Friday, June 12, 2009

A ride in a Tap Tap!

I wipe the sweat of my forehead as I climb up the steep street from our house to the main road. Although it's only 10:30 a.m. it's already very hot and the dust and pollution is making it hard to breath. I slow down a little so Denise, who is now 7 months pregnant, can keep up. She looks hot too, so I purposely force myself to take small little steps. Some people stare curiously as they see us walk by, you don't see "blan" (white people) walking down the street that often, but I just great them with a friendly "Bon jou". The traffic on Delmas is hectic, but in order to get to the market we need to cross the four-lane road and there's no crosswalk. When we see an opening in traffic, Denise grabs my hand and we make a run for it. In the middle of the road, we pause for a moment till we find another break in traffic and then finally we're on the other side. We're barely on the sidewalk, before a tap tap pulls up alongside us.

Denise climbs in first and I follow suit. I try to look as nonchalant as I can, but I'm really kind of nervous. I've never driven in a tap tap before. On top of it all, this tap tap, in my opinion, is full. There is one bench on each side and each bench has five people on it. However, when in Haiti, do as the Haitians, so I do my best to squeeze in on the end. The guy who is sitting on the end of the bench moves over a couple inches almost onto the lap of the person sitting beside him, so there is exactly three inches between him and the bar that keeps people from sliding off the tap tap, for me to sit. Even with the weight I've lost since coming to Haiti it's still a pretty tight squeeze! Thankfully a few minutes later two people get off and there's an empty seat beside Denise for me to sit. Now I focus on casually holding on for dear life. The good thing about being squished in between people is that you don't have to worry about sliding off the bench. Since these truck were never meant to carry the weight that they do, the back ends are usually sloping down at odd angles and this one is no exception. No one else seems to be holding on, so I try to loosen my death grip on the bench a little and relax. As I sit back, I take a moment to discreetly examine the people around me. Most are nicely dressed and look like they are on their way to work with various briefcases and purses. A man sitting across from me plays with his wedding band as the girl beside me slowly nods off to sleep. Some people openly stare, you don't see "blans" on tap taps very often, while others seem lost in thought. Every minute or so, one of the "passengers" yells "Mesi" (Thank you) and the tap tap pulls over and lets him or her off and new people get on. Since this is not a bus with a scheduled route it can stop wherever and whenever you want on the main road. I can't help but smile when occasionally the passengers make the driver stop in 30 second intervals just so they don't have to walk the few extra steps. Finally Denise yells "Mesi" too, so I know it's time for us to get off. We pay the driver 5 Goudes each, and then step back onto the sidewalk. The nice thing about the tap taps is that it doesn't matter which one you use, they all charge 5 Goudes a ride, and it doesn't matter how long or short you are on it. 5 Goudes is equivalent to 12 cents American, so it's quite cheap. Now we need to cross the road again and walk the last few blocks to the market. An hour later we're finished and make our way back to the main road. A tap tap is already waiting and we climb on again. Since it's almost lunch time there are some school children on this one. I can't help but smile as they practice their English on each other. If it was hot before, it's gotten even hotter now and I try not to breath too much through my nose because there's a lot of people sweating in the tap tap now. Out of the corner of my eye I see the man beside me wiping his brow with a handkerchief. Right now I wish I had one too. Ten minutes later I see the familiar Texaco sign and now it's time to get off. Denise yells "Mesi" again and the tap tap jerks to a halt. I almost fall over but manage to catch myself just in time. Once again we pay the driver and then start walking the ten minute walk home. On the way back Denise and I chatter with each other. I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed the ride. Without a vehicle, it's hard to get around, and it's nice to know that if I want to go to the market with Denise we can go together on the tap tap.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Will and Jason!
    I just discovered your blog via the Good Tiding magazine, and I love it! Count me in as a regular reader. I know Jason from WAY back when I visited Chiliwack, B.C. (my name was Kelly Ziegler back then). I lived in Haiti (near Croix-des-Bouqets, at Double Harvest--my family's mission) for a year in 2004-2005. I was just there last month on a nursing mission. I love Haiti so much, and I can relate to all your stories. Will, you seem like you're handling Haitian life very very well. I'm impressed! I am so encouraged to see you doing great work in Haiti, and to see you delving into the culture so much. Keep stuyding Kreyol...learning the language is such a huge part of becoming part of Haitian culture. I can imagine you're starting to really discover the heartache and joys of living on that island...God Bless you guys! I am overjoyed to see the great work that you're doing.
    Kelly Van Wyck