Written by Jill Roper in 2013
When I got off the plane in Cap Haitian I entered a whole new world. The temperature was blazing hot with enough humidity to fill a swimming pool. There was a little Haitian band on the run way playing music for us as we walked into the "terminal". The room we walked into was shoulder to shoulder. When it was my turn to get to the desk I handed the man my passport and he wanted to know where I was going. MamaBaby is all he understood. He wanted an address and I had no clue. Once through customs I walked into another room that was total chaos. Kelli, the President of MamaBaby was there to greet me along with the director, Santo. Kelli was easy to pick out, she was the only white woman. There was so much yelling going on I was in shock. Kelly told me to come stand by her and be quiet. Not that I had anything to say with all that was going on!
Santo was up at the front of the room with my three huge suitcases and an extra box of supplies opened up on a table. I watched as they went
through all of my things. What I later learned was the Haitian government taxes all things coming into the country, especially supplies brought to help the Haitian people. Apparently after the earthquake crates full of supplies poured into the country and they taxed it all, sometimes thousands of dollars at a time.
It seemed like it took forever for the men to decide what they were going to charge for all my stuff. Thankfully they didn't hunt too hard in suitcases because had they seen all the supplies they would have charged alot more for me to get in. Finally I was told to follow Kelli and Santo out. The sidewalk was lined with Haitian men on either side. It felt surreal.
Once we past the entry way into the parking lot a dozen young men or so flocked around us. They all wanted to carry my luggage. They all jostled to see who would get them. Kelly was walking so fast I was having a hard time keeping up with her. I wanted to yell to her, please don't leave me here by myself. I felt like a little kid again in a busy store trying to find my mommy!
When we got to the car all the young men followed with my bags. That is when a discussion was started as to how much to pay and to whom. Seems that those that walked along side who didn't actually carry my bags wanted to get some of the money too. After another long discussion that I could not understand I turned to get into the car when little boys came up to me. "Please Misses, some money please" I had been warned not to take out a wallet and just have a few dollars I could get to quickly but
I was told to get in the car and there the boys stood, at my window with pleading eyes.
On the outside I looked cool, calm and collected but on the inside I felt like Jonah when he was swallowed by the great fish. I was not where I was supposed to be! Those pleading eyes stayed on me through the glass. I tried to get Kelli's attention saying what am I supposed to do but she was busy trying to get us out of the parking lot. Men flanked the car as we left staying right with us through the airport parking lot.
When we were finally free I breathed a big sigh of relief which didn't last long because we turned onto the main road in Cap Haitian and what I saw stunned me. Years before we had lived in the Azores so I knew what it looked like to step back 100 years into a society that seemed to have stood still. The road was filled with huge pot holes. There were no traffic lights or signs or any rules to go by driving down the road. There were motorcycles that zipped in and out, there were "tap-taps" filled with people standing up in the bed of a pick up trucks and taxis which were like a mini-van crammed with 10 or 15 people. New York city taxi drivers have nothing on the Haitians!
On either side of the road there were little open markets. There were men making bricks, there were women selling bananas and mangos. There were people selling little baggies filled with water and there were children walking aimlessly. There were honking horns and chickens. I just sat in the back seat with wide eyes trying to soak it all in.
I remember praying as we drove that God would use me to be his hands and feet. That I wouldn't do any harm while I was there, that I would be a blessing. I prayed for all the hungry people. The farther we drove the less populated it became. We went through one village after another. We finally turned off the main road and wove our way back to a road that housed MamaBaby.
I was supposed to get a tour of the birth center first. That was the plan and what I learned quickly is there are no plans at MamaBaby. When we walked in the plan for orientation was thrown out the window. I would not sleep for the next 36 hours. That story is next...