Monday, December 20, 2010

The road to Dayere

Didn’t sleep well last night. Probably didn’t fall asleep til at least 1am and was wide awake by 6am. So the day didn’t start off too well, but I was still excited about the possibility of doing some hands on, outreach today.

It’s 7:30am and I’m running out the door to work.

Keys? Check.

Money? Check.

Cell phone? Check.

Asthma inhaler? Check.

K. Good to go… running out the door.

Oh, wait… forgot my ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts), water bottle and pregnancy pills, Azithromycin!

Cholera symptoms can begin within two hours. And death can occur within four hours from the onset of symptoms. If I’m going into the countryside, there’s no way I’m going without my meds, including my pills for pregnant women. Apparently they also have some side effects that mitigate the impact of cholera. So I’m game… I have no problem poppin’ a few pills, if it’s gonna save my life!

Out the door, up the hill, arrive at work around 7:30am and… no one’s here?! Haha… actually worked out fine. It’s essentially a three week Christmas break for most staff. So aside from a few staff who arrived shortly, most people are already on holiday.

And the late arrival was also welcome. I got to work until about 10am and got thru a bunch of stuff that I needed to do. With only two days left before I leave, I’ve got to jam on a number of things and a few hours today was very helpful.

Jump in the SUV – I was riding shotgun as I was a special guest today – and off we went to Dayere.

As we were leaving town we passed the bus station where some people got necklaced a few weeks ago. At least the charred bodies appear to have been removed... Cross the bridge and head into the jungle, before beginning our ascent into the mountains.

As we’re climbing, much of the forest disappears. The slopes have been largely denuded. There are a good number of palms around, but with their 50 foot branchless trunks they don’t give much cover. And there are some hills covered in low lying veggies, such as beans. But much of the area seems to be just grass. I’m not sure why, but a lack of water supply seems like a pretty good guess as to why the hills lie uncultivated.

Having driven for perhaps two hours thru the switchbacks and slopes that may have been more than 45 degrees at points, we cross some ridges. What a sight. Reminded me of my drive from Macedonia into Albania and down to Tirane. Absolutely gorgeous… and not much to stop you from tumbling down hundreds of feet to certain death – if you go a few feet too far to the side. With the narrow crossways flattened and reinforced at the edges, one can view mountains as far as the eye can see… except of course where the mountains stop and the placid, royal blue Caribbean begins.

We pass a village now and school is obviously getting out. It’s lunchtime and the 4 to 7 year old kids, dressed in their pastel pink, button down shirts and navy blue shorts are headed home… but not without a quick chase of the car! As we’re passing, dozens of the school kids start chasing after us.

With the treacherous road – if you can call it a road – composed of rocks six to eight inches in diameter and ruts that are often nearly a foot of mud before you see the puddle that goes down… who knows how far?... it’s not uncommon for us to be traveling at one to two miles per hour. So it’s not too tough for a four year old to catch up with us. That is, until the driver stopped, jumped out and yelled at them to scare them away… haha… I’m guessing he was concerned for their safety. But they're kids. They don’t care! So they back away until we start moving again, and the chase resumes. I’m not entirely sure why the kids were chasing us. It may have been simply “le machine.” A motor vehicle is pretty rare in these parts, so maybe that was it. Or maybe it was me.

“Blanc, blanc” they cheer out. “White, white.” They know my name! Haha… no, it’s really just what they call a foreigner – or more specifically, a whitie – around here. (The N and C in “blanc” are largely silent. It's sounds more like "blah" with a very muffled "n" at the end.)

The kids are still chasing, but we make a pitstop. No, we haven’t found a “highway rest area.” But it’s only guys – about ten of us – in the SUV. So the forest is fine.

As we’re getting back into the truck, a little girl grabs my arm with both hands. I yank it away; at once thinking cholera; yet also wanting to be kind to a little girl who’s probably never seen a blanc and was simply curious. Regardless, I’m not going to let anyone touch me at the risk of getting cholera… which is rife in these villages. But I do speak my pigeon French-Creole and offer her some kinds words. I think she was fine… and frankly, I think just about anywhere in the world it’s inappropriate to simply grab people… so even though she may have been taken aback, I'm confident that her parents wouldn’t approve of grabbing as she did.

In the car and off we go. After about a three hour drive, we arrive in Dayere. We had literally come to the end of the road… part of the reason why I was here. It’s a major road construction – extension, really – project. But I’m tired now, so I’m done blogging for the night. I’ll probably post more tomorrow about my trip today. It really was fantastic… it was a great gift for my 38th birthday.

Tim White


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! Amazing stuff, Tim. Keep writing!!

Happy Holidays too!


tim white said...

Thanks SZ! I appreciate it.