I wish I had taken a picture of the big bus, which was my ride last week from Port au Prince to Montrouis on the coast. There are many ways to travel along the coast. There are tap taps, which are small public conveyances made from Toyota size pickup trucks. These are painted in bright colors and Bible verses. Ten or twenty people cram inside or hang off the back and “tap” on the roof when they want to get out. While they are very inexpensive, I would have needed several to get out to Montrouis.  There are private taxis. And there are the big buses. These are discarded yellow school buses. They all look as though they were the last to survive a demolition derby. On the roof they are loaded with hundred pound sacks of charcoal, oversized luggage, cases of water and soda, stacks of mattresses and usually several goats tied together in a knot of terror. Inside are easily 100 or more people with bags and luggage and small animals. There are always three to a seat; the aisle is full and several folks sit on the steps. Two people sit in the driver’s seat. They emit black smoke, pass on the right or left and have little or no ventilation.

The private taxi is 100 to 150 dollars worth of air-conditioned comfort and privacy with a licensed driver. The big bus is an hour of white knuckled travel with the great unwashed. My choice was clear.

I paid my 225 haitian gourdes (about $4.50) and got the last spot in a front seat of a big yellow bus named Meme Lamour. ( They are all named similarly: Even Love, Grace Eternal, Jesus Saves or Good God. I suppose these are the thoughts of frightened passengers as they face certain death on the highway.) This was good because I was getting out before its first scheduled stop at St. Marc, a port city to the northwest of Montrouis. To my left was a nice woman eating her dinner of rice and beans from a styrofoam box. To my right was a chicken.

The bus appeared impossibly full and ready to roll when I boarded. But what do I know? Little by little the aisle filled with an additional 20 travelers. Two women sat on the steps. One lady wanted to ride in the doorway but the driver drew the line. “Madame,” he said, “if you ride there you will die.” Okay then.

When the bus was no longer able to accept another ounce of passenger or product the floor show began. First up was a woman with a basket of crackers and cookies. “Di gourdes, di gourdes, di gourdes,” she sang. Only ten gourdes for packets of Nabisco foods. Next came the evangelizer. He took quite a bit of time pushing his way up the aisle preaching to the faithful and exhorting the faithless to come to Jesus. The show took a bit of a turn in tone with the next performer. He was a man down on his luck in need of finances for a doctor. He said he was unwell, had no job and hoped to get a few coins from the good people on the bus. Not an unusual story and I think most turned a deaf ear. Suddenly the nice woman next to me screamed and covered her eyes. I looked up at the speaker and saw that he had lifted his shirt to reveal a horrible long tumorous growth protruding from is naval. Poor guy, he left without much help from anyone. All the while vendors were banging on the windows trying to sell us cold drinks and food to enjoy while watching the show. The finale was a pretty songstress selling little books of inspirational music. She took the time to sing a couple of the hymns so sweetly and melodiously that she actually made a couple hundred gourdes. I was happy that the best was saved for last.

By now I’d been on the bus for about 40 minutes. When it actually started on its way I had almost forgotten that we were supposed to go somewhere. The ride out to Montrouis was comparatively  uneventful. Our bus being so overloaded went at a fairly slow speed. Most other vehicles overtook us. A few dodged in ahead of us within split seconds of being hit by incoming vehicles, but that was as close as we came to danger. When there was  blokis, a traffic jam, in Cabaret, our driver deftly navigated around it as though he were driving a Ferrari. In Montrouis he pulled over in front of a shop to let me out. My back pack and bags had been shoved under several seats, but no worries. Another passenger told me he’d hand them down to me one I extricated myself from the bus. He gently tossed them out to whitey. I thanked him and the driver, waved good bye to the nice lady and the chicken (who I think enjoyed the singer as much as I did) and walked down to the sea.

hn1763 3715 haiti overcrowded bus road jeremie third world country developing world nation less economically developed

 Here is a look at a bus very like mine.

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Ydson Update

Perhaps, cher zanmi yo, you are wondering why I was traveling from Port au Prince last week. Little Ydson was with his school teacher, foster mom and foster brother in Port au Prince; he’s really getting to be well travelled. His foster brother Jeansly had an appointment with a cardiology team and so Ydson came along. I watched Ydson Sunday night and Monday while the rest of the group was at the special pediatric cardiology clinic. He is wonderfully well cared for, growing and as dear as ever. He slept, ate, had a bath–just like old times. He even came grocery shopping with me. I miss him everyday, but I look forward to many more visits.

YdsonUpdate

Ydson with the school director, Heather, from Footprints of the Son.