Photo by Jenna McKnight
There are areas with enormous destruction, and we drive everywhere going in and out of it, but the roads are cramped and congested, the windows are up and tinted and it is hard to see very far from the van.
Coming from the airport on Friday our host, Mimi Douze, immediately turned from the front seat and began trying to teach us how to figure the dollar equivalent of Haitian money we had stopped to pick up from two guys hanging out at a defunct gas station. You simply divide the face value by 5 and then convert it to exchange value (divide again by 7.8.) It was all pretty distracting.
We saw a lot; it’s just hard to sort out and make sense of all we saw.
The mob we met walking out of the airport was pretty intense, too. It is like the hungry skycaps and gypsy drivers had been insanely multiplied. One guy took charge of our cart and indicated, in Creole, that he was an official of the Chariot company that owned them, but as soon as we got to the door four or five other guys had laid hands on it and were arguing and tussling for the right to take over. Then more came on and we dragged a whole crowd of them along while the original guy grimly hanging on...and then Jenna spotted a guy holding up a sign with my name on it at the edge of the crowd.
Other travelers were getting the same treatment by their own teams of helpers. We were confused, though, when we realized the guy with the sign with my name on it turned out to have the same badge and uniform as the fellows apparently fighting over our cart, but we went ahead and pushed over to him somehow anyway.
We were not totally confident we were connecting with our driver; it was possible we had been hijacked; but still, the sign with my name on it had been reassuring. “Piece of cake,” I remember commenting, adding, however that it was possible we were the cake and were being eaten, as we went struggling down a rough, potholed road filled with zooming traffic. Our cart still had four or five guys hanging onto it to keep our bags from falling off I guess, because they all had hands on it. But now there was yet this other fellow, the guy who had flashed the sign, leading the way. We went a few hundred feet and crossed the road through the mayhem, for God’s sake, and then turned into an even rougher parking lot where a smiling woman, who turned out to be Mimi, and her driver, Berkens, were waiting with the van.
I hugged her.
The fellow who had extracted us, it turned out, was a relative who worked the skycap business. He had been hired to cut us out and deliver us.
There was nothing malicious in any of it. It was just a bunch of people desperately trying to make a living. Competition is fierce.
We let Mr. Berkens settle the tip.