the stupid sat receiver is still non-funtional. the haitian has let me down once too often, so we are calling in a domincan, thus making the project truly multi-national. we'll see what happens.
i have the unfortunate duty to accompany the youth group to the beach this saturday for a retreat. there will be a young dominican priest there, so i will have to cast the fly rod and swim in the carribean. i offer these things up, so i suspect purgatory will be cleared soon...
the boys then get to root through thebags of clothes - it is amazing to watch them, 14 teenage boys holding up all kinds of clothes, not knowing if it's mens or womens half the time. they laugh and joke and don't fight and i someone wants what they are holding they toss it to him. very different from what you'd see in the states...
1530 - stuck in port-au-prince, try to convince leonel to send a driver to show us the way. he claims it's an easy drive and proceeds to spend 10 minutes telling us all the turns we would need to make in order to find the road to the border. i ask him, "can't we just follow the signs." he responds, "we don't have any signs." he then realizes that it's not so easy and agrees to send a car in front of us to lead the way.
1600 - after spending 30 minutes driving through awful smelling slums, crashing through water filled potholes, disobeying just about every american driving law, and biting our knuckles bloody, we finally reach the road to jimaní.
1700 - pass dead donkey - a dead donkey never looked so good, we knew we were on the right road.
1725 - approaching the border with a surreal vista of the once clear lake now white capped and dark - and ominous sight, but fitting.
1730 - reach haitian border. spend 10 bucks to get passport stamped. get to the gate and the two soldiers holding automatic weapons tell me i can't cross because i haven't paid. i show them my stamped exit visa - they don't seem to care. at this point i decided that the dumb american tack was not the way to handle these people, so i just started arguing with them. we are hollering at each other in three languages. a bunch of people took both sides. the rifle waving guards are simultaneously yelling at us and all the haitians who joined the fray. they finally agree that they will let us through if miguel forks over 10 bucks - we pay it gladly and they open the gates and let us through.
1750 - pass dominican immigration, make a run for jimaní without passing customs. no luck, the chain is up and they pull us over to customs. customs closes in 10 minutes. rush out of the car. fortunately, one of the men here in pedro santana is the head of customs at elias piña and has volunteered to call the boss in jimaní and get us through. i go for my tourist visa, miguel heads to customs. after getting my visa i head to customs. miguel says, "we have a major problem." i enter the office and introduce myself. the guy tells me that he can't help us. i ask if he got the call. he said he did, but without a letter from the bishop he can't let us through. i say, "we'll pay the tax, just let us through." i then witnessed one of the most inefficient processes i have ever had the pain to endure. it takes 1 hour to make the calculations. they charge us 40% tax. thieves.
1850 - head to jimaní and buy snapple and two more bags of doritos. we want to get home, but it's a hike. start driving, rain comes, darkness falls, flip on the headlights and discover that only one works. great - thin roads, no reflectors, no lights on the road, rain, and only one headlight, no hotels, and these hidden speed bumps in the towns. proceed at a crawl.
2030 - while slowing for a speed bump that we actually saw, a 5-gallon bucket comes flying from the side of the road and smashes the front of the truck. two kids are fighting on the side of the road. we stop, get out, and start yelling at them (it's customary). people crowd around the two boys and start slapping them and tell them to stop. no one apologizes. kick bucket out of the way. get back on the road.
2100 - stop for diesel.
2200 - make the turn for san juan, we are now in familiar territory, but we can't really see it because our headlight situation stinks. find a truck and follow him so we don't crash.
2250 - arrive in san juan and see the glorious lights of the pollo rico. stop the truck. get out. order fried chicken, coke, fries. wash hands. eat. leave.
2350 - make the turn for bánica. hit the dirt section and give thanks for the rain, because the puddles actually show up in the pathetic glare of the headlight.
2400 - barely finish a skid after almost ramming 40 goats that had decided to sleep in the middle of the road. dumb beasts don't want to move. get out of truck and chase them away.
2430 - pull into the parish. mission accomplished.
total fuel used: 20 gallons diesel
total fuel consumed by humans: 1 diet coke, 4 snapples, 6 bags of doritos, 2 chicken legs, 5 chicken fingers, 2 orders of fries, and 2 cokes.
total money spent on border crossings: approximately 50 dollars u.s., not including the pilferers at customs
total time on road: 18.5 consecutive hours
end of part 2, however the saga is not over...
