Today started out very early. I don’t typically mind getting up early by normal standards but this morning I had to rise at 4:30 local time (3:30 AM back home) so I could get ready and be at the MFI airplane hangar by 5:30.
In the lobby I met up with Pastor Tim Schoap from Signal Mountain Bible Church in Signal Mountain Tennessee near Chattanooga. He was part of a medical missions team heading to Grand Basin to finish a clinic there. He had an entire team with him and I hope to post some pictures eventually but for the moment I foolishly forgot a cable to connect my camera to my laptop.
Flying with MFI is a great experience. It’s a ministry, the pilots, mechanics and anyone else associated with them are “missionaries who serve missionaries.” I helped load the baggage onto the plane. I watched them tow it out to the tarmac and I had a few brief moments to talk to one of the mechanics (Mr. Campbell). I had stayed with his son Jason on my first trip to Haiti but that is another story.
They have a few small planes but the workhorse is the Douglas C-47 DC3 “Gooney Bird”. It is a wonderful aircraft. It has something that many planes miss these days legroom! I can get up and walk around and even take a picture of the cockpit. For that matter I was able to stand just behind the pilot and co-pilot and watch them work the controls and gaze out the tiny windshield. Try that on a domestic flight and you’ll be in irons (or more likely plastic zip ties) before you can say “But I just want to watch.”
The long way around
We finally took off at 6:30 local time from Ft. Pierce Florida and flew to Exuma in the Bahamas. We disembarked only long enough to stand in the main building while the plane was re-fueled and then alas my vacation in the Bahamas was over. Back aboard the plane we flew another 2.5 hours to Santiago in the Dominican Republic (Check Google maps) so they could unload some cargo for missionaries in that area.
The forty minute delay ended up taking two hours. Finally we once again we clambered aboard the DC3 and in a quick thirty minute flight, came over the mountains and across the boarder into Haiti. You almost wouldn’t believe it but looking out the window as you fly over you can literally see where the Dominican Republic ends and Haiti begins. Not much use to cry boarder dispute here. The deforestation of Haiti is unfathomable. Oh, there are trees all over Haiti but it’s not the wall to wall rain forest it once was. And with the deforestation, the rains constantly sweep the rich volcanic soil down from the heights and I suppose out into the sea.
I’ve been told that the Dominican republic bought every citizen a propane tank at some point in it’s recent history and made felling trees to make charcoal an illegal act. in the Dominican Republic they cook with LP, in Haiti they cook with charcoal which simply means that the deforestation will continue presumably until there isn’t a tree left standing in Haiti. After that I anticipate that either charcoal or perhaps finally LP will become the fuel of choice.
Haiti – It’s a word that carries meaning. For those who have never been outside of their home town it may not mean much. For others who have never ventured beyond the boarders of their own country it may be classified as one of those places that is merely far away and occasionally mentioned in the news. But for those who have actually been to this tiny country which shares half of the island of Hispaniola (the actual landing place of Christopher Columbus for you North Americans) it generates a thousand memories and some very difficult to describe emotions.
In the last six years the immediately visible physical condition of Cap Haitian really hasn’t changed much. There is a bit of actual pavement down around the bike parts area of town but the road immediately degenerates into something less than a smooth ride. Imagine falling down the stairs on a pogo stick and you’ve got the Haitian road system pretty well figured out.
After a quick enough pass through customs I was grateful to see a familiar face, Wonnie a Haitian who works for and with the OMS missionaries here was there to get the baggage. So also was a new person I’d not met before – we packed the van and proceeded with a game of low speed chicken back to the compound.
So now, here I am – tired and just a bit hungry. Tomorrow I start teaching and as always I sit here wondering, “do I have enough material? Am I going to be able to cover all the material I have? What happens if I…. well you get the point. Teachers jitters. I suppose I’m the only one who ever gets them but then again maybe not.
Assuming I get Internet access at some point I’ll send this later tonight or later whenever… It is Haiti after all.