Saturday, November 30, 2013

Caribe Tours to Dominican Republic

Petionville Station in Haiti

Last month I went to the Dominican Republic for the ECHO Caribbean Conference held in a hotel in the capital Santo Domingo.  Thanks to my friend Rhoda buying our tickets and making arrangements to get to the bus station, taking Caribe Tours bus line was very easy.  The main station for Caribe is in Petionville, up in the rich part of Port au Prince.  There is also a smaller station at a gas station in Tabarre, the neighborhood near the US Embassy.  Tickets were $75 round trip, and Caribe took care of the border crossing logistics.  It takes about 8 hrs between the Petionville station and the Santo Domingo station.

At the Petionville office we checked in and gave our passports along with $23 US cash plus 100gds for the border crossing.  There’s no place to leave vehicles so friends dropped us off.  The 8am bus departed at 8:30am.  The bus is a large modern touring bus, with a restroom on board and movies.  (Saw Pacific Rim, then they got violent and R-rated).  Luggage can go under the bus or inside on the overhead racks.  I recommend traveling with just backpacks you can keep on board.  Lunch of rice and beans and chicken was served on board while we were waiting to get back on the road after crossing into the DR.

First border stop to exit Haiti.
Around 11am we reached the border via a road that runs along a lake that is rising.  We stop and the Caribe lady who has everyone’s passports gets off and has them stamped to exit Haiti.  She gets back on and hands back our passports, we drive maybe half a mile and pull into a large lot where we get out, go to a window, and get the passports stamped to enter the DR.  We also hand in the forms they give you on the plane about entering and exiting a country.  Some people with large bags had to have those checked, but no one looked at our backpacks.

Then we hit the road again and at 5pm pulled up to the Santo Domingo station.  Which was large and felt like a European subway station.  Being in the DR felt like being in a different world – I’ll have to save that for another post.  We get off the bus and flag down a taxi to take us to the hotel, only $5 US total for 5 people!

The trip back to Haiti was just the same, but in reverse.  The return fees were $21US plus 200 gds.  The bus departed around 9am and arrived at the border around 2pm.  We got off the bus for passport stamping at both the DR and Haiti customs offices.  We hit Port au Prince around 5pm then it seemed like it took forever to drive around dropping people off here and there.  We finally got to the station around 7pm, so the return was about 10 hrs.

Second border stop - passport stamping to enter DR.
I came back with one of the worst colds of my life, so stayed a couple days in Port to recuperate, then took what felt like the longest bus ride of my life which is chronicled here.

Lunch.  We were all afraid of the macaroni salad.
Dominican Republic stop in the capital.

Waiting area in the Santo Domingo station.

Back in Petionville Haiti with a load of cut flowers to sell.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Making disciples – teaching the truth about birds and bats

My goal of living and teaching in Haiti isn’t to provide jobs, or give stuff away.  While there aren’t a lot of jobs, there is plenty of clothing and food here.  PLENTY!  (Repeat – Haiti does not need food or clothes – handouts only drive the food and clothing sellers out of business.  Oh, and thinking of shipping a container of soap?  Haiti has soap.  Google soap and Haiti and you’ll see all the soap drives.).

My goal is to teach people about ecology so they can make informed decisions.  You want to kill birds?  Fine – just be aware that the consequences are less fruit and dispersal of seeds, and more insects and rodents.  And if you are a Christian don’t forget that your God said birds are good.  You’ll have to deal with Him, not me.

It is just as important to train Haitians to do this environmental outreach, and encourage them to go and preach the word about the importance of birds and bats.  So I’ve been excited to get back into the swing of going to schools with some of my university students to train and encourage them to teach ecology.  So far we have visited Communaute Baptiste where we taught last year, and  Institution Classique Moderne des Cayes.  Jackson and Ducsonn are very enthusiastic teachers, I think they will have environmental careers someday.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Capital Coach Bus Line

Comfortable seats.
On my second trip to Port this fall I took the Capital Coach Bus which is new to Les Cayes.  As of this writing they leave Les Cayes everyday at 5am and 1pm to go to Port au Prince.  (I hear they go to the Dominican Republic too, and you can make reservations on-line).  The Les Cayes bus station is along National Highway 2 between the Arch as you enter the city and the Meridian Hotel, on the north side of the street.  The ticket is 500gds, or $15.00 US (cheaper to pay in goudes). Walk up to the window and give them your name and phone number.  If you already have your ticket be at the station ½ hour before the bus departs, there are seats in the shade.

These are big touring buses, with comfortable seats, bathroom, and movie screens.  You can put large luggage underneath the bus, and smaller bags over the seat.  Take valuables with you inside the bus, the bus lets out people along the way and they get into the luggage compartment below and you can’t see what they are doing.  

The trip to Port took 4 hours and we watched Battleship twice.  The bus didn’t stop til it got to Port and dropped off some people near the airport (across the street, so you’d have to lug your stuff across the highway and walk to the airport entrance).  Then we stopped at the main bus station by the US Embassy (across from Sugar Cane Museum).  This station has a parking lot so it is very convenient for pick up and drop off.

The return trip back to Les Cayes took over 8 hours!  I bought my ticket at 3pm that day when the office open and the bus left the station on time at 4pm.  Then we got stuck in traffic for 3 hours at Carrefour, a place just west of Port notorious for traffic.  It’s only 6 miles from the stadium/Transport Chic bus station.  It was dark and raining, and we were there long enough to see the water rise in the road to calf-height and then recede.  The first movie seemed half decent – a kung fu/martial arts thing, but dubbed in French and I was tired so I didn’t pay attention.  The next two movies were R rated and I didn’t pay attention.  We got through 2 whole movies before the bus made it through the traffic and was on open road.  Then I fell asleep and woke up shortly before we reached Cayes at 12:25am.

I recommend Capital over Transport Chic if you want the most comfortable ride and convenient pick up/drop off place in Port.  But Transport Chic is good enough, cheaper, and has more departure times.

The Les Cayes station.

The Port au Prince station, next to US Embassy.

Ticket counter at Port au Prince.
Painting at the Port station.  Happy people climbing either in or out of the basket.

Port au Prince station, complete with a parking lot.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Grocery stores - local products

National brand Rebo and a brand from Cayes.
The previous post was about all the awesome food imported to Haiti.  But I haven't forgotten the importance of local food to the people and economy.  So here is a smattering of local (& national) coffee and nuts you can buy in the stores.  Along with a reminder about malaria - they sell the anti-malarial drug chloroquine over the counter.  In the US you need a prescription for this.  Prices are in Haitian dollars, divide by 8 to get approximate US prices.  ($HT divide by 5 to get goudes, then look up conversion rate for goudes, around 42 gds / $1 US).

Smaller brand and National brand Selecto.

Karapina - sugared peanuts, and regular peanuts (pistache)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The grocery stores of Port au Prince.

In 2008 in the Central Plateau we had to drive 3 hours to Hinche to go to a grocery store that was only 13 miles away (now that road is paved it takes less than an hour).

In 2012 I moved to Les Cayes, a large coastal city.  And they have grocery stores!

In 2013 I began spending more time in Port au Prince visiting a friend.  And their grocery stores have everything!  Even guinea fowl & duck.

Here’s a smattering of photos that probably are not impressive to those in the US, but to those of us not in Port it’s the promised land.  (while you are in the store and not outside where all the trash, pollution, traffic, and people are).

Guinea fowl (pintad)