A Pleasant Little Tale

Monday was an unusually hard day of travel. It started at about 2:00 AM in Hinche, a city in the middle of Haiti’s Upper Central Plateau. Job and I boarded a pick-up truck to head back towards Port au Prince. I had come to Hinche Saturday to attend a friend’s baptism. Job had been in nearby Cerca Carvajal, planning some work he had to do there. I had wanted to leave Sunday afternoon, but it was Easter Sunday, so no transportation was available.

The truck had found us on our way to the station. It was roaming the streets, beeping its horn and revving its engine, looking for passengers. It wouldn’t leave for Port au Prince until it was full. Job and I got seats, but they were on the roof rack above the cab. In some ways, they were good seats. You get less dust up there. But you have to hang on tight. The truck left at about 3:00.

Job was going all the way to Port au Prince, but I had to get off in Mirebalais, about halfway there. I met the manager of Fonkoze’s office in Belladère. He spends weekends with his wife in Mirebalais, but then heads to his office on Monday. I had some work to do in his branch, so I got on the back of his motorcycle and made the hour-and-a-half long trip with him.

When I got there, I found out that they wanted me to do my work in Baptiste, a mountain community outside of Belladère. It’s another hour or more away on motorcycle, up a hard, mostly-unpaved road. Worse than unpaved, it’s formerly paved. Chunks of pavement combine with rough gaps to make the ride especially bad.

A Fonkoze credit agent drove me up the hill, and accompanied me as I did my work. We got back down to Belladère mid-afternoon, and I finished what I needed to do by about 4:00.

I had planned to spend the night in Belladère, but it’s really better not to. The first trucks don’t leave the city until after 8:00 AM, so you don’t get to Port au Prince until noon. Half your day is shot. Usually, however, trucks don’t leave Belladère late either. The last ones load for neighboring Lascahobas in early afternoon. Belladère is on the Dominican border, and so it’s not that oriented towards Port au Prince. There just isn’t a lot of traffic in that direction.

But I was in luck. Monday is market day in Elias Piña, Belladère’s Dominican neighbor, so there are more passengers looking to head back towards the rest of Haiti on Monday afternoons. I was on the back of a pick-up, headed to Lascahobas by 4:30, and it was loaded and ready to go by 5:30. I had another long wait in Lascahobas, waiting for a truck towards Mirebalais to fill, and by the time I got to Mirebalais it was 8:00. I was tired and hungry, so I slept well.

I left early Tuesday morning on the back of a pick-up headed on the very dusty road back to Port au Prince. The other passengers and I joked that we’d all be the same color by the time we arrived.

We got to Croix des Bouquets by 7:30, but the driver stopped there instead of going all the way to the downtown station. It was a nuisance, and my fellow passengers were furious, but he was not going to change his mind. I walked 20 minutes to an intersection where I thought I would find a pick-up or a bus headed downtown, but I didn’t see any. I settled for one headed to the Shada intersection. There I knew I’d find one.

Or I thought I knew. I had no luck. I started strolling, looking over my shoulder to see whether I’d find the ride I needed.

When I got to Croix des Mission, I came across a familiar smile. It was Marie Ange, one of the women from the KOFAVIV group that I met with regularly over the course of about two years. KOFAVIV is the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, an organization of rape victims who offer support to other rape victims. I no longer meet with them, though I see some of them now and again. I hear about them often enough because a couple of them have gotten jobs with Fonkoze as the agents that offer Fonkoze credit to the others.

We each spoke some about our work. We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time. She too no longer attends the KOFAVIV meetings, but she still works with victims in her neighborhood. She was curious to know about the various parts of Haiti that my work takes me to and about the different groups I see.

She asked me what I doing, and said I looked kind of lost. I explained that I was trying to catch a ride downtown.

I was tired and dusty. I must have looked pretty ragged even by my own, rather low standards. But I had no idea how ragged until she reached into her purse and gave me 50 gourds. It was an event entirely without precedent in all my years here. She must have thought that I lacked even the ten gourds for bus fare, though I told her I did not.

I’m not used to thinking of myself as a charity case, and part of me was sorry to be taking her money. She can’t have much to give. But, for what is, I think, the better part of me, her generosity simply made my day.