Yesterday we got the phone call telling us that my residency papers were ready for signing, so we finished up work and headed into Port au Prince for the night to visit friends and get a good jump on the day. Port generally kicks our butt in more ways than one so we like to use whatever works in our favor when we can.
We had a great visit with Dennis, Nancy and Kevyn. As we were starting dinner it started to rain and we woke up to still more rain this morning. Haiti will get good rain but it doesn’t usually last for more than a few hours. Chris called Jean this morning to see if it had made it out here and it did so we were happy. Usually the rainy season starts in March or April. It’s now May. It was needed.
Our first errand was successful. As was our second. Also a little interesting. While Chris was paying for a new USB hub in one computer store (yes, it’s true, a store that sells just computer stuff) Kevyn and I went across the street to look for a printer cartridge. Yes, it’s also true, two computer stores within walking distance of each other. Who knew? Kevyn and I were done first so we waited out by the truck only to end up being harassed by a few guys sitting on a wall with nothing better to do. One of them asked me, I think, if I wanted to buy some juice. I told him I didn’t and turned back to my conversation with Kevyn. When I turned to look down the street I saw the Juice Man peeing on the truck. The conversation between myself and newly renamed Mr. Peeing Man went like this…
Me-You don’t have any respect?
Peeing Man-No. I don’t have any respect.
PM-Big grin on his face as he continues his deed.
M-Children do that.
M-I said CHILDREN DO THAT!
PM-Children do this? (It’s a Haitian thing to repeat, a lot)
M-Yes, children do that. You’re like a child.
PM-You think I’m like a child?
By that time Chris was on his way back across the street and Mr. Peeing Man was reclaiming his perch. As we were getting into the truck I overheard one of his friends say, “Ah! She said you were like a child! A ha ha ha ha!” I’ve learned a few things about this culture, and one of them is that people look for fights but sometimes embarassment will get you further. Mr. Peeing Man’s friends won’t let him forget the time the white woman told him he was like a child ;)
On our way to Pieces & Papiers we took a quick rest stop at Patisserie de Madame Beliard, one of the best bakeries in the country. I had never been there before and Chris had just discovered it on his last visit. We had these amazing ham and cheese pastries. It was so non-Haiti, at least the part of Haiti I’m used to. I have to remind myself that all of these things make up what Haiti is.
The trip to Immigration was interesting. I wasn’t sure what to expect. After waiting on the sidewalk for our guy to get a photocopy and being entertained by the four police officers that beefed up their duties of keeping lurkers off the sidewalk where we were waiting we headed inside. Haitian Immigration is kind of like herding cattle. First everyone jockeys for position to actually get in the gate, where they only let about 10 people in at a time. After that you head to the first of many waiting areas to find out where you go next. Next, ends up being a loooong basement like space with no windows and about 300 chairs in different sections where people will wait for who knows how long. We got in line with the rest of the cattle and badge flashed our way to the office area where they process the Permis des Sejours. After filling out some papers and a bit of a wait we went to see the lady for finger prints. This meant walking through another waiting area that led to a smaller waiting area and eventually into a 6×6 office where at one point there was about 10 of us standing and sitting. The electronic finger print scanner was pretty cool and Chris got to play photographers assistant by holding up the big white background for my mugshot. It was very professional.
After a little wait for our guy to get back from paying to renew Chris’ Permis de Sejour we were on our way. In and out in a little over 2 hours. By North American standards that’s worth griping about. Here that’s worth celebrating.
From there it was on to the Daihatsu dealership to get a small part, which they had. Then to MEGA MART. I’m sorry, I still can’t write it without hearing the super hero echo in my head. Moving on. We found all of the stuff we were looking for there, including a 10lb. block of cheese. Not figuratively, literally. For those of you that have no idea how big a 10lb block of cheese is, it’s bigger than my husbands head. Actually, almost the size of a cinder block. We did the math and were paying about $3.50 US for 1/2 lb and the 10 lb. block worked out to $3.75/lb. Yes Mom, we’re turning into super shoppers.
We went to the KIA dealership and again hit pay dirt and got the thing we needed – last one in stock to be exact. The thing ended up being a new key for the truck so we had to go find the key guy. Yes, he’s just a guy with a wood stand on the side of the road and sometimes he’s there, and other’s he’s not. Today he was there, and he didn’t need to go off and try to find power to cut the key. We left the truck there because it was the ignition key, and walked to EKO Depot for a few random items, all of which we found. Sometimes the key guy says 15 minutes and really means an hour. Today he meant 15 minutes and was waiting for us when we got back. The key worked in all holes, also a bonus, and no one stole our truck or any of our stuff which was good considering that Chris not only gave him the key to be cut, but also the whole key chain which had the keys for the battery, the lock box with all our stuff in it etc. Yeah, memo to self: DON’T DO THAT AGAIN. Don’t worry Barb M, Chris was eating crow and you can use that one as future leverage for something.
Last stop of the day was getting new tires on the truck, and again we were successful. Actually, not only were we successful, but it took us longer to eat our sandwiches than it did for them to install and balance the new tires. Come to think of it it took them less time here than it does back home…
The trip home was spent marveling at our good fortune today. We got everything we needed. We did all of our errands. There were no obnoxious people. We did not get annoyed. Neither of us was cranky. Neither of us was exhausted. In fact, we were in such a good mood we spent a good portion of the trip discussing the fact that checking the weather report and planning Port trips on rain days is a good idea. That, and laying down ground rules for the 10lb cheese consumption. When you have to drive 2 hours to find the nearest block – and you live with my husband – you need ground rules.
So Port, to you we say thank you for such a pleasant visit. We would LOVE to do it again sometime.
Oh yeah – we won.