On the Road

Yesterday morning, we woke up at 4 and squeezed into a van leaving Hinche. After two hours of travel pressed up against the side, we reached Croix-des-Bouquets, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. There, we crammed into another van (16 people, plus luggage) and set off for Thiotte.

Going up the mountains and then back down, I discovered that there are advantages to being squished up against people: the trip is less bumpy because their bodies act as cushions. Also, on longer journeys, people are sometimes more inclined to talk – in this case, the conversation turned to the road we were on and how crappy it was.

The priest sitting next to me went on a long rant about how if it was paved, many more foreigners would come to check out the area and donate money and supplies. I couldn’t help agreeing with him, thinking of how our journey from Hinche only took hours because of its paved road. That doesn’t affect whether we do or don’t decide to work there, of course (people are much more important than materials, I’m constantly realizing), but it does make it easier for me to do things like stop by there and just check up on things, and I’m sure other groups working in Haiti find the road to be a perk, too.

Still, out of boredom more than anything else I attempted to persuade him that his area won’t benefit from foreigners coming in for short visits so much as it will from long-term investment: NGOs and churches are capable of that, too, of course, but I’m thinking more along the lines of businesses. Bad roads are one of many things that creates a bad environment for business here, something everyone traveling in that van – most of them were merchants, moving goods to and from Port-au-Prince – understood very well.

Anyway, after a relatively short but bumpy 4 hours, we arrived in Thiotte, a market town in the mountains above Ansapit. After waiting a while for my friend to come with a motorcycle (he was delayed by something more urgent), we finally gave up and set off with another driver for Ansapit. The ride was well over an hour, and over the course of it we got to watch the landscape change from verdant slopes to more sparse desert; we caught glimpses of sea and passed through tunnels of butterflies. Finally (after a brief negotiation over payment for the motorcycle ride), we finally arrived to Ansapit and the reforestation project we’re staying with here, Sadhana Forest.

More photos later, but I’ll just say for now that it’s good to be here. The people who come and stay create a really unique atmosphere: last night’s dinner conversation revolved around couchsurfing and Kerouac’s On The Road. That and our own long journey yesterday got me thinking a lot about what it means to travel and to arrive (for those of you who still don’t know, Project Rive’s name translates to Project Arrive, by the way).

The last time I was here, I talked to my friend Jean about the concept of home – Robert Frost’s line about how home is “where no matter what, they have to take you in” came up. I think during my time here in Haiti I found a new definition: home is where your special skills are relevant. I’ve managed to pick up a bit of experience during my time here in Haiti: I know how to buy cell phone minutes on the street, find a bus to cross the country, even use the compost toilets they have here at Sadhana. And, of course, speaking Haitian Creole.

Only when I come here to Haiti do I get to practice and improve in these basic but essential actions, and if I went anywhere else I’d have to learn them all over again. So, let’s hope I’ll be here for a long time!
Promise to have more photos, less musing in the next post…

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