Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Haiti: Can't I just rent a car?

I have to admit, I'm having some trouble planning my trip to Haiti this November. Because the good people "in charge" in Haiti are obviously unaware of how important it is to maintain a good working relationship with Google Maps. Or of the value of addresses.

Normally any trip in Sarah's future involved painstaking planning and extensive Googling. I google the best hotels and attractions, gas stations, fees & tolls, addresses of my destinations, the shortest routes to these sites, road construction, advice from locals, common pitfalls, etc. All of this information is saved in a custom map which I can access on my computer or my phone so that I will never, never have to ask for directions. Then, and this is the best part, I use Google Earth or Street View to do a "dry run."

Nerd. High-strung, anal, nerd.

The real reason I do this has to do with how much I hate being dependent on others or feeling insecure in my surroundings. I want to step off the plain, train, automobile looking competent and bored. This is difficult in a foreign country for obviously reasons but the poorest country in the western hemisphere? Streamlining public transportation or any kind of civil services are not prioritized.

As I'm trying to find my destination on a map devoid of addresses and written in french I think, "Why can't I just rent a car, input the address in my GPS and go?" As I remember the crowded, pitted streets and haphazard, yield-the-right-of-way-to-the-vehicle-that-can-do-the-most-damage rules of the road, my frustration deepens.

Tap-taps, the closest things to a taxi in Haiti, are brightly colored trucks full to the rafters with people
Getting around successfully in this country requires either a well-developed sense of adventure and an imposing physical presence (or a blunt instrument if it comes to it) or an in-country friend. I don't have much of an imposing present or, if we're honest here, much of a bring-it-on attitude.

This wouldn't be that big of a deal to anyone except to the stubbornly independent girl. Alas, she will have to ask for help, because I'm not entirely sure I will be able to "blend"...

...especially because all I can say is:
"Mwen pa pale Kreyol!" (I do not speak Creole).

That is if you don't count "Ale!" (Go!) and "Chita!" (Sit down!).

(I worked primarily with kids the last time I spoke Creole)
Look at that 17 year old world traveler!
But the thing is, this is Haiti. It doesn't apologize for being crazy and chaotic or not yielding itself to my control. And don't you love someone more, not when you bend them to your wishes but when you learn to understand and accept each other? 

I don't want to control Haiti, I want Haiti to love me.

Jaminsky, He is about 18 years old now.
Still, deep in the back of my mind something resolves that, one day, this is not going to be so overwhelming. Maybe next time...

In the streets, there seemed to be this ongoing turf war between the pedestrians and the vehicles.
I think the pedestrians were winning.

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