I feel like I’m hitting a dry spell here. I talk a lot about the kids and what we do day to day, and that’s great for the parents/grandparents and various others that find that stuff cute. I feel like there’s pressure to bring more to the table though. I mean, I read a bunch of other blogs on a regular basis, and to be honest, I have no idea how some of them post something every day, or sometimes multiple times a day. These are people with children and work and life. I just don’t get it. I think part of my problem right now is that life is busy and moving and when I do have time to sit down and do something that doesn’t involve speaking creole, telling someone what they need to do, cooking for someone, cleaning up after someone, making sure people in this house have clean clothes, and trying to get about three people’s worth of work done in the midst of all that the last thing I want to do is sit down and use my brain. So you get kids. And a run down of our week. None of it seems overly exciting.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, obviously. I realized part of my issue is that life is so normal here that stuff that resonated with me 6 years ago barely blips on my radar, so it’s hard to remember things to write about. I was thinking about all of this as I was driving through St. Marc on Thursday doing some errands and going to pick Olivia up. I tried to be more intentional about remembering the things I was seeing.
Do you want a window into my drive?
First off, it involves me playing my iPod through the car speakers, which results in me singing at the top of my lungs at times. Especially when it’s just me in the car. I miss that about living here. I like driving, and I liked commuting because it gave me time on my own where no one could intrude on my thoughts. I like that I get to drive Olivia to school because it’s “me” time.
On the way to town I was apparently not driving fast enough for the blue van behind me, jam packed with people. He passed me, only to get stuck in a line of traffic later.
As I went over the speed bumps at the gates of St. Marc the guys selling juice and water in little bags were waiting for their next mark. Any bus, or piblik, as they’re called here warrants them running down the road to chase a sale. It always amazes me when the guys just manage to get a hand hold, and jump on the back of the bus. These are old school busses, often painted up brightly, and packed to triple capacity, and that’s just the people. The juice guys will grab on to the ladder going up to the roof of the bus at the same time that they jump, and I always hold my breath hoping they get that first foot up there so I don’t have to worry about running them over as they fall back down. Did I mention they do this with a 5 gallon bucket in hand or jimmy rigged over a shoulder? It’s insane. They’ll ride the bus to the next stop, and sell things to people through the windows, or get off when the bus stops. When they’re done, they’ll look for one going back to where they came and repeat the process all over again.
As I drive into St. Marc I quickly remember that I can take the beach road, and almost miss my turn. Thankfully there weren’t any other cars or motorcycles in my way… As I drive along the road I’m grateful that the road crew has been working on this section. It means not having to fight through bumper to bumper traffic on the main road going through town. I drive along, being happy that this repaired road literally cuts about 10 minutes off the drive getting to the store. And then I hit traffic. It’s the first time since the repairs that it’s been so bottlenecked. I quickly realize that the cause of the bottle neck are cars, trucks, container trucks and other vehicles parked two deep on either side of the road. There’s only room for one lane of traffic, which means me and the guy in front of me have to pull over into an open section amongst the parking while a truck with a shipping container slowly creeps by us. I watch in my side mirror to see if he’ll squeak through without putting another scratch in the car. Not that it matters. It’s looking a bit rough, just like most cars here. He makes it, but with only a few inches to spare. Chris always says that if they don’t whack your mirror there’s still lots of room. I know I’ve been here for a while now because I’m measuring things by the same standard. The cause for the blokis is revealed as I notice that there are even UN vehicles parked by the douane. There is a banner hanging over the road announcing it’s International Customs Day. There must be some sort of ceremony or whatever that has everyone and their car out to block the road.
I head to the grocery store and greet Kamar, one of our former security guards inside. He was transfered about 6 months ago. I quickly start to gather my list of items, which I’ve actually forgotten in the car. Good thing my memory is good. I get the deli guy to cut me some cheese while I get most of the other things on my list. $12 for two pounds of mozzarella. Ouch. This is why we’re trying to cut back on certain things. I’m familiar to the people working in the store and they smile and greet me when I come to the check out. It’s not abnormal for people to ask where the kids are when I go shopping :)
I head outside with my bags. As I load them in the car a guy that is usually panhandling out in front of another store has taken up a new post here. He speaks English. It grinds on me. I get in my car and go to the end of the street to turn around then head out into traffic.
The process of driving here is one that requires full brain power. Not only are you trying to drive your vehicle responsibly, you’re doing it in utter chaos. Granted, it’s probably not as bad as some countries, but when people regularly equate driving in Haiti to playing video games, it’s a bit of work. St. Marc has a very high population of motorcycle taxi’s, and they swarm around like bees. As you drive, you get in the habit of scanning left to right, rear view mirror, left to right, rear view mirror. At any time an oncoming vehicle may pull into your lane for no good reason, a motorcycle may whip around you, you try to divert yourself around pedestrians getting from point A to B, and often with a load. I see a woman with a single shoe on her head, and then notice the other half dozen pairs in her hands. She’s advertising that she has shoes for sale.
As I head towards picking Olivia up, I notice a swarm of scooters in my rear view mirror. Normally it wouldn’t take up space in my brain, but on this occasion they make me think of a motorcycle gang. They’re driving behind me almost in a V formation. Sunglasses on. Little Haitian flags that many donned for the second anniversary of the earthquake flapping in the wind. They hold formation behind me, like a secret service escort, until I turn off, only then breaking formation and going around me.
The rest of the trip home is uneventful. There is nothing that sticks out in my mind. It may have everything to do with the four year old sitting behind me and the chatter as we talk about her day at school. Driving here tires out the brain more than the rest of the body. We always feel a little beaten up when we get home, even from a short outing. And then, when we take time away from Haiti, we marvel at how easy it is to drive in the US or Canada. How easy it is to let our minds wander to take in the scenery and the things we pass by. One can go months here not noticing something just off the road because your concentration is elsewhere.
Time to say good night from here.