Glinting sunlight off the dashboard reflected the angry brake lights ahead of me. I thought maybe someone had hit a pig in the road. Or maybe, since it was late afternoon, the market vendors were leaving their selling posts for home. Walking through the road making all of us wait for them to finish crossing. As I slowed down to a stop I saw that there hundreds of cars, trucks and people crammed into the road in all directions.
Maybe you’ve read about these kinds of things before. Or seen an apocalyptic Mad Max adventure film with similar images. But I hadn’t.
I found myself driving, no INCHING through a political manifestation. Haitian elections were approaching and people were angry about their political system, their candidates and current economic stagnation. It was scary. You could feel the electricity in the air.
Where we in American sit at home, apathetically facebooking snarky political memes form the comfort of our living rooms.
Haitians gather together and burn tires, march, sing and rally to let their government know they are mad as hell and they aren’t gonna take it no more.
For two hours my Terios crawled through traffic. A policeman came. A single policeman. He tried to direct traffic sending my Terios and three other cars into a parking lot to wait out his further instructions. I thought I was being sent to the parking lot for a ticket of some kind.
Spun the wheels around on the gravel, rolled my window down and sought the advice of mechanic standing nearby. He pointed towards the nearby market stalls where a line of 20 cars were coming out the wrong way. Driving on a 6 foot wide path filled with chickens, mud, people and the last of the afternoon sunshine. They were coming from the direction I wanted to go.
I set up the Terios to enter the market.
A vendor noticed me and rapped on the window. He wanted $2US to guide me through the market. I nodded my head and indicated I would give it to him at the end. As the last of the 20 cars exited, I followed a 4Runner and a beat up Camry into the market stall pathway.
Quickly, I lost the guide I had agreed to pay.
I navigated the tiny, skinny pathway. It opened up onto a broken gravel, concrete block strewn cattle grazing path. Sidewalks would appear and then disappear – as if sprinkled, haphazardly, like New Years confetti. They jutted 6-8 inches into the air away from the dirt road. We had to move slow to navigate.
Each time I steered the car into the concrete juts I expected to blow a tire. Or scrape a hole in the oil pan under the car. But neither thing happened. Relief each time we made it. Then the next. Then relief. Then the next.
This snails pace allowed us to see the road split in a steep Y up ahead. We had lost our guide and everyone we passed was frantically attending to their own business without any time to advise us. We figured if the Camry could make it, we could too. So we followed the Camry. Just ahead a gang of men with machetes were cutting banana tree fronds and making a gate. Where previously cars had been sailing through to safety you now had to stop and negotiate with the men.
One of my passengers knew one of the men and after intense conversation we were waved through.
On the other side, were lean to peasant huts and small modest gardens. People looked up from their card games and conversations to observe this unlikely Terios navigating their foot paths.
It was clear we had no idea where we were headed.
A man jumped up and for $1US offered to guide us to the main thoroughfare.
We drove slowly in silence for 20 minutes over huge rocks through uneven pathways.
F I N A L L Y. We emerged onto the entrance for the highway.
It had taken us 5 hours to travel 15 miles.
I gave our godsend guide $5US and insisted he take a picture with us.
We’d made it.