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...
in blog news, i joyfully report over 5,000 hits to the blog. keep up the good work. and, if all goes as planned, the internet will be up and cranking with bandwidth to spare in within the week (i think i said that last week as well, so don't hold your breath)
a shot of the chapel at el corbano
the front of the same chapel
the lone donkey
helped pour a concrete slab for the new generator for the dentists.
cleaned my room. sorry it took so long mom.
as for the Mass intentions: i think i got them all in, so i check the calendar. if you didn't get the date you wanted it should be close, it was first come first serve. also, some have mentioned sending stipends. don't you dare. if you feel compelled, drop some money in the poor box in the back of your local church.
whenever election time rolls around, the political parties start building things for the people and claim to be "working for you" every project currently under construction has a big sign out front with the polititians name and "i am working for you" on it - however, what happens is that those that win continure to build, but then stop if they lose, and those that lose just stop. so, there are tons of projects half-done around here. i thought this particular to the frontera, since we are so far away from everything, but i went to this border town called elias pina yesterday, and the same thing was happening there. it's really amazing - 1/2 done buildings just sitting there.
one thing's for sure, i am convinced that the only reason any country can be considered third world is due either a poor or corrupt government. there is all kinds of money and natural resources down here, but the government spends it like a 14 year old girl in mall with her friends on a shopping spree.
first of all, my mother rocks - she only had two comments based on yesterday's harrowing adventure and the pics i posted. first she wanted to see a picture of martyr, and then she told me to clean my room. i am my mother's son, so all of you who have been lambasting me for my actions, i have my mother's approval.
secondly, to those who are bashing me as a big lib, a lib would have turned around and gone home without celebrating the Holy Sacrifice, but the solid priest risks life and limb to bring the Eucharist to the people of God - he does not count the cost, nor the season, nor the weather, nor the conditions, he trusts in God's Almighty Providence, while of course using the reason God gave him - so remember that, you big libs, next time you cancel Mass because of a little snow.
additionally, pray that this haitian guy can come through for me and get the satellite so i can actually post pictures in quantity.
here are some pictures to whet your appetites:
my bike and a school with haiti in the background
some local boys
from the chapel window
in more mundane matters, i just want to comment that for all of you who have mocked me for the copious amounts of arm and leg hair that cover me, it is the perfect shield for those little mosquitos, because they cannot bore through it all to attack me...God is clever.
yesterday i met a guy who has, he claims, 46 children, i didn't know if i should shake his hand in congratulations or throw a low blow to stop the madness, so i didn't say/do anything.
also, after Mass yesterday afternoon, i was invited to someone's house for a little cheese and sausage, which they love down here. the kid who came with me to show me how to get to the chapel sat down at the table, and we sipped our pepsi (the things i do for international relations...) and everyone left and went outside. they just left us in the house alone, and whenever someone passed by the door they would apologize for disturbing us. we finally got up, and everyone said goodbye and thanked us for coming.
i don't quite know what to make of all this, but i'm sure you all will make something of it...
sat phone (globalstar handheld) - clearly a five star winner - crystal clear connection, keeps me posting to the blog, and the battery life is fantastic. when the new model comes which allows me to use it like a regular phone, i will re-evaluate. this thing works anywhere it can see the sky. a true winner.
gps unit (garmin vista) - 4.5 stars. i was amazed that when i booted her up in the capital that she had a base map of all major dominican roads. the reason she doesn't receive 5 stars is that she had some super-small haitian towns on her but not banica. she now has most of the parish, and for the first time we can make a scale map of the parish when i finish.
mp3/4 player (5-gig apple ipod) - 5 big stars - what other music player can hold 1000 songs, fit in the front pocket of the clerical shirt and not miss a beat while flying down rocky roads on a moto? also, the one-handed operation allows me to control things without letting of the gas. in addition, when the itrip is hooked up, she works in any car with a radio. a technical wonder.
mountain shoes (merrill mocs) - 2 stars - dog award - maybe i need to wear them more, but these things aggrivated my achilles tendons. it might have been for the hiking itself, but they need to prove themselves a little more. traction was okay, but not super comfortable.
that's it for now, i'm going to post this and then get on the bike and say a couple of Masses
i gotta get off this roof, it's scorching.
this morning i hopped on a moto and drove 45 minutes to say a beautiful Mass. i have changed my approach and got there 30 minutes early and had Mass practice with them. we learned a few songs and practiced some of the responses. i figure if i can use the exact same Mass parts every month then they will remember them in about a year's time.
as for the ride, i had the ipod cranking, the sun was shining, the wind was cranking through my hair, there were no other cars or bikes on the dirt road, i crossed a couple of creeks, avoided some cattle, sheet, pigs, and chickens, and enjoyed every minute of the trip there and back. as a matter of fact, i'm getting ready to take off again to anoint someone who lives 45 minutes away, but i'll love the ride out. i may never travel in the truck again...
in blog news, i enthusiatically want to report that you people have surpassed the 1,000 hit mark, which makes my day, since all this climbing up to the roof is being appreciated. as fr violette would say, "it warms my heart to know you care." he said that alot...
