Saturday, October 31, 2009

Haiti: Day 1

Up early, and off to Haiti by bus, trailer, and van. A 3 hour drive to the border. The scenery changes, the atmosphere changes, and our mood changes. A little more somber, a little more worried. We are to cross the border with over 600 pounds of medicine, go into some hostile territory, and there you have it.
We arrive at the DR side, and the bridge is waiting for us. Across that bridge is a desolate and barren land, strikingly isolated from the rest of the world. Haiti: the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The bridge spans a river named for the genocide and atrocities that occurred during the political upheaval years ago. "Massacre River". Thousands upon thousands were butchered and violated. We cross with that in mind and wonder what it was like, and more importantly why it had to happen.
At the end of the bridge is the Haiti customs and passport control. The test of our paper work and contacts works. We get through. Nothing is confiscated, no fees, but a few bribes. We pick up our 2 plain clothes armed police men who will be with us for the week, one in the bus with us, the other in the van with the rest of the meds. Within 30 minutes they earn they keep. We are stopped by a "customs" officer, later to be found out to be renegade and wanting a bribe, and then the national police at a road block. Without our escort we would have been in some serious trouble. No fault of our own. It's just the way it is here if you don't have someone who knows the ropes and has some fire power so to speak. We make it to Cap Haitian after another 2 hours. The city is difficult to described. Picture a city pummeled by poverty, garbage, isolation, war, corruption and dry. That's where we are.
We get to our hotel, and it is a welcome site, nice and clean and a little out of the area of filth. We spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening packaging meds for tomorrow. We're tired, yet excited. Anxious, yet patient. Tomorrow brings our first day of patients. We'll have double the team that we have now, with interpreters and support staff. And our 2 security officers. Practicing medicine with armed protection. Maybe a little too cautious. But then again, who knows what's behind the throngs of people we may see tomorrow. Perhaps just love and acceptance. And that will be just fine with me.

In all things give thanks,