I have just arrived in Mare Rouge, in the North of the island of Haiti, after 8 hours of Jeep where we crossed the island, not without surprises. It is dark and the country we will know it better and I will show it tomorrow. After 14 hours of flight in two different routes, we (myself and Stephanie, a volunteer who will take care for a few days of the medical part) lived Haiti traversing it almost completely, from the coast to inland. In the capital Etilius came to collect us, the driver appointed by the parish to take us to Mare Rouge. Straight away we understood that we are **on the other side of the world. The “thousand lights of New York” are by now far away and not only physically. Already outside of the airport, the road, for half of the trip paved, was almost without rules: trucks converted into public transport with tens of people on top, Chinese motorbikes all around with also 4 people, on both sides of the road stalls selling any thing (water and fruit especially, but also clothes and mobile phones).. As long as you stay in Port-au-Prince, there are **still some brick houses there**, but as soon as you leave, on the side of road, you only see shanties or huts.
Only colourful notes are the gaudy colours of the vehicles and the clothes, and often the smiles of the people on the street, all with their own dignity. The situation is very bad and you think that more than this one cannot go. But the worst came at the end of the paved road, after the city of Gonaviève. The few brick houses disappear, and the Atlantic remains to make a picture-perfect backdrop to the few huts made of wood and straw, with sporadic groups of inhabitants who live by harvesting the salt or producing charcoal obtained by cutting trees and burning them (thus creating a circle of further impoverishment of the territory because there is no replanting). Both products, salt and charcoal, are then sold to the city and people gain some money with which to live.
The dirt road that we face, they tell us, is very dangerous with light falls, due to the presence of bandits. We cover it by day and as the evening falls we enter in the forest: the road often melts with the stream bed, between holes and furrows that they are approachable only with transport such as trucks or jeeps. It is now dark, but around there are still many people, some with torches and others without. Many, especially women and children, have jerrycans in their hand or on their head: they’re going to collect water at the source for the following day. The nothing that one believed to be present in the capital radically changes meaning as one travels further away.
Eventually we arrive in Mare Rouge in the dark, at around eight in the evening. Don Giuseppe Noli and Don Mauro Brescianini welcome us. And here begins another adventure, to discover how much the situation can be changed. Not without hard work and continuously evolving. Starting from a small town like Mare Rouge, at the extreme of the island, far from the capital or economic centres. Far away from the world.
Traslate by Robert Clarke