I finally arrived at the place where it all began – Ansapit, the village where I set up my first project with the laptops. Here’s how I got there:
1. Wake up at 4:55 and apologize profusely to your host, who you thought was joking when he said you’d be leaving at 4 in the morning.
2. Squeeze into a van and alternate between sleeping and watching the sun come up until you arrive in the city.
3. Clamber up onto a truck while the guys below hoist up your suitcase, shouting “Help me!” because they’re having a lot of fun with the idea that a foreigner is actually going to ride this truck all the way across the country.
4. Wait at the gas station while they fill up the tank. 5. Watch the congestion of the city give way to yards and then whole sprawling stretches of land. 6. Wish you had something to cover your head like all the Haitians to keep it from getting dusty.
Look how white with dust the plants by the side of the road are.
Everyone stands up to yell at the passengers in the truck in front of us.
8. Find a more comfortable seat in the back of the truck where there’s a bench. The price is you have to explain to the guy next to you that love means something very different for you than it apparently does for him.
9. Don’t take any photos on the most dangerous parts of the road to show people what you mean when you talk about them being bumpy and steep. You’re too busy holding on.
10. Enjoy the sudden coolness of the pine forest.
11. Stare in credulity at the large numbers of people at the market after all those lonely mountain roads.
12. Ponder how the place you’re in looks like something from a map in a fantasy novel, what with the winding paths and the trees and the horses tied to them.
13. Buy some gingerbread and eat it to enhance the whole fairy-tale effect. It’s called boubou here.
14. Resist the temptation to buy some pistachios too, your favorite food next to mangoes. You refuse to buy things if kids are selling them because they should be in school. You doubt your not spending the equivalent of 12 cents on a bag of pistachios will make a difference but you tell yourself to stick to your principles.
Haitians have principles too – cleanliness, for example. This guy dons a fur coat before going under the machin to change the tire in order to keep his clothes underneath it spotless.
15. Get a weird look from a guy when you explain you’re going to the bathroom and you don’t want the taptap to leave without you. Didn’t you realize they’re changing a tire?
16. Give a guy some crackers when he outright asks you, a stranger, for them. It’s against your “principles” but sometimes it’s nice to just be nice.
17. Make room for a new group of people getting on with sacks of things to sell at another market. Somehow there’s always more space for everything – especially when it’s the last machin of the day.
18. Leave the forest and continue through the mountains.
19. Arrive in Tchiotte and ask around for where to find a machin for Ansapit. The moto guys inform you that there is no truck or bus today, but they’re happy to take you themselves for 500 goud (around $12.50). They would charge less, but they don’t have gas in their tanks right now. This might actually be true.
20. Keep looking. Ignore the fact that you look utterly ridiculous going down the street tugging your suitcase on wheels behind you. You’re used to looking ridiculous.
21. Find a moto guy who gives you a fairer price. (350 – still higher than 300, what you paid last time, but not too bad).
22. Ride another hour with him through the mountains, smiling when you see your first cactus.
23. Get off, pay the moto guy, and buy some juice from your favorite juice-lady. You’ve been craving this the whole time you’ve been in Haiti – now, you’re finally here.