Our trip to BCTH is uneventful. We chat with a few American nurses who have flown in as volunteers. They say the last few days have been slow. A nice piece of information that could tell me a few things. One, people have been getting the treatment they need. Or, Two, that the ones who need serious treatment have died because they didn’t get it in time. John and the nurse agree that infected wounds will be the next area of concern. We snag two granola bars from BCTH and refill out water bottles, then head back out on National Highway One.
We drive forever. John wasn’t totally kidding when he said he had a nice country drive planned. Very quickly we get out of the city and are on the other side of the bay. It is a great view and I have not seen this part of the country before, so everything is new to me. I go a little nuts with the camera.
I am used to the busy streets of Port-au-Prince- buildings lining every street and lots of traffic (pedestrian and vehicle). Out here there is little traffic except for the occasional tap-tap, and the roads are not lined with anything but scrub brush.
I had read about the deforestation of Haiti, but I did not understand it until I got closer to the mountains. It reminded me of the hills and low mountains in New Mexico, just before you get to Red River or Ruidoso. Tall rolling hills that look brown. Almost an alien landscape. It seems out of place to be surrounded by some green and then… nothing but scrub. On the tops of the mountains you could see little strips of trees. Like little green Mohawks of hair on an otherwise bald head.
As we head deeper into the countryside, the road becomes lined with trees and bananas farms just on the other side of those trees. Always in the background loom the tall brown mountains.
The bay opens up beside us to our left and the sparkling blue water of the Caribbean is calmly rolling in. I think about the trip I didn’t get to take to beach and make a mental note to not miss out again. Far off in the bay the silhouettes of ships are clearly visible.
Midway through the drive John leans forward and squints up the road a head. He takes his professional Sony camera out of the case and hands it to me. He points out the “on” button and which button you press to snap a picture. Like I am from an Amazon community that has never made contact with the outside world and do not know how to take a photograph. I let it slide. John says, “Something is happening up ahead.”
Then a US military helicopter streaks over head and makes a wide turn. Haitians start running out of their homes and down the street. John says that it looks like they are doing a food drop and instructs me to take as many pictures with his camera as I can. A least two hundred Haitians are now on the street running towards a cleared field. I can see a large palette of supplies but I have no idea what they are. Haitians are climbing all over it like ants on a dropped piece of candy. I start snapping away with John’s camera out the window. On the horizon I can see the helicopter coming towards us. Blackhawk, Seahawk, I cannot tell, but I notice through the lens that it is close. It roars over our heads at least 10 feet from the tree tops. I think I got a picture of it through John’s windshield. More and more people are running towards the food. I roll up my window and we cruise on down the road. This is just another day out with John. I tell him I am always accepting an invitation to go out with him from now on. To many crazy things keep happening. (*Update, still waiting on John to get me that picture)
After an hour and a half drive we come to a side street that is only marked by a white cross hanging from a sign post. John announces, “Here it is!” And we turn off the main road.
The compound is run by the same parent organization that John is in Haiti with. There is a dentist, Mark, who runs this facility when he is in country. He and John are friends- John has brought the Diet Coke for him. This is the first clue that John and Mark are close. John and Mark start talking and I wander around their compound.
The first thing I notice is that it is really very quiet outside. We really are in the sticks- there is no sound of traffic. No diesel engines rumbling by, no horns honking, no motorcycles hitting high gear as they race down the mountain. I am suddenly very jealous. This facility also has a great view. It is framed against the same brown mountains I have seen since we started driving.
One oddity is that it seems only half finished. The ground floor is complete but the second story is all exposed cinderblock. I walk into the facility and find many surprises.
First I run into two awesome, great, wonderful, Godly Texas Tech Grads. These women are nursing school graduates who live around Dallas and have donated their time to be here and help out. Here in Haiti, when I meet a Texan it feels like I am a little less alone. Now if only one of them would have some brisket with them…
The second surprise is the German medical team working here. They speak very little English and are all business. They tell me they have come in fully supplied. I ask them if they brought bratwurst and sauerkraut. The only one in the group with a sense of humor laughs and says, “ No, but we brought beer. It is American, but it will do.” Interesting.
The third surprise was what a top notch (for Haiti) facility this place was. Very clean, very organized. You would not normally expect to see a fully functioning hospital with no second floor, but this is Haiti. I see John standing in the corner next to a door and I walk over. This place has two fully functioning operating rooms. Big. Spotless. With a staff of German surgeons! I look in the second OR and a small child is having some procedure done.
Back at the dining and sleeping quarters of this hospital I am given a taste of German hospitality. They offer me a cold beer. Not wanting to create an international incident and remembering the conversation before about having American beer, I accept. I am handed a can and I immediately regret it.
It is not beer. It is Colt 45. In a can. It says American Beer. It has a picture of the American Flag. But it is malt liquor. I hate to think these fine German doctors think normal Americans drink this. (sorry Marshall)
I choke down sips of Colt and the doctors talk shop. A few ask about me and most want to know about my quake experience. They all listen intently as I describe what it was like. The aid workers who are here now have an unhealthy fascination with earthquakes. It borders on paranoia. Even at QCS I know many who choose to sleep in tents outside even though we have some of the best buildings in the city. I even know one volunteer who sleeps with her shoes on in case she has to run in the middle of the night.
I hear a helicopter close by and very quickly a few Germans down their “beers” grab backpacks and jog outside.
In the courtyard a small helicopter is landing. Some of the German team is staying in the city and they have their own helicopter… of course the do. Germans have all the fun toys. A crowd gathers to see them off and then, in a cloud of dust and deafening noise of rotor blades, they take off. John is suddenly standing beside me and says I bet they beat us home by at least an hour.
We drive back into the city talking about missions, rebuilding Haiti and everything else. John’s country drive has taken just under 6 hours to complete. The sun is setting into the bay now and it has been a pretty good Sunday.