID Haiti than not. There have been good days and bad days. There have been many frustrations. While I’m still working I’m still waiting for life to continue on. One person told me that it took them about six months to finally understand what people are saying most of the time. I’m not there yet. There are days where I get it and more days when I don’t and my brain can’t put together the sounds into words and the words into sentences.
I’m still waiting and looking to find something that I can call my own ministry. It’s as if I am the youngest child here, the third one to come to Haiti. Taking cues from those older and more language and mission savvy, people who at the very least appear confident in their work and what they are doing, I have yet to break away and branch out on my own. To gain my own confidence and being able to properly communicate. To not just take cues but cue others in and debate back and forth.
Days going to and from Grepen are good for me. It allows me to become more confident in the person I am and work towards the person I want to be. I want to be able to find more things that allow me to figure out what kind of missioner I am.
I cross over to the other side of the road where the entrance to the center is. It’s taken me about 30 minutes from since I stepped out of the house. The large barrier to the center has a small gap that’s too small for me to pass through so I wrap my hands around the solid metal handle and heave. It rolls open wider and I slip through, tugging mightily at the barrier behind me to leave it as I found it. Taking off my mask, I take a deep breath while thanking God for another day in this beautiful place filled with His creation.
I ask for guidance.
I offer up my troubles.
And I begin.