Right NOW marks 24 hours since arriving in the dark, dusty, wild night at the base in Leogane. Yesterday afternoon upon landing in Port-Au-Prince, I hit an invisible wall at the threshold between the cozy Boeing and the cozy (in a very hot and sweaty kind of way) tropical air. Amongst an even mix of foreigners and Haitian nationals, I swung through customs (no questions asked- made me feel welcome, but then again, every Haitian I talk to is very gracious for the volunteer help), battled for my suitcases at the carousel and hung around outside waiting for two other All-Hands volunteers. In this waiting time, I quickly made friends with sharply dressed, smooth talking gentlemen who sought equally to learn about my home country, test my French, and carry my suitcases for a few american dollars.
I was soon joined by fellow volunteers Bobbi, a full time globe trotting development volunteer from Iowa, and Wilson, a Brazilian lawyer whose distinctly familiar english-language accent turned out to due to spending a high school year in Belfast! We then met our driver, Mauris, who managed to start his Isuzu with a mad fumble in the fuze box while his friend simultaneously fired a blast of ether into the intake manifold and gave a few good knocks on the crank case. Mauris’ Isuzu did not falter one bit as we crawled through the bustling capital city on our 2 and a half hour journey to Leogane. With a proud voice hinting strongly of sadness, he pointed out the now-collapsed National Palace and other landmarks while we all stared in disbelief at the villages of makeshift tarp-and-stick homes interspersed among the seemingly endless piles of rubble.
Upon arrival at the base, Mauris bade us each farewell with a great bear hug, and we were quickly welcomed and initiated to the base. I set myself up in one of the bunk beds sheltered by a bug net, had a nice rain-water catchment shower under the moon light and slept like never before despite the humid 25 degree night.
Tomorrow I’ll give you all the scoop on a day-in-the-life for me down here. This will include the highs and lows of living communally with over 60 kind folks, and the project I’ll be working on starting next week with 8 others, camping in a small village in the mountains where apparently it can get “cold” at night!