Chris was a first-time traveler with Haiti Outreach, visiting the country of Haiti with his church group. He had heard the stories about the lack of infrastructure, including good roads, but no words or even pictures replaced the experience of seeing the roads himself first hand. Since he was riding in a truck from the airport at Cap Haitian to the compound at La Jeune where his group would be sleeping, Chris concluded that this HAD to be a road. Looking ahead at the heavily rutted earth and being tossed about as the truck traveled forward, he was not so sure.
Riding in a truck in Haiti with a group means most people are standing up and hanging onto the bars wrapped around the rear truck bed. At first, standing up in the back seemed fun. You could see the people, their homes and the mountains all around, hear the sounds of daily life, and wave to the little children who were eager to wave at you passing by. But to do this for three hours proved pretty difficult and at times a bit painful as he held on and compensated with his arms and legs for the continuous back and forth and up and down of the swaying truck. However envious he was of the few “lucky” people who got to sit in the cab, he observed that they worked even harder than he did to avoid being slammed into the door, the driver and the dashboard.
Chris was accustomed to roads in Minnesota, where they seem to disappear because they are all flat, black and smooth. They can go on perfectly straight for miles. Driving on some streets is so uneventful that they are equipped with warning grooves at the edge to wake a driver falling asleep from the tedium. Minnesotans grumble to their neighbors if a pothole isn’t mended soon after it appears.
By comparison, a road in Haiti is one vast pothole with varying depths. Actually, a Haitian road is more than a vast pothole. In some places, it is a soccer field. Players pause to let the truck through. In other places, the road is a great laundry and bathroom, as when it passes through a river where hundreds of women wash laundry and bathe their children. And everywhere it is a coffee shop without the coffee: people gather to converse, flirt, and catch up on the news.
Minnesotans might not even recognize what passes slowly and tumultuously under the truck in which Chris rides as a road. Too often it resembles a tumbling surf of clay with the troughs of the hardened mud “waves” dropping as much as two feet below the crests. The frame of the truck creaks as the driver carefully navigates – very carefully navigates – the churning road so that he doesn’t scrape the truck bottom, damage his truck or get stuck.
Whatever or wherever the road was, Chris made a mental note to tell the leadership of Haiti Outreach in Minnesota that the purchase of a road grader would be an exceptionally good idea.