Riding Through Port-au-Prince

haiti-2011-125-2-1He was waiting there, like he always does.  Just standing…and…waiting…

I have been cycling (this sounds more manly and adult than saying “riding my bike”) for about three years now. This is because my almost sixty-year-old knees remind me every day they are almost sixty years old. Riding a bike doesn’t make them feel almost sixty years old.

I love riding through the eastern Kentucky countryside,  riding through woods and past streams, riding past newly cut hay fields, and fields of cattle and horses. We ride past tobacco in the fields and in the barns, a wonderful smell that brings back memories of fall in Kentucky. We ride past fields of wildflowers.

What an idyllic experience to cycle through eastern Kentucky.


Many times we are snapped out of this pastoral bliss by the canine consternation, when your body goes from producing hot sweat to cold sweat.

Many people have dogs that protect their property from dangerous, middle-aged bicyclers that roam the rural routes, usually in packs, looking for free air to feed their flat tires.  Most of these mutts are not a threat. However,there are those who are threatening and we get to know those very quickly.  We ride many of the same routes and we know where the dogs come a-runnin’.

One particular mongrel stakes out his spot in the middle of the road when he sees us coming.  We lovingly refer to him as “Cujo”.   He has mastered the game of “chicken”, because he will not move.  He makes us decide the path we will ride, then the chase begins.  He is big, about mid-tire high, and muscular, a bad combination for possible contact with your high velocity velocipede.

Last week the aforementioned happened.  Cujo decided he wasn’t going to chase me, so he decided to stop me. He blocked my path like Dick Butkus plugging a hole.

My helmet now has a dent in the side after hitting the pavement with my head inside.  There was various scrapes and blood. There was groaning, but I didn’t cry.  Even now my insides feel like that side of beef looked after Rocky pounded on it in the meat locker

I took this photo of a man calmly riding his bike through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  There can’t be a calm ride through these streets.  It is ultimate chaos.  He has to dodge cars and trucks and motorcycles and buses and other bicycles navigating without lanes, carts pulled by animals, and  tap-taps (Haitian taxi’s) loaded with people and their belongings.  He also has to avoid goats, pigs, chickens, oxen, and “lions, and tigers, and bears”.  Oh MY.

Every day he is playing a real-life Frogger navigating the streets of Port-au-Prince.

I just had to miss one dog in the middle of the road in peaceful Stacy Fork.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.





Fishing Boat in Bod Me Limbe, Haiti



I recently returned from at trip to Haiti.   I was with a wonderful, caring group.   I met most of them at the airport in Philadelphia as we were boarding to fly to the island of Turks and Caicos.   From there we would fly to Cap-Haitien, Haiti the next day.

It takes some time for me to process what I experience after a week in Haiti.

I took this photo one morning on the shore of a small fishing village called Bod Me Limbe.   It is on the northern coast of Haiti.   I added warm, yellow light in processing to give it an exotic look.   I took this just before I threw up, either from my anti-malaria antibiotic or from lack of sleep or from some voodoo curse…take your pick.

Haiti  is challenging.   I don’t accept challenges very well.   The Haitian people make the challenges worthwhile.   They have the best smiles I have ever seen.   The people of Haiti live difficult lives but you wouldn’t know it by observing them.   They move through their days with ease and grace.   Oh sure, you can see the poverty and unsanitary conditions every where, but that is their lives and they deal with it….every day.  

During the times I have been in Haiti, I try not to view their country through the judging eyes of an American.   I try to use some sort of non-biased vision and try to understand it all a little better.   Even now while writing this, I still can’t put in words how I feel or what this latest experience has taught me about Haiti.   Let’s just say, I am not ready for a position in the State Department.

One thing I do understand, while in Haiti, you will see things and experience things that normally you would not see or experience.

Ironically, one experience came from a group of Americans that weren’t part of our group.

We shared our compound in a very rural part of Haiti, outside of a village called Jacquesyl, with another American team that was doing healthcare work.   They invited us over to their house for some fellowship and camaraderie.  They did mention that there might be some singing.

At one strange moment, someone called out a number from of a sing-a-long book.  The next few moments were quite surreal.   It was a most perplexing experience.  I still am having a hard time dealing with this in my seemingly rational consciousness.

At one moment in time there was a room full of very white Americans sitting in a house in the Haitian wilderness singing “Black Magic Woman”.

I’m sure at the exact time of this occurrence, Carlos Santana was somewhere in the throes of intestinal distress.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Returning From the Market


Though I have only made two short visits to Haiti, I was left with a lasting impression at the strength of the Haitian populace.

A typical Haitian resident wakes up each morning in poverty, not United States poverty but third world poverty. They have no prospects of getting out of poverty. There are no government advocates to help them, no housing authorities, no sanitation inspectors, no health departments, no school boards to see to it that a child gets an education.

