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Communiqué #086

Communiqué #086


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

February 11, 2011

A ritual occurs outside my door at about 4:30PM every evening.  It seems that a truck stop of sorts is located on the shoulder of the road across the street from my home.  Blowing their excessively loud air horns, two or three large open bed trucks will arrive, pulling their vehicle onto the side of the road to park their rig facing the oncoming traffic that is entering the gates of the city of LesCayes.  Soon smaller vehicles, people on motorcycles and people on foot will arrive to start filling the trucks with their merchandise in preparation for their long journey from LesCayes to Port-au-Prince.   Large bags of various products are lifted up into the bed of the truck, where the men in charge wedge each parcel into a precise spot.  The bags will contain one of many things, such as charcoal, rice, fruit or clothing.  The passengers, mostly peasant woman, will climb on top to begin settling in for their long ride.  Some very elderly women will defy their age by making two or three very un-ladylike steps from the ground, up the side of the truck and over the top railing to find the best seat possible for the lengthy ride to a roadside market in the capital city of Haiti.

A most enterprising lady always appears alongside the trucks.  She is pushing a rusty old wheelbarrow with a tire that is more square than it is round.  Nestled under a bundle of towels and rags is a steaming pot of food.  The roll-along diner is soon swarmed by hungry passengers needing some sustenance prior to their nighttime journey.  A heaping mound of beans and rice is artfully placed on a Styrofoam plate with a plastic spoon piercing the savory food.  The passengers are adept at climbing up into the truck without spilling a morsel from their plateful of food that will be enjoying, while perching on top of one of the gigantic bags of juice oranges heading to market.  Many passengers finish their food just as the driver of the truck prepares to start the engine.  The discarded plates soon become the stepping stones of pedestrians on the gravel paths below.  Even the next morning, the remnants of the food feast lay scattered throughout the neighborhood, in spite of a nearby sign that pleads for no trash to be thrown in this area.

When departure time seems imminent, passengers wedge themselves into the best possible position for the long, bumpy, breakneck speed ride into the big city – a ride that may include unpredictable weather of high winds or rains or the serenity of a beautiful umbrella of a starlit sky.  Some tighten a scarf around their head.  Some put on a sweater in an attempt to keep the chill of the damp night air from their bones.  Some decide that a more reclining type position would better suit them for being able to sleep along the way.

This is the life of a street vendor.  A small fee is paid for each sack of merchandise brought on the truck.  A small fee is paid for each passenger who will nestle themselves amongst the hodge podge mounds of market goods.  At times, passengers are even accompanied by livestock of goats and chickens who are heading to market.  The truck will wind over two mountain ranges, forge through rivers where bridges have been washed away and slide through treacherous sections of road that sometimes require the passengers to get down from their thrones of rough sack cloth to walk through the area so that the lightened load can get everyone to their destination.

The destination for many is a little place to squat in a tiny spot on a smelly, muddy, trash-strewn roadside.  There they will compete, shoulder-to-shoulder, with hundreds of others who have come to sell the very same product that they have come to sell.  There they will stay, many times in the baking sun, until they have sold what they have brought and made enough money to return home and start the process all over again.

One cannot say that the Haitian people are not hard workers.  The Haitian people will do whatever they have to do to survive.  I watch grown men riding bicycles to their jobs, as it is their only means of transportation.  I watch as men carry live chickens throughout the community, trying to sell them to a housewife needing a meal for her family.  I watch teenagers peddling brooms, pharmaceuticals, electrical gadgets and other desired items, as they weave on foot through the chaotic traffic.   My thoughts then turn towards corporate America.  Has anyone climbing the corporate ladder ever worked under conditions such as this, just to bring a single dollar home to their family at night?  Yet, here in Haiti, we see this type of labor day after day after day!  It is the norm, rather than the exception.  Haitians earn little, but work hard!  Haitians are survivors!

When you sit in your homes tonight, after a long day at work, take a moment to bow your head! Take time to thank God for the blessings that you have!  And while you are at it … ask him for a special blessing for a Haitian worker !

Nora Léon

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic                 Until next time. God willing …………

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