I know how to drive. I even own a serviceable if unglamorous Toyota Corolla, though I rarely log even a hundred miles a month on it. Cycling always gives me a thrill, and I bike many more miles than I drive. But of course, everything in Haiti is upside down for me.
I cannot imagine riding a bike here, the roads are narrow and rutted and the drivers aggressive. I walk whenever I can but I knew the day would come when I had to get behind the wheel. Yesterday that day arrived. I worked too late to walk home in daylight, and the rivers are rising, so the shortcut across the riverbed is impassable, making the journey several miles. Gama was burning the midnight oil and I was exhausted from flying. So, he handed me the keys to the Ford F150 Trinon King Cab. I have never driven anything half so big, but if I can’t cowboy up to a little adventure in Haiti, I’ve got no business being here. I K-turned the big boy around, remembered Renee’s fateful warning that no matter what happens in accident in Haiti, it is always the blan’s fault, and headed down the hill.
BeLikeBrit is on top of a serious hill; going down the rutted gravel is an exercise in two gears – pushing the brake and slamming the brake. I doubt a full stop is even feasible. I rumbled down at amusement ride pace, thankful that the hill levels near the highway.
I turned right and was on Haiti Route 2, heading into Grand Goave’s silvery dusk. I flipped on the headlights, checked my mirrors and drove too cautiously for such a menacing vehicle but not so slow that everyone passed me. I shifted to the middle of the road to avoid pedestrians. By the time I crossed the river and headed away from town I felt pretty good. Then I had to make the sharp left onto the dirt road through the hamlet of Millitone to the mission house. I was the only vehicle hunkering through the twilight crowds of people drawing their evening water from the public well, chasing soccer balls, or chatting around makeshift mango stalls. The whites of their eyes danced like fireflies in the summery evening.
Just before the beach, the road takes a rise. As I faced up I thought, wow, this truck is high. I would have a hard time seeing someone short. Sure enough, as soon as I hit the down side, two tiny kid goats stood in the middle of the road; their mother nibbling the nearby bushes. I stopped twenty feet or more in front of them but realized that if I tried to get closer, I would not be able to see them and could not be sure they would move away. I honked to no avail. I did not want to hit those kids; killing someone’s animal in Haiti is a serious offense. I honked again. Nothing. I settled into my seat, my mighty machine thwarted by a pair of scaredy goats. After a few moments an old woman appeared from the shack along the road. She shook her wrinkled head, reached down and grabbed the goats by their hind legs, swung them head first up to her waist and hauled them out of the way. They bleated in fear and surprise; I mouthed a meci, and went on my way.