- Patricia Decker
So much has changed in the ten years since I last visited Haiti. For starters, the airport is so much more organized. I didn’t have to fight off nearly as many people attempting to “help” me with my bags. And our luggage wasn’t immediately taken off the conveyor belt at the baggage claim. The streets still have trash, but they too are much cleaner. The cars still don’t have much space. I was forced to sit on someone’s lap for a majority of our driving -- eventually, there was room for Nathan to sit in the trunk. Then we sat 4 abreast in the back seat. There are more paved roads which are more organized. I didn’t see any intersection with 5 cars lined up and no room to drive the other way this time. On some of the larger streets in Port-au-Prince, there are actually crossing guards who direct traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian.
However, there are still plenty of rocky dirt roads. The scariest was the road leading up to the Bonzeb farm. We drove over huge boulders and the road was narrow. I was terrified of getting stuck, breaking down, or falling off the edge of a cliff. Fortunately, we had an amazing driver, Junior, who maneuvered the roads with as much grace as possible. It was a little nerve wracking when the vehicle slipped, or Junior stopped, staring at the upcoming hill before making a move into 4W Drive to conquer the massive boulders. We also noticed that no other cars followed us that far up the mountain, only motorcycles. I wished I was on Fanfans’s motorcycle. A few of us got out and walked short sections of the hill. I ended up sunburned that day. I forgot to bring sunscreen. Ah well! I got a nice tan!
One thing in Haiti that hasn’t changed is the people. I am in awe of the resilience of the Haitian people. Despite natural disasters, political corruption, and poverty, they keep persevering. We met so many beautiful people, who just desire to help their country. They were so willing to come with us on the journey and to help Bonzeb in whatever small way they can. Of course, there are still some Haitians who see us white folks and equate us with money. Plenty of people, and children, approach the “Blancos” in the white SUV to ask for money. One time, as an older woman approached our vehicle, Junior just kissed his window, and she laughed and kissed the window back! He gave her some change. Then she went around the car and asked Ochiko for some change, and he obliged as well.
Ochiko has a big heart. He introduced us to his family. His five children were so precious and shy! But we shared some Coca-cola with them and they each greeted us with a kiss on the cheek. Ochiko then showed us the church where he’s the pastor, and the school his wife runs and where she teaches. Their parishioners sleep in the church when they can’t afford a place to live. I am excited to see how Bonzeb can help Ochiko’s church, his community.
On this trip, I was most excited visiting the orphanage in Onaville. I was anticipating it all week. As soon as we drove up, with the pastor in charge, the children clamored to greet us. They each greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and proceeded to grab us and pull us through the orphanage. They fought to hold my hand, my arm, and even hugged me from behind. They showed us the chapel and their classroom. They even sang a few songs, with the pastor’s prodding. They were incredibly precious. The young boys really followed Nathan around and took turns with his camera. The young girls played with my hair and my fancy watch. One even got ahold of my phone and took some selfies. I got it back before we entered the pastor’s office. But the children didn’t want to leave. He had to usher a few of them out. They were trying to hide behind a bookshelf. I wish that we had kept more donations to bring to these children. However, I’m excited to see how their neighborhood changes when Bonzeb can bring new jobs to the area.
This trip also offered time to venture through the city of Port au Prince. We stopped in the metal arts district, where men came from all over to usher us toward their little shops, in the hopes that we would purchase some of their artwork. I found a great metal peacock, which is better than real-life peacocks. I didn’t realize peacocks make horrendous screeching noise at 6 a.m. every morning. Well, the ones at Emaus House did anyway. (It’s surprising how loud the turkeys get, too). I need to find a nice spot for that metal peacock in my apartment.
This trip was an amazing experience; I’ve only been clamoring to return to the island for almost ten years. I hope to return much sooner the next time. And perhaps I can convince my husband to come with me.