I started my first day at Reagan National Airport at 3:45 am and am still going strong. I stopped briefly in Miami and landed in Cap Haitien shortly after noon. I love hot weather and at 90 degrees and 83% humidity, I had my share. My host picked me up from the airport and we drove the 30 miles (2+ hour journey costing only $75 - I've paid that much to get around New York before). Along the drive I witnessed the unfathomable poverty of Haiti but little of the sorrow we normally associate with it. People were smiling and happy. It reminded me of a trip to Mexico when my own children were playing electronic games and unhappy about our trip and we happened to pass children playing kick-the-can that were simply laughing and living in the moment.
As we drove into the mountains, I finally understood the phrase "mountains beyond mountains". In Haiti, there is always another hill to climb or an obstacle to overcome. I marveled at mothers and young children climbing hills with buckets full of water on their heads. Where do they get their strength?
After we arrived at Ranquitte, I settled in and found that my biggest obstacle was trying to understand what I should do versus being what could be perceived as a bad guest. A table with a lot of food was set up outside of my room. I wasn't sure how much to eat, if I should clear the dishes, etc. I learned I was supposed to eat by myself (still not clear on how much) and even the offer of help was considered a faux pas.
I spent the rest of the day meeting family, friends and playing with the children (who are adorable beyond belief). I even treated a scraped knee for a neighbor boy who was hiding from his family. The boy was 10yo and completely enamored with his yellow Crayon bandage which led to other children requesting the same.
It is now late evening and the generator is running as planned for two hours of power to get things charged up for tomorrow.
To sum up Day 1: Wow. I still can't believe I'm here. I expected to feel like a stranger in a strange land. Instead, I feel an odd sense of familiarity almost like déjà vu. It couldn't be less like my normal life and yet I couldn't be happier and comfortable if I tried.