You think you’ve seen everything until you come to Haiti and realize you haven’t really seen anything at all, or at least nothing that could ever compare to “real life” here.

I’ve come to realize that “different ” isn’t bad, especially when it comes to my expectations about standards of living. “Real life” in Haiti is difficult, and Haitians work hard to get by every day. At the bridge by the HATS-Haiti Children’s Home, men and women line up at sunrise, or earlier, hoping they’ll be chosen to get a day’s work in the rice fields. If they’re lucky, along with a tedious, difficult day’s work in the hot sun, they’ll get a meal and perhaps equivalent to $2-$3 USD for their efforts.

From the rice fields to the crowded, noisy streets of Verrettes or Saint Marc, it is pretty easy to see that people are trying their best to make a living, just like anyone else would, but the conditions are indescribably difficult. On market days, Wednesdays and Saturdays, Karen said some of the sellers start their long trek down the mountain as early as 2-3 a.m., in order to get a good spot to set up their goods, as early as 7a.m. Their umbrella covered stalls fill the sidewalks in Saint Marc daily, with people selling everything from fruits and vegetables, new or used items of clothing, bicycle tires, hardware goods, and mattresses. Voices in Creole argue over prices, and sellers call out to potential buyers. Women carry pop for sale in metal bowls balanced on top of their heads, as they strategically, carefully, navigate the crowded sidewalks that eventually disappear into the main street. MAYBE, if they were lucky, they might have ended up with a few Haitian dollars, to take home at the end of the day….

And then there are the motos…Unlike home, it’s motos, not pedestrians, who have the right of way – they take/demand the right of way and they are absolutely everywhere in the streets of Saint Marc–they litter the streets like yellow cabs in New York City, and they seem to appear from every possible open space on the street, beeping their horns and revving their motors. Motos in Haiti are also used as taxis, so it’s in the drivers’ best interests to move as quickly as possible, not necessarily as safely as possible, through the streets. Most motos carry at least 3 people, including the driver, and it’s not unusual to see 4-5 people breeze by, and they might even be carrying a full bag of rice, that takes up the space of another person!

Walking and driving through the crowded streets of Saint Marc, however, is nothing compared to a trip to the Saturday morning market in Verrettes. This is the one point of the trip where I have to take a deep breath and put my trust and faith in Karen to get us through the “corn maze” like path of stalls. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, and a little afraid, going through here, because we can only walk in single file, and the footing is not always stable. Also, people are not necessarily thrilled to see us, and it’s not a good idea to stop anywhere, although Karen did manage to get a quick picture of me and Mackenzie, despite some protests nearby.

Market in Verrettes

The walk is rocky, noisy, and beyond crowded. Going through the market on foot is like two cars trying to pass each other on a one way street. On a wing and a prayer, though, we headed out–Karen in front, Mackenzie sandwiched in the middle, and me, the ol’ veteran, pulling up the rear!

The smell of raw meat in metal bowls in over 40° heat was overwhelming and would make you gag. It was a “breathe through your mouth, keep your eyes open and straight ahead” kind of walk, but another great learning experience of “real life” in Haiti for Mackenzie. Being the minority in the crowd, we were often the subject of many pointed fingers, stares, and quiet giggles.  Some Haitian children appeared to be a little afraid of us, we seemed to be quite a novelty for them. So, as nerve racking as that walk was, I told Mackenzie it was another life lesson–when you’re part of the majority for so long, you need to feel what it’s like to be “uncomfortable” sometimes.

Saturday was quite a day for us. Mackenzie said that, as much as he’s loving Haiti, he would be okay with never going through the market again, but I told him that’s what happens when you get to experience the sights and sounds of “real life” in Haiti! I’m glad we’re here together, with Karen to show us the way! Until the next time, hugs from us in Haiti.