20 July 2010

Detour

Friday evening, ice water in hand, I sat on a screened porch on La Gonave, watching the rain pour off the roof…that’s right, I said La Gonave, the small island which sits just off the coast of  the main island of Haiti. The move from Pignon had started out well—we managed to get all our suitcases and boxes into the plane, which I had been dubious about, and we had been able to say goodbye to some friends without being hassled by anyone to give them our stuff. (It’s a common problem in Pignon, since so many work teams that come give away all their stuff when they leave.)

I’m cruising along, in the front seat, which means I’ve got the only other headset. Mark is our pilot, and he’s done this flight about a million times, because he’s been in Haiti for 19 years. So I’m not really listening as he starts to talk to one of our other pilots about some weather that was forming over Port. He starts to become a bit more alert, and suddenly, I realize we’re taking a way I’ve not seen before. We flew down a steep canyon, and rain began to fall. Rain’s not usually a big deal for pilots, but as we drew closer to the storm, it looked like a thick, gray curtain hanging between us and our destination.

Coming out of the mountains, we begin to descend into the valley where Port-au-Prince sits, with the ocean on our right. He skirts the edge of the storm, then finally flies partly into it, to see if he can find a way through it. The windshield is suddenly engulfed in rain and cloud, and I’m forced to close my air vent to keep it out. That’s when my stomach began to speak up. I’m the sort of flier who enjoys being up, up, and away…as long as I can see the horizon. There’s no horizon in a cloud. Thankfully, there was also no way we could navigate in that mess, so we quickly found our way out of there.

Ten miles from Port-au-Prince, with no hope of landing, we ended up deviating to La Gonave. We barely beat the rain there, landing only about twenty minutes before it started…just enough time to pull my purse out of the cargo hold, take in the ocean for a moment, and head for cover. Mark called some friends who work with West Indies Self Help (WISH), and they were kind enough to come and get us.

If I thought the roads in Pignon were bad, they didn’t hold a candle to this. The joke was made that we spent as much time moving vertically as we did horizontally. A World Vision SUV whizzed by us, and I delightedly remembered that World Vision has a large population of sponsored kids on this island, which is one of the poorest parts of Haiti. I also noticed what I thought were painted spikes on the tops of their walls, but when I got closer, I realized that they were thousands of conch shells instead.

We had dinner with the WISH folks, and they offered to put us up for the night. (Good thing, too—we had nowhere else to go!) They were also taking care of a Haitian baby named Rosie, whose mother was too sick with TB to take care of her. The orphanage in La Gonave isn’t really equipped for infants, and they’ve gone from 40 children to 60 children since the earthquake with only 12 staff. Rosie’s malnutrition was due to the fact that her six-year-old sister had been responsible for feeding her, because their mother was too weak. At sixteen-months-old, she fits comfortably in the six-month yellow onesie she’s wearing, as they attempt to feed her spaghetti and cheese biscuits. She can toddle along, if she’s got fingers to hold, but she’s still getting over a respiratory infection, among other things. I try to play with her a little, but she’s feeling shy.

The next morning, we explore the grounds better—there are more birds and varied kinds of vegetation on La Gonave than in Pignon, and I enjoy the smell of the salt air. After a delicious breakfast of baked oatmeal, we’re back down to the strip, watching John land with more fuel for us. It’s strange how something that could have been an inconvenience can end up feeling so refreshing.

Praise God for safe landings and for friends who take in strays. Thanks for praying for a safe move for us—we needed it more than you could know! We’re settling into our temporary housing here in Port; please continue to pray for a more permanent place to be found. David flies to Florida to get our shipment next Tuesday!

3 comments:

  1. Thank-you for sharing.I'm glad that God allowed you to have that experience. We will continue to pray for a more permanent place for you.

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  2. Wow; exciting adventure! I'm especially picturing plunging into the cloud. :-)

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  3. Grandpa & GrandmaWed Jul 21, 10:33:00 AM EST

    Glad you are safe and sound in Port au Prince. That was quite an adventure getting there.

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