Now some anti-government Americans may think that this is Nirvana, but I can assure you that it is not. The Haitian people live a hard life and yet they smile a lot. For instance the ladies in this photo live in a region called Savanne Plate in the northeast mountains of Haiti, close to the Dominican border. Each week, usually on Saturdays, they walk about five miles over this dirt road, which incidentally is the main road in an out of this area. They go to the market, get their goods for the week, what little they can afford, then walk back with the goods on their heads…for another five miles. They move with so much grace and ease. Miss America contestants should be envious at the way these women move through life.

As I stood by this road and watched them approach, I was struck by the routineness of their lives. They were in light-hearted banter(probably talking about the goofy-looking blanc standing by the side of the road). They were comfortable with friends that have made this weekly trek countless times.

I was reminded of being with my grandmother as a young boy. She would be with a group of ladies in her church basement, preparing food, and they would chat and laugh. It is the same feeling at my church when the ladies are working in the kitchen. These ladies in Haiti could be a ladies aid group or a quilting circle or just a group of women cooking in a kitchen somewhere.

We made the four-hour trip out to Savanne Plate on a refurbished Morgan County school bus. We left on a Friday morning from Port-au-Prince. Two of my companions and myself sat on top of the bus. It was one of the most exhilarating rides I have ever experienced, especially after we escaped the snarls and congestion of the city and drove through the Haitian countryside and into the mountains. I was having the time of my life until we were stopped by the Haitian police in one town and said they had a law against stupidity and made us get off the roof of the bus.

I have other stories of Savanne Plate, but I don’t want to suck all the bytes out of the blogosphere. They will be for another time. Oh…if sometimes you think our government is not beneficial in our lives, go to Haiti for a visit and see if that gives you a different perspective.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.


Sometimes Haiti is a Blurrrrrrrrrrrrr

What happens when you combine chaos and potholes and put them in a centrifuge along with yourself, oh, and add chickens, roosters, goats, and an occasional pig… then hit spin?  Oh, not just spin…hyperspin.  You have a typical street scene in Port au Prince.

I loved being a part of it.  Of course I wasn’t driving the bus.  That bus was a renovated Morgan County school bus that was shipped to Haiti to serve a pastor and his churches.  You can see it as the background blur in the above picture.  It was sitting on the side of the street because a rather large rock was wedged  between the back two tires on the driver’s side.  It took a while for my friends to hammer it out.  I, of course, went across the street to take some shots of the moving traffic.  This particular shot I really liked because it shows the movement of the street and it was so typical of Haiti, yet so atypical of America.

This was my first trip to Haiti.  I tried to learn some Haitian creole before my trip.

During one particular conversation on the above bus, I was trying to communicate with some locals we were transporting to a church service.  We were in the back of the bus being tossed about like the crew of the S.S. Minnow due to the less than immaculate road conditions.  I was trying to convey to them in my fluent creole that the ride was not smooth, as if they were not aware of the situation.  I kept saying the same phrase over and over hoping to get some sort of acknowledgement.  All I received was blank stares.

Later, as I was sitting in the church service, wondering why my exquisite creole did not register with my bus companions, it suddenly hit me.  I was telling them, “My name is bumpy”…over and over and over again.

If you like this picture, you can see more here.


Young Girl in Haiti

Sometimes you just have to get off the depression couch and go outside and put your face in the sun and thank God you are alive. That is what I am doing today.  This photo always makes me smile, like Snoopy dancing on top of Schroeder’s piano.

I got lucky when I took this picture.  I was in Haiti, driving with my group back to the airport when one of our members wanted to stop and get some kind of sugar product.  The rest of us had no clue what he was talking about or where we were, which was my normal state of mind in Haiti, but since he was Haitian and he seemed to like us, we did not fret about this stop. Also since there were ten of us riding in what was the equivalent of the back of a covered small pick-up, we welcomed the chance to pile out like clowns out of a Volkswagon.  We pulled into this mango grove in a rural area of western Haiti.

I saw some children playing so I grabbed my camera.  This little girl and her sister were in a makeshift classroom and I guess they were on a break since the “blancs” showed up.  I asked their mother if I could take pictures of them and she agreed.  After taking a few shots, and I might add they were more than willing to cooperate, one of my collegues wanted to get a shot of the blackboard to see if we could interpret the French writing.  My young model had a difference of opinion.  She did not want to leave the view of the camera…so I did what only I could do and kept taking pictures.  This was one of the shots and I loved it immediately.  It has a strange composition and her expression is so joyful.

Haiti is a difficult place to visit.  It is hard to see people living in poverty and unsanitary conditions.  However, I enjoyed the Haitian people and they taught me so much about being happy and joyful.  I think anyone who has a chance to go and visit Haiti, should.  I am not going to say it changed my life,  but it made me more aware of the plight of the rest of the world and the hardships that others go through in their day to day lives and how we Americans take so much for granted.  It helped me understand that Jesus loves all the world, not just Americans.  We all could learn a few things from the Haitian people.  I learned a lot from this young girl and she is still making me smile.

Incidentally, my one year of high school French was not near enough for my interpretation of the material on the board. Help me Mrs. Wells…

If you like this picture, you can see more here.