Scouting Notes from Haiti: Baggage ClaimRich Stigall
Port-au-Prince, Haiti—Landing in Port-au-Prince for the first time is a powerful experience. The heat, sights, sounds and smells are distinct and unmistakable. Neither good nor bad, this is, simply and beautifully, Haiti.
Within 30 minutes of stepping off of the plane, you are bussed to the disembarkation area where you wait in a quick-moving line of people in matching t-shirts and cargo pants. In a series of fluid moments, your passport is opened, stamped, signed, closed and handed back to you by a patient, uniformed Haitian official.
Then it happens. You have left behind the comfortable bureaucracy of the security line and rubber stamps, and stepped foot into the mayhem of baggage claim.
And home feels very far away.
Jake Barreth, GO Haiti’s Field Director, will tell you that “in a battle between you and Haiti, Haiti always wins.” Baggage claim is no exception. This is the first of many battles in Haiti where you choose to give up or fight back. If you follow Jake’s advice, you give up and surrender to Haiti.
In my experience, Haiti is a ten thousand square mile proving ground for surrendering to God. Even the smallest physical challenges can become potential waypoints in my walk with God. The still, hot air of my cramped bedroom, spotty electricity and iffy running water all remind me that my arguments with Haiti are arguments with God.
Fight Haiti and you lose. “Every time,” as Jake would reiterate.
On one level I might be tempted to treat Haiti like a spiritual metaphor. But it’s not. It’s real for me. I love Haiti, her people and landscape. When I’m there, I see God everywhere I look. There’s nothing metaphorical about that. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you don’t. Or maybe you will some day.
In the hopes of sharing our experience of Haiti, and other places, with you, GO Adventures has created a series titled “Scouting Notes.” It will start with notes and images from our most recent nine day scouting trip in Haiti for the Tour d’Haiti North and the Run d’Haiti.
In the search for ideal locations for the Tour d’Haiti North and the Run d’Haiti, we roamed into northern Haiti in the back of pick up trucks traveling from Port-au-Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets to Gonaives, Marmelade, Chansolme, Port-de-Paix, Saint-Louis-du-Nord, Anse a Foleur, Baie des Moustiques, Jean Rabel, Mare Rouge, Bombardopolis and, finally, Mole Saint Nicolas, referred to by the locals as simply “The Mole.”
Along the way, we met amazing kids, drove crazy roads, crossed rivers, played the blues, swam beside a shipwreck, sang “Oh Happy Day,” slept in the rain and discovered a big, hairy tarantula that Jake killed with a 34-inch Easton aluminum bat.
Finally, after 18 months, Jake won.