We left the safety of the Marriott today for an adventure we couldn't have foreseen.
Our driver told us the real danger of walking at night may not be robbers, but the streets and sidewalks. They are truly a danger and could even be lethal. Three feet by three feet square holes that drop four or five feet, without any warning, curse at least every other block. We came to one in what appeared to be the liquor selling district. A drunk person would drop right in. In the US, our problem is drinking and driving; in Haiti, a high death rate may come from drinking and walking.
Within the heart of the city, there are very few actual stores. Most commerce happens right on the streets. Imagine a whole sidewalk filled with tied and tethered chickens and turkeys. At first I thought they were dead, but most were moving, waiting to be plucked and thrown in someone's soup pot. A car pulled up to the curb, negotiations ensued, and the seller threw in the chickens. Many salesmen stand on the sidewalk hawking their goods to passersby. My favorite image of the day is of a woman with two upside down, feet-tied, chickens swinging in her hands, calling out to potential drive-by customers.
The iron market is a test of mettle. We'd read about it and knew it was a must visit, but nothing could have prepared us for the strange scene. It went for blocks and blocks and many stalls were within the ruins of earthquake damaged stores. People sat on the ground with cabbages, ginger, mangoes, spices, but there wasn't enough room. Wall to wall people, goods, run down cars, motorcycles all pushing for space. Uneven sidewalks, potholes the size of refrigerators and garbage that hadn't been swept for a decade.
I honestly think the mass of goods sent over by charities, is kept to sell. Most of the goods were garage sale quality: old shoes, shirts, broken toys.
My admiration is that in the poorest nation in the western world, everyone is an entrepreneur. It seemed that every capable man, woman and child was selling something. Toothbrushes, rum, cigarettes, sunglasses, blenders, snacks--and don't forget the turkeys.
There was one particular street we turned up because it was too thin for vehicular traffic (don't be fooled). It was lined with individuals yelling for customers, holding up shirts, belts, dresses, and screaming out prices and promises. It was bumper to bumper humans, hardly any room even for people, and then, a motorcycle came through with no regard for human life. And another, and then a truck--they barrel through, people squish against each other, against the sellers, the stalls, because if not life or death, at least keeping a foot or an arm.
Tony was confronted by an overly-aggressive, pseudo-friendly man who had been drinking. "Hey American," and some words about money. Tony stayed friendly, kind, smiling and eventually unlatched the man from his arm.
I'd had enough. We had to get out of chaos--my market of iron experience was complete and overwhelming.
Yet, I would be remiss if I didn't include the pleasures of exploring and visiting the crazy market extravaganza. The people. Saying hello, making eye contact, seeing their beautiful smiles. The men sitting on a sidewalk who called out, "Thank you for coming to Haiti." People who appreciate our differences from theirs. Surprise and blank faces when they see us. Then sometimes a softening towards us-sometimes an expression that stays hard. We are the anomaly, and they wonder, just like us, why we are here.
We definitely know why we're here, but it isn't fine tuned yet. We'll see what happens on Sunday's expedition--
Explanations forthcoming. Miracles happen.