The Missions: San Francisco and San José

Unless the mission is oriented by charity, that is, unless it springs from a profound act of divine love, it risks being reduced to mere philanthropic and social activity...Consequently, being missionaries means loving God with all one's heart, even to the point, if necessary, of dying for him. - Pope Benedict XVI

the descent into dante's muse part 1 -

wednesday 21 may

1600 hours - speak with leonel (haitian) who assures me that the directway internet satellite dish will be delivered to jimaní (southern dom rep/haiti border town) the following day at 1300. plan to drive, pick up the dish, and return to bánica by 1800.

thursday 22 may

0600 - depart bánica, destination jimaní, estimated travel time 4 hours - truck loaded with myself, miguel (a dominican computer science teacher), one cold diet coke, one bag of chips, passport, visa card, money for the journey, name of man (amilgar) who owns a little market in jímani where we will acquire the goods.

0800 - make the southern turn for barahona, beach town in south western dom rep. road is pothole free, weather perfect, anticipation high. ipod cranking, windows down, air cool and refreshing.

0930 - get first view of lago enriquillo, an enormous fresh water lake loaded with crocodiles and fliamingos which sits 134 feet below sea level, the lowest point in the caribbean.

1045 - see 12 women standing on the side of the road trying to flag down a ride. my comment to miguel, "an act of charity here will come back to us." we tell the women to load up.

1100 - arrive in jímani, realize that it is not a small town. drop the women off and ask them if they've ever hear of amilgar. one of them points up the street and says, "his store is right there."

1110 - arrive at amilgar's joint and ask him if leonel has called. he says no. go down the street to call leonel. he says he can not deliver the stuff because my credit card didn't work. i tell him he's crazy. the only option is to drive to port-au-prince. ask miguel, he says, "let's go for it." we intend to enter haiti with neither a map nor an address nor any fluency in creole.

1120 - buy snapple and two small bags of doritos.

1130 - return to amilgar's to thank him. he says, "i need to go there anyway to drop off some stuff, and i know where leonel's office is." he throws two huge bags of limes into the back of the truck and we head for the boarder.

1145 - arrive at dominican immigration. get passport stamped, they take my tourist visa.

1200 - arrive at haitian immigration. it's an absolute madhouse - people running around, yelling and screaming. no order, no lines, no organization, plenty of corruption. realize that every car entering the country needs a pass. look for the paperwork for the truck. the only thing we have is an outdated insurance card, no registration, no title. miguel has no passport. amilgar knows every person there and talks to the officers there, he tanslates my spanish into creole. enter the car approval office with nothing but 10 bucks and the expired card. convince the cop to let us go - he stamps the pass and takes the money.

1230 - enter haitian immigration, get passport stamped.

1250 - finally get moving again. drive by a beautiful crystal clear lake for 20 minutes.

1310 - pass a dead donkey.

1330 - amilgar informs us, "whatever you do don't stop for anything for 20 minutes, this is a dangerous place." miguel nervously says, "what do you mean dangerous?" "i mean dangerous" i ask again, "what does dangerous mean?" "well, the insurrectionists killed a priest not to long ago, and a boy was shot here last week." i floor the accelerator.

1400 - arrive in the outskirts of port-au-prince, start asking people for directions to a gas company. different people lead us in different directions. stop to ask a 25 year old man who is sitting on his front porch where "eko gas" is located. he points up the road. amilgar tells him to get in the truck and show us. he gets in.

1430 - find eko gas. the owner isn't there.

1450 - drop off the kid and head to leonel's after two unsuccessful stops at supermarkets to sell the limes.

1530 - drive up a huge hill and see 5 dishes on top of a small office building - we have arrived. get out of the truck and enter the shop. meet leonel. give him my credit card and tell him we need to load the stuff and get going because we have to get through dominican customs by 1800. spend 1.5 hours going over the system. prepare to depart and look for amilgar. leonel tells us that he is not coming back because he went to sell his limes. we now realize that we are somewhere in port-au-prince with absolutely no idea where we are, with rain pouring down in the middle of rush hour and one hour to get to the border before we find ourselves stuck in haiti for the night with a truck loaded with satellite gear and no haitian currency, and our guide has fled.

end of part 1...


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