Communiqué #108

Communiqué #108

TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY

to the PEOPLE of HAITI

October 5, 2013

F R O M    H E R E    T O   T H E R E

I have said it many times before and now I am saying it again, “Nothing in Haiti is easy!”

For many months, we have been hoping for and praying for a new motor for our boat that we use to transport building materials, food supplies and missionary teams to Ile-a-Vache.  The ancient motor that we have has been resurrected to life on a number of occasions when finding a part or coaxing it to run “just one more time” seemed an impossibility.  At long last a suitable used replacement motor was found in Michigan and the journey of getting it to Haiti began.   The motor was crated up by the dealership, transported to a storage warehouse and then loaded onto a sea container bound for Miami to await the final leg of its journey to Haiti.

Upon my return to Haiti, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the motor had arrived in LesCayes before I did!  That in itself is a miracle!  The motor was tucked in a Haitian warehouse waiting for missionary friends to arrive from the USA to sort the entire contents of two sea containers.  The shipments had brought needed building supplies, food supplies and a myriad of other items including our boat motor.

I made arrangements to arrive at the warehouse at a designated time.  I drove my car so that I could haul a few of the smaller miscellaneous items and I hired a tap-tap (a pickup used for hauling people and goods) to transport the heavy motor and larger items.  Fortunately, I brought three strong men with me.

Arriving at the warehouse, we learned that the motor was indeed there, but it was wedged in the furthermost back part of the warehouse pinned in by multiple rods of heavy duty metal rebar.   The heavy rebar needed to be moved at least a foot in order for the men to free the large box containing the motor.

One must understand that there are no forklifts in Haiti.  A heavy box easily moved in the USA, can barely be budged by four men who have only their muscles to move an item that arrives here.   Now the men’s dilemma is that the box not only needs to be moved, but it also needs to be lifted into the bed of a pickup and then later moved from the pickup into a boat bound for Ile-a-Vache.   The only choice of moving the box was to tear open the box and remove its contents heavy item by heavy item, the motor itself being the heaviest item of all.   The lightest items were removed first.   In the steamy confines of the warehouse, the now four men stooped in an unsafe manner, straining their backs to the limit, to lift the motor and walk precariously over the shifting rebar towards the front of the warehouse.   Once in a cleared area, the men set their heavy load down for a breather.  Beads of sweat covered their body and trickled down to soak their clothing.  Whew!

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It was discovered that a tire on the tap-tap had been punctured by a nail.  “Nothing was going no where” until the tire was changed.   It was so fortunate that a used spare tire was in the bed of the truck!   Once the tire was changed, the boat motor that was mounted on a wooden frame was lifted into and loaded onto the truck.  The remaining items were wedged around the motor and a trip down the mountain back to my house was the next leg of the journey.

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We parked the tap-tap inside our gated yard.  A motor is a hot commodity in Haiti, so it was important to safeguard it while we checked out the condition of the wharf.   One of the men remained behind as security guard, while I proceeded with the remaining two men to the seaside.

Our hope was to be able to use the large private wharf.  It is the easiest, most efficient place to load items into a waiting boat.  But alas, a huge vessel bearing cement had arrived in Haiti from Venezuela. The entire wharf was jam packed with trucks and people and bags and bags of cement.   Small boats were sent out to the large vessel to get cement from the ocean liner.  Waiting on the wharf where people unloading the small boats and transferring cement bags into waiting semi trucks.  There was absolutely no way for us to use this wharf.

Our remaining option was to use the public loading area, which has no dock.   This area is a dumpsite.  It is muddy and smelly and overcrowded with people selling things, people arriving and departing the island and people just wanting to watch all that is going on.  There are children & adults, motorcycles and trucks, wooden pull carts, a variety of goods, animals and more.   First on our agenda was to hire someone who would unload our vehicles, place our items on the shore, wade into the water to place our items in a small boat and then row the boat out to our bigger boat where the items would be transferred to its final water taxi!

We used a cell phone to call the driver of the tap-tap to let him know where he needed to come with our items.  When he arrived, he had to wait his turn to back into the narrow alley cluttered with everything imaginable.   A larger truck finally pulled out and our driver backed in trying to avoid running over a kid or two!  While the vehicle was unloaded a wooden pull cart arrived containing the desks that we had made for the teachers or our school on Ile-a-Vache and wooden planks that would be used to make school benches by an incoming missionary team.   There is no sense in using the boat for just one purpose.   Those items too were unloaded onto the shore and then eventually ended up on our boat floating further out in the sea.

Desks are loaded onto the little ferry boat that will take them to the bigger boat waiting further out in the sea!

Desks are loaded onto the little ferry boat that will take them to the bigger boat waiting further out in the sea!

Next it was my turn to back in.  I started the car, edged my way back while waiting for one of my guys to guide me in.  Unfortunately, my guy had disappeared and a huge truck barreled past me and beat me into the alley.  Alas!  Now we would have to wait until bag after bag after bag of cement was unloaded from his truck.

One quickly learns that patience is something you need to develop when living in Haiti.  Things just never happen in the time frame Americans are accustomed too!

Oh well!  I was having a grand time taking photos of all the events unfolding in this unique environment.  I re-parked my car, grabbed my camera again and headed back out for an extended photo shoot.

Eventually the truck left, I rounded up my guy again and finally backed my vehicle as close to the shore as I could without running into a motorcycle or two that was weaving near my vehicle in its quest to either get into or out of the alley.

The contents of my vehicle were items for the incoming missionary team – cases of beverages, huge plastic jugs of water and some much-needed fans!   No use waiting until the team arrives to try to take these things with us, when this earlier shipping option was available.

This bigger boat will proceed with all our supplies to the tiny island of Ile-a-Vache!

This bigger boat will proceed with all our supplies to the tiny island of Ile-a-Vache!

Finally, all of our items were off the shore and safely shuttled from one boat to the next.  The saga would continue once the boat and its contents reached Ile-a-Vache, but for me … my part of the action was complete!  It was time to head out.

A really cold bottle of Coca-Cola had my name written on it!    Ahhhh!  Life in Haiti!

Nora Léon                    

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic            Until next time, God willing …………

About Nora Léon

Executive Director for Caribbean Children's Foundation Missionary to HAITI and the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
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