Centenary to Haiti

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Ridin’ 19 deep Haitian style

When the alarm began going off around 5am, Angie and I burrowed deeper in our beds until Heather started knocking on our door to inform us we had five minutes. For a few seconds I contemplated foregoing the sunrise hike for an extra hour of sleep. Then I remembered our Haiti adventure is more than halfway over and we were leaving for Cap Haitian today. When would I get this chance again?!
We stumbled around, tripping over shoes and clothes on the way to the bathroom to run a toothbrush over our teeth, and joined Chris, his wife, Jennifer, Ryan, Heather, Ericka and Taylor in the dining area before heading out. I was still half asleep as we reached the street and headed left down an incline. Even though it was still dark outside, we passed a few people who were already up and about for the day. We turned off the paved road onto a rock path slick with mud and running between a line of cinder block and tin houses. The trail was slippery and the damp humid air soon had as all drenched. We were all happy when we made it to the top of the ridge and were able to look out over the valley and lake as fog and mist danced and rolled across the mountains. The sun only peeked out at us through the fog for a few minutes before wrapping herself away for the day. The hike was still worth every second.
After our daily dose of cold showers, a yummy wheat pancake breakfast (and the panicked, last minute packing that went on in my room) we were ready for our questionable time-length road trip to Cap Haitian. When Victoria pointed out the teeny tiny white van parked at the front steps as our ride, I’m not sure any of us believed her…I certainly didn’t. Even as we began the process of stuffing ourselves and our bags into impossible small places, I kept waiting for another car to pull up and for the professors to start laughing and telling us it was a joke. First of all, this was a 15 person van. But even 15 people was stretching it because the seats are small and leg room is nearly nonexistent. Somehow we fit 19 people and all of our bags into this van. Let’s just say if there had been any boundaries left between us…they were now gone.
After 30 minutes of sitting like packed sardines in the van, scared to unpack it, we finally began our close and personal road trip across Haiti (did you know most Haitians LOVE Celine Dion??) The ride was actually beautiful, if you were able to catch a glimpse outside the windows between the mass of bobbing heads.
A shout out to the back row (Joanna, Angie, Lauren, and Jordan): I hope the the back of our heads (row 4: Heather, me, Taylor, and Ericka) were as nice as row 3 (Eli, Ryan, Amy, and Jennifer) and row 2 (Ninja, Castaralla, and Chantel).
The winding roads laid themselves out before us, tucking themselves tight against mountain sides with sheer drop offs on one side. As we road up into the mountains, fog surrounded us (I think it was a cloud) lending the scene an ethereal quality. We supposedly took the smoother route….which was extremely bumpy (this makes me a little scared of what the rough route looked like). It began raining and the tin roof effect throughout the van was successful in coaxing a few people asleep despite the close quarters.
I think we all became a little unsettled when we rounded a corner and headed directly into a mass of people. We had descended right in the middle of a funeral. There are no sidewalks in Haiti, nor any places to pull onto the side of the road. We came to an abrupt stop as the funeral procession parted and enveloped us on each side. The men and women were dressed in their Sunday best as they loped across the rocky ground. When the casket came into view between people I noticed it move up and down as the pall bearers danced and cried. It was both unnerving and powerful to watch such blatant displays of emotion and suffering. I felt in that moment connected to these people as a fellow human being, yet separate as a blan (white/foreigner).
At a halfway point, we stopped at a GAS STATION! All of were taken by surprise, none of us believing they existed in Haiti. We were spoiled by AC and junk food for 30 minutes before folding ourselves back into the van.
Six and half hours after beginning our (4 hour) journey, we arrived!! Many of us haven’t gotten a good look yet due to the continued mass of bobbing heads, but from what we could see, Cap Haitian is very different from our experience with Cange. It seemed industrial and a lot more crowded. Our surprise continued when we pulled into the Roi-Christoph hotel! Like something out of a movie, palm trees fanned and shaded every. corner with tucked away nooks outfitted with quaint tables and chairs. Miniature jungles hid old wooden staircases and terraced patios. We were all completely awestruck. Especially upon seeing the swimming pool and hearing whispers of hot water. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the rain and watching Lauren take Joanna down in a chicken fight.
The abrupt change from an environment of poverty to a luxurious hotel has us all a bit culture-shocked. Doesn’t mean we appreciate any of the luxuries any less, we are just all enjoying them immensely at the moment!
I think we deserve a fun day tomorrow, keep your fingers crossed the rain holds back and allows us a beach day!

Updates:
Eli loaded up on travel sickness meds today
Lauren gave into her desire to play with Taylor’s hair
Joanna shared Lauren with Angie for the day (and then dunked in the pool)
Ninja looked like she got a cushy seat close to the front
Ryan was able to hold his book steady in spite of bumps almost the entire ride
Star avoided the wind blown look with her pretty head scarves
Jordan sat in a corner all day and was NOT able to hold his book steady
Chantel looked like she had to play footsie with Chris the whole trip
Angie gave her roomie a free back massage over the seat (thanks!)
Heather accidentally hung her buttocks out the van window
Ericka scored sleep on our row…I don’t know how she ended up with all that extra room

Be home soon guys!
Ashley

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One thought on “Ridin’ 19 deep Haitian style

  1. This was a great read Ashley! This is Ninjia’s dad… you should consider writing a book some day. So happy to hear you guys are enjoying yourselves! God bless!

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