Projects in Haiti are a lesson in logistics. Any endeavor, whether short-term trip, class outing, errand to the grocery store, moving here, or setting up a long term mission, revolves around traffic, transportation, gas, and the finances to make it happen.
Katie and I have lived in Haiti for almost three and a half years. In that time we have gone on a date, by ourselves, outside of our apartment exactly..... twice. The reason? Logistics.
March went well. Quartier Latin had only a few other patrons. We sat outisde near the Cuban jazz musican and had a great meal. We drove home. No drama.
This month we chose Papaye. Murphy and his law decided to tag along.
Katie wore a dress that kills me. It is simply a long cotton sundress, but she wears it well. I was in some rags that made me look respectable. Barely. We started up the mountain late, hoping to avoid traffic. Once we turned into Petionville, Murphy's law attacked the workings of our car.
It would not idle. If I was not pressing down on the accelerator, the car would stall and die. Even when I was pressing the accelerator to the floorboard, the RPMs rarely were enough to keep from stalling. This, combined with the fact that we were driving up a hill, meant our forward progress was laughable. Traffic piled up behind us. A man pushing a wheelbarrow full of goods passed us on the sidewalk. I swore. A lot.
I sweat when under pressure. I was under pressure to not block one (of the two) lanes of the city's major thoroughfare, pressure to not hit a pedestrian, and pressure to actually be a good husband to my wife. I was trying to take her and that sundress out someplace nice, for crying out loud! Finally, even at 7:30 is was hot in Haiti. I was sweating a lot.
I rolled into a well-lit area to park and made some calls. We sat in the car, waiting and sweating. A drunk, possibly crazy man approached our car with a stagger. Normally, I feel fine engaging those who beg in conversation. I believe it is humanizing. This was not a normal time. I shook my head and said "no" as soon as he waked up to the car. He mumbled and gestured. I couldn't hear him through the window, but "ban mwen" was his lead-off phrase: give me.
Me: More head shaking.
Him: Mumbles and wild gestures.
Me: A shrug. A head shake. An emphatic "no".
Him: A suggestion that I get my mother. (Kreyol speakers will understand that turn of phrase.)
He walked away, not in a straight line, taking the time to turn back, mumble, and gesture. I breathed a little easier.
We sweated. We scanned the sidewalk on all sides of the car. Sweated. Scanned. Dozens of Friday-evening groups walked by. A drizzle began. Sweated.
Our help arrived about thirty minutes later in the form of Dan, our mechanic friend (and Miquette's brother). He swapped cars with us and we realized we could continue our date.
When we walked into Papaye, it was like another world. In a lush back yard with all-white decor, Katie and I sat down amongst bourgeoisie Haitians, diplomats in town for the ACS conference, and expat aid workers. We took a deep breath and laughed, the tension of the last 30 minutes gone.
We have made no plans for May's date...