|Zanmi Lasante logo at entrance of new university hospital.|
“How long does it take to drive to Mirebalais,” I asked the gentleman at the front desk.
He paused, and then responded, “When do you plan to travel?”
“Today or tomorrow.”
He looked concerned, so I added, “Is the road to Mirebalais safe?”
“Yes,” then he paused and searched for the right words, “but for you it is different,” he replied.
I stated the obvious, “You mean because I’m white.”
“Yes. If the traffic stops, there are gangsters who might shoot you for your money.”
This confirmed my concerns in the traffic jam last night. I had read and heard this is a concern everywhere in Haiti, but especially for the road north through the mountains to Cape Haitien on the coast. Mirebalais is about 60 km from Port au Prince and south of the region considered the most dangerous.
“Which day would be safer, today or tomorrow?”
“Today, for sure,” he replied. “Today is much safer. The bad people will be at church and with their families.” Gangsters have faith and families too.
The new university hospital sounds like a potential place for me to help out. The teaching aspect is especially attractive. I emailed Partners in Health before I left but there was not enough time to arrange a formal visit, so I thought an informal visit would be worthwhile. The safety of the two-hour trip to the hospital is a concern, but I reasoned that if I am not up for the trip, how could I possibly consider helping out at all?
Sam was waiting outside and I asked him to pick me up in three hours. I wanted to make the trip, spend an hour at the hospital, and be back at the hotel with lots of daylight left.
Now, five hours later and safe back at the hotel, the trip did not seem dangerous at all, but there is a randomness to danger, and fortune favoured me. I wonder how many trips are necessary for randomness to catch up with me? The traffic only slowed and stopped once, and Sam locked the doors before I asked.
The road up into the mountains to the central plateau is quite different from the trip over the mountains to Jacmel. The central plain between the two mountain ranges is a low delta and the road up to the northern mountains passes through a desert-like region with varieties of cactus that reminded me of Los Cabos. The central plateau, by comparison is a lush tropical area with banana and coconut palms.
|Mirebalais University Hospital - Partners in Health - Zanmi Lasante.|
The Partners in Health website has an announcement that the hospital is open, but when we arrived the site was deserted. Perhaps the official opening occurred, but there were no patients or health care staff at all. Well, at least I know how to get there.