Daily Excitement and Daily Poverty

In Haiti, roads chew up cars. 

Granted, the primary inter-city roads aren’t too bad, but in Port-au Prince the best streets are heavily pot-holed and the worst all but impassable.

Today I was behind the wheel perhaps four hours running errands.  With no A/C I had the windows down, enjoying the heavy smell of aromatic diesel smog.  Nearly got in several wrecks, but as is usual, all were just near misses.

There is usually always some type of excitement here in Haiti on a daily basis.  Maybe as little as a freezing cold shower to jar my nerve endings awake in the morning.  Or maybe as interesting as a random stranger opening the backdoor of your car and start pulling out grocery bags, then running off with them.  This just happened to a friend of mine.

I’m thinking what the routine excitement for today was.  Was it that time I got stopped by the police and they weren’t happy with my insurance paperwork?  This caused drama, but worked itself out (though somewhat underhandedly).  Was it that other time I was stopped in traffic on an uphill and accidentally rolled my vehicle back into a Land Cruiser?  Oops.  But no, he just laughed and waved me on.  Or how about the leather factory I visited that had the antique equipment, musty odors, and unique products exported worldwide?  Nah.  Maybe it was searching the bottom of our kitchen oven with a flashlight for the rats nest our workers are pretty sure is hiding under there? 

All these were interesting, but when I think back on today the most surreal moments are when I was interacting with the needy.  Beggars coming up to my window asking for money.  A man in the factory performing repetitive tasks for hours on end: tedious labor in exchange for a living no American would envy.

Perhaps most poignant was a young street boy wiping down cars in between bumper to bumper traffic with his little rag.  Could he have been older than seven years?  I let him clean the dust off our vehicle while we inched along.  At times he would run to keep up.  In order to reach the front window he jumped up on our running boards, catching a free ride while he worked.  I gave him 25 GD for his labor and at the time felt especially charitable for 1) having given him my business (how many other kids did I turn away?) and 2) giving so generously as the going rate is only 10 GD for this service.  But when the equivalent of 25 GD is still only 50 cents, how could I have possibly felt charitable for that? 

Living on the streets in Port-au Prince is a difficult life.  One of the main motivations I’m here is to try helping just such kids.  It weighs heavy on my heart that as I get ready to go to sleep in a nice bed with a pleasant fan blowing, that same little boy who wiped down my window earlier is most likely curled up in some alleyway with a piece of cardboard over him.

Well, on that cheery thought, guess I’ll go to sleep now.

Tomorrow morning I’m planning to attend a seminar on the state of the national church in Haiti. I’m thinking they better have some good excuses ready.