i got on the road about 730am and drove down this rocky, pitted dirt road for an hour. we only had to turn on the 4 wheel drive twice getting up steep inclines after traversing the creeks. no real excitement there. however, my guide and i then headed off on foot, beginning at 1500 feet and kept going up and up and up. we landed at 2965 and i didn't check the gps after that. i was too tired. we were walking straight into the sun, no breeze, and straight uphill for two hours. i was soaking wet. we stopped at the first place and they said that since yesterday was a holiday that no one passed the word around that Mass was scheduled. so, we hoofed it up some more to la cana, the end of the world, and found a small schoolhouse with 10 kids in it. i was soaking wet. the teacher lives here and stays there for the week. he is a young guy, maybe 25, and is very impressive. he was telling me that the greatest challenge for him is that he has about one kid per grade and the parents don't read and write and the kids never do their homework, so it's hard to get them learning. there is nothing up there, just trees, goats, pigs, chickens, and mangos. so, since no one had been informed of the Mass, we immediately headed back across the ridge and down another 1000 vertical feet where we found the small chapel at los pomitos. i was soaking wet. in the house next door they were weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth because someone had died, so we hiked down to the school house, got the kids, hiked back up to the chapel. and said a Mass for the dead lady. it's remarkable what happens in a community where people don't read and write. the teacher struggled immensely to get through the readings. only one person received Communion. i don't know the solution to the problem. you can't give them books, and they don't remember things well either. i think the only way to teach them the faith is if someone were to move there. i talked to fr posey about it and he is still stymied.
i calculate that we traveled about 5000 vertical feet up and down in about 4 or so hours, but i need to get the gps out and work the numbers...i have taken a shower now and am dry...
in other news, i can't figure out if i am a lib or a throwback, since i say the second Eucharistic prayer with vans on my feet while wearing a fiddleback...
it's almost time for a haircut...
in more disturbing news - the effects of the pink sheets continue to be manifested in strange ways - i have this urge to clean the bathroom. however, i'm still avoiding the laundry, although we do have a wasaher and dryer...
i've got a big morning planned: since i said Mass last night in pedro santanta and am saying the evening Mass here in banica (there are no sunday morning Masses because everyone goes to the public market and skips Mass) i am h eading out to this little mountain i saw yesterday to check out some rock climbing possibilities. it looked very promising from the road. also, there is a potential landing/takeoff area i need to check out.
other than that, things are good, it looks like i have a full month ahead of me, since i will say Mass in every zone around here and in the mountains. by the end of may i will have visited everyone in the parish.
i have upgraded the phone plan so i can call, and i am working on getting the fixed phone so you people can call me. we'll see what happens, but i think i can have it down here and installed by the end of may.
our internet connection at the parish, which we take from a wi-fi across town, is down for the next week. it runs at about 80kbs, which is plenty fast, but alas it will be down, so i can't post any pictures until it gets restored. i will have some great ones for you.
the church here in banica is beautiful - built in 1514 and still going strong.
i have Mass in pedro santana tonight with a couple of baptisms, so i'll let you know how it goes...so far so good, although i will admit that as i was trying to get my room together this afternoon i found my pictures and had to put them down. alas, the first couple weeks after any change are tough that way, i suspect i will have my regular disregard of sappiness within a week or so (maybe those pink sheets are affecting me...)
so long, keep up the prayers.
i folded back the top sheet (no blankets of course) and saw the most frightening thing i think i have ever seen in my life. i stood there in complete horror and shock, paralyzed with fright and overcome with dread. i began to sweat profusely from the internal stress being placed on my body and soul - what i saw you will hardly believe (don't let the kids read this) - the sheet covering the mattress was, and i shiver as i type this, pink with flowers. eventually i came out of my malaise and realized that this is the kind of suffering i will have to do in order to serve God down here in the mission. it took me a while to actually lie down on the bed, but i slept better than i had in a week, so i can only praise God for the graces bestowed upon me.
however, it has convinced me, and fr posey highly recommends as well, to drop the 1,000 for the satellite phone indoor link which will enable you to call me, and i won't have to go up to the roof to make calls.
it's good to be here finally, the drive from the capital is a total drag.
we did stop and see the bishop.
big plans tonight, a big party with the youth, then a big party tomorrow, and then a big party sunday, and hopefully that will be the end of parties for a little while.
i'll try to blog once or twice a day and keep you informed. i will also see if i can find a way to get some photos to you, but it will take some doing at 9kbs...
i'm sitting in my room, but i will send this from the roof and i see a collection of about 200 videos - unbelievable...
my room, which is temporary, has a bed with one pillow, a ceiling fan, four walls, a 27 inch television (it must normally be the movie room) a small fridge, a vcr, no desk, a dresser like thing, brown walls, a screen door and one window with steel folding shutters. i like it though, it's time to set up the monsoon speakers and the subwoofer and introduce these dominicans to freebird live!!!!!!!!!!!!
adios, i'm going over to my new church to make a holy hour. you're all in my prayers.
in spiritually related matters, my soul is completely peaceful, so keep up the prayers please...
in other news, i have said goodbye to just about everyone, so all i need to do is finish packing and get moving.
hopefully i'll post from the sat phone tonight from santo domingo.
happy feast of St. Joseph