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When Plans Change


haiti life-grand gosier beach-when plans change

It was Sunday morning, and I woke with the thought, "Are we going to the airport or to church?"


Because, you see, my friends Sharla, Lora, and Katie were maybe on the plane, and maybe resigning themselves to a day of fabric shopping in Dallas after which they would just go home. Things were pretty turbulent in Haiti that week. Also, Sharla's passport was going to expire a few days after her return ticket to the US, and she didn't know if they'd let her on the plane. We had a nervous little phone call a few days before, and she ended by laughing and saying they'd just go to the airport and if she was allowed on the plane, they'd come.


Well, they got on the plane.


The next day I had to work. The girls had a hotel booked at the beach for the first part of the week, so we decided to go ahead and leave our safe little house and take them early in the morning. We loaded up snacks and all their luggage, changed some money and carelessly stuck it in the cupholder. Their relaxing beach getaway was about to begin.


We left Port au Prince behind and soon got our first glimpse of the Caribbean. Then we turned the corner to see a truck parked across the road, blocking it. No one it sight. Of course, that's when we should have squealed tires, turning around and getting out of there at the speed of light. But no, we hesitated.


And they were around us... yelling, banging on the car window with their guns. We opened up, and they had emptied the car within seconds, hauling the girls' suitcases back into the bushes beside the road.


My husband looked at me and said, "I have to get their phones and passports back." That was when the longest ten minutes I have ever lived began. My husband, dressed for work in a long sleeved dress shirt, his hand on his hip, looking like he was leading a Sunday school discussion, stood in the middle of the road. I couldn't hear or really tell how they were reacting to his... ahem... requests. All I could see is the guns, and the half crazy looks on their faces, and I felt how fast it could all be over.


Instead, they trotted back out behind the bushes and brought back the suitcases. They cheerfully loaded them back in just like we had them. It was like the guys who carry your luggage out from the airport and help load it, only we DID pay a bigger tip than usual. Because yes, they kept the greenbacks, all except for one girls' stash she had hidden a bit better than the rest of us, and one phone. There were a few other random things missing... like trail mix. The girls didn't catch onto that, but it sure made sense to me. Free raisins and nuts in Haiti? Kind of a big deal!


All this happened so fast, and we were back at our house probably by 9 o'clock. I told the people at Blue Ridge what had happened and that I couldn't do school for the week, and we tried to get oriented and decide what next. We spent the afternoon hours at the pool by the hotel where we had our wedding reception. Most hotels here are like that... you can pay a bit to use the pool, and order food from the restaurant if you want. The water was a tad greenish, and the guy said he was going to "turn it" for us. I wasn't sure what that meant, but he lazily skimmed the water for a while we waited, sweating, lol. I think that swim calmed everyone's nerves a bit.


It just so happened that a young couple was headed up to Oriani the next day, so that seemed like the perfect solution to Zeze and I. Just get these girls out of the creepy, silent Port au Prince streets for a few days till it can get back to normal.


So the next afternoon we started up that tortuous road. We stopped for chicken in Fonds Verrettes, as is tradition, and as is tradition, tried to find a place to pee by the side of the mountain. I always get an evil kick out of peoples' discomfort coming straight from public restrooms with toilet paper to traverse the Oriani road. Poor girls had hardly brought jackets or shoes, so we tried to warm everyone up with sweet, spicy, super hot ginger tea.


So my friends got to experience the "other Haiti." Mountain life. We hung out at the clinic just a bit, even though that's always awkward I think because it feels like you're making a spectacle of the sick. We hiked, ate a lot yummy American food from my cousin Briana and just as yummy Haitian food from the two nurses. We went visiting, got in on two church services, and attended the first part of a super long church school program.


On Saturday, we all loaded up and went on a insanely long, bumpy drive to the beach. Not a resort with brightly colored wooden boats, people selling souvenirs, and whole fish for 1000 goudes a plate. No, this is a wild beach. We carried our ice chest with drinks and hot dogs and such for quite a ways, up and over a big hill and down to a shady spot. If you looked up and back where we came from, there was dessert; directly in front, ocean; and to the left a little freshwater spring trickling over almost Arkansas-looking rocks. We were the only people around. The waves were crashing formidably against the rocks, and how I wished for my Keen sandals, forgotten in my Louisiana closet. The sound of a pebble beach like that is amazing... the waves crash; then there is that sucking, rattling sound of the water retreating across the pebbles, calling them to come into the sea. We eventually heeded the call too, and let the waves batter and bash us on our boogie boards. When the day was over, we had Haitian black mushroom rice (diri djon-djon) at a little restaurant in the town of Thiotte.


And on Sunday, we came down. On a Zo Reken this time, or "shark bone," the name given to the Land Cruisers that make it possible for the Haitians of the mountain to get down that beastly road to Port au Prince. The girls had wanted to take public transportation, and this was a mild version. The driver was a friend of one of the nurses, taking his family down. We listened to loud worship music videos, until we picked up his little boy, after which it was Disney movies. We were 10 in the back, so a little more comfortable than the usual 12. I think he could have driven that road in his sleep, because we careened down the mountain extremely rapidly, but safely. Port au Prince was busy and bustling again, so the girls got to see a bit of what the city should be like, and Monday morning they were back at the airport early getting their Co-vid tests to board the plane for Miami.


What made my proud Haitian husband's heart happy is what they said to us on the way to the airport, "Even if we had known what was going to happen, we would have still come." Do I have amazing friends or what?


So Zeze and I were left to reflect on God's goodness. We made fixed plans that we did not want to give up, which always brings trouble in this country. But life is full of choices, and sometimes you don't realize you're making the wrong choice till you see the consequences. God allowed us to go through a scary experience, yet protected us from physical harm. He is like that. He works within our humanity, and stays with us even if we make a bad decision. I fully believe God got those passports and phones back. We talked to the police on the way into Port and they had actually been in a shooting match with that same group of bandits only the day before for 3 hours. Finally they just gave up. That's what kind of men we were dealing with. What a miracle!


{Zeze told me the other day that he thought I should share this story. One thing I don't ever want to do is dramatize life over here, or stir up a "ruckus." So please just read this story as a testimony of God's grace. Pray for this country, by all means, but don't pity us. We are trusting God over here just like you do in North America. Our circumstances may be different, but God is still in control.}

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