Traffic Report

Yesterday, I was sitting in a pick-up truck feeling sorry for myself when I saw another one of those things that isn’t really common back at home. I’d been on buses all day long and hadn’t had a chance to eat, and now the last leg of the trip was taking longer than I expected – I’d heard rumors that the majority of the route from Okap to Hinche is now paved, but the road our driver had chosen had certainly never seen a steamroller. Then it started raining, a steady tropical downpour. The woman next to me was trying to hold a tarp up to the window to stop it from dripping in, the driver was trying to navigate bumps he could no longer see what with the blurry window, the girl on my other side was flirting with a guy in front of me, and I was just trying to hold on – surely we were almost there…

Then, we rounded a curve and saw another bus stopped on the road. Getting out to talk to the driver, we saw for ourselves what was holding up traffic – down the hill, water too large to be a stream but too small to be a river flowed across the road. A truck stood in the middle, evidently stuck.

Our driver and others headed down to help pull them out. I lost interest and started looking for a place to pee, when suddenly everyone started running and shouting. The truck had come loose and was now floating downstream, borne by the powerful current. We tried to follow it along the banks, but then it disappeared around a bend.

I’m happy to report that no one was hurt – everyone made it off safely, and many will probably be able to reclaim their things when they pull the truck out later. Our own truck crossed the river a few hours later, after the water had gone down again and everything was safe. I don’t want to make this into a Haitian disaster-porn sort of scenario: bad things happen everywhere in the world, and this time one of them just happened in front of me. It was certainly a wake-up call that no matter how rough I feel things are going for me, they could always be worse. You’d think I’d be reminded of that daily working here where, yes, people are often extremely poor. You might also point out that knowing someone else is worse off doesn’t necessarily actually make you feel any better. But hey, sometimes seeing something like that right in front of you makes you much more acutely aware of how valuable the things you’ve been taken for granted are, and how even simple tasks like crossing a river can be made more complicated and dangerous when the infrastructure isn’t in place.

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