|Tuesday, Day 7
Day 7 (Tuesday)
Today we left to make water filter deliveries at 6 am. We spent most of the day in the Arcahaie area of town which is south of Pierre Payen. Arcahaie is a maze of single wide dirt roads with tons of homes crammed in there in haphazard ways (no neat grids like in the states). I'd be surprised if anyone had running water.
Our first delivery was at a home just off the main highway so we parked on the shoulder and walked in behind the buildings that lined the highway where some homes were located. Most of these homes were dusty concrete shells with rusty tin roofs and a dirty sheet hanging on a string for a door. Many homes have fences made of woven palm fronds to give them some additional outdoor privacy, like a patio area.
I stayed outside and played rock games and thumb wars with kids from the area who had come out to stare at me (the blanc). At one point we asked one of the Clean Water Staffers if it was time to go and she said “no” so we kept on playing. A few minutes later we looked around and everyone was gone. We walked out to the road to find the truck was gone, too. I figured it might be better to “walk with purpose” and try to look like we knew what we were doing and where we were going rather than sitting by the side of the road looking confused and vulnerable. So we walked in the direction that the truck had been pointing when we left it, praying that they would come back for us (and soon). Along the way we exchanged “bonjours” with the people we passed and also met some friendly and chatty guys from the Dominican Republic who were excited to converse in Spanish with Rich. Next we met a gentleman named Moses who used to live in Miami. Someone had called him on his cell phone to alert him to the fact that some blancs were walking around the town (not sure if this was a good thing or not). He offered to get his car and drive us around and help us find our friends. We politely declined and our truck arrived shortly thereafter. We were pretty glad to see that truck!
We spent most of the rest of the day in an area off the main highway in Arcahaie. Again, the homes were crammed in around a maze of narrow dirt roads with little shade except for the plants that lined the property lines. Most fences comprised of wood sticks jammed into the ground and lined with barbed wire. Some larger properties were surrounded by big concrete walls and iron gates. Many of those concrete walls had more barbed wire and broken glass bottles cemented into the top to keep people from climbing over.
Many homes were comprised of just a single room or two, most with bars on the windows but no glass or screens, some with real doors, many without. There was a steady stream of people walking around with various types of containers for retrieving water from a nearby irrigation canal that also served as a neighborhood bathtub and laundry facility.
A typical delivery involves (1) finding the home, (2) finding the homeowner (about half were actually waiting for us), (3) making sure they have two 5-gallon buckets of water ready (most didnt which slowed things down), (4)carrying the 130 pound concrete filter down the street and into their home along with several heavy bags of gravel and sand, (5) installing and preparing the filter by the technicians, (6) educating the new owner.
Once we found the home, the homeowner, and the technicians got busy, I would chat with some of the kids in my lousy Creole, usually breaking the ice with the rock game, thumb wars, and tic-tac-toe in the dirt. Peter told Rich that one of the Haitian women said that I was "crazy!" Many of the kids loved getting their photos taken and seeing their image on the camara. Once a deliver was done we’d move a block or two to the next one and the kids would simply follow us around. About mid-way through the day they started to ask for money or food and complain about being hungry. One mother was hollering about wanting food and being hungry. She was patting her stomach (okay - I understand what that means...) and then started making gestures like she was slitting her throat which made me quite nervous (is she threatening to kill me???!!!). Turns out that is a Haitian signal for “I’m dying” or “I’m going to die.”
Peter and Rich would hang out by the truck and visit with people who showed up to see what all the hub-bub was about. Peter does an amazing job of conversing in Creole and explaining the filter and how it worked.
For lunch, we packed up into the delivery truck and went to a roadside hut for lunch. There was no menu, just beans and rice with saucy meat on top. I called it "green knuckles" as there are all kinds of bones and mysterious things stewed in a sauce with slimy greens. Rich said one of his pices of meat still had skin and hair on it. I politely at the beans and rice along the edges. When I looked at the wall of the hut I noticed a tarantula on the wall. How's that for a real ethnic dining experience?!!!!
We finished the deliveries after the sun went down in the outskirts of town. It was hard to relax and enjoy the cool evening when we seemed to be so vulnerable - a couple of blancs sitting on the back of a truck in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to believe I was safe, but never really knew if I was or not.
After 15 hours of filter deliveries we were hot, sticky, exhausted. I felt like I had been running a daycare for 30 kids in a foreign language all day. Looking back, I can see how God was preparing me for this day by giving me more relaxed time with the kids on the beach earlier in the week. Those kids taught me tic-tac-toe and jacks and a few easy phrases. I had been feeling a little disappointed by not getting to do more adventurous, hands-on work - but now I think I understand that it was just on God's schedule, not mine :)