Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cross-Country Adventures - Part I

Please accept my apologies for this extensive gap between posts, I didn't know people actually read this thing (besides my family).
Because of how eventful last week turned out to be, I will attempt to summarize the happenings with a series of posts as opposed to just mustering up one big one. It will help me chip away at documenting the adventure bit by bit, and it will give people things to read as I go.
With that said, I will first share some of the promised photos from the last post, Wild, Wild West. As I mentioned, Matt & I toured the area of Gonaives, and then headed out to visit Sou Chod.

First thing you see entering the Gonaives area.

More homes underwater.

Mud on the ground and dust in the air, rather unpleasant.

One example of an impassable street. In the background you can see excavating taking place. The dump trucks haul the mud to the outskirts of the city and dump along the sides of the road.

I couldn't pass this one up. For those of you who are familiar with "Dora the Explorer", this one's for you :).

The UN presence in Gonaives. Is it overkill? Maybe, but they keep the peace, and make the place safe enough for other organizations to get in there and help out. Either way, I'm thankful.

Here's a little video clip I took while driving through the streets of Gonaives. It's not representative of the whole city (some areas are better and some are worse), but I figured I'd include it to give a better idea of what it's like.

Ok, that pretty much wraps up our first tour through Gonaives before we headed out to Sou Chod. Saturday (Oct. 25th), we stayed overnight in Sou Chod, and our tours of the salt farms were on Sunday.

The desert sunset.
AMURT's salt farm project (to learn more about AMURT and their projects, check out

The scuffle I told about in the last post.

Playing the tambou (drums) with the locals.

In the late afternoon on Sunday (after the drum circle), we headed back to Gonaives and stayed there overnight in preparation for our trip to Milot the next morning. Volunteers with AMURT brought us to their brand new house to stay the night, which Matt and I were thrilled about. As seen in the pictures below, the rooms are quite nice with their clean tile floors, but the airflow was very poor in the lower level, and the mosquitoes were horrendous. We hand-pumped some well water, took bucket baths, and then headed for bed. We both tried sleeping using one bed sheet each. I tried wrapping myself in the sheet to protect myself from the malaria carriers, but it was so hot that I sweat through the entire sheet within minutes. So, I pulled the sheet off praying for the slightest breeze, but received nothing but an air-raid from my flying friends.

Due to lack of airflow in the room and the fact that we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes (yes, I am still taking chloroquine), we decided to head to the roof and try for at least a little sleep. It was a flat concrete roof, and it was significantly cooler because there was a breeze constantly passing over us. As a result, I was able to rewrap myself in the sheet, stay cool (I use that term loosely), and defend myself from the bloodsucking bandits.

Oh, and one other thing. Unfortunately, sleepwalking has shown its ugly face in my past, so I carefully positioned myself near a piece of rebar protruding through the roof, and tied my wrist to it giving myself enough slack to move in my sleep, but not enough to allow myself a long painful drop :).

Phase I of our sleeping arrangement.

Phase II of our sleeping arrangement. If you look close, you'll see another volunteer's tent set up on the roof. We didn't have a tent, so we were under the stars...and the mosquitoes. Notice that it could have been a painful fall had I gone for an unconscious late-night stroll :).

This wraps up everything until Monday morning, Oct. 27th. Check back soon for the next episode. Thanks for reading.


Anthony Ventriello said...

So your back in the states? If so, glad to see that you made it back safely. You did a great job with the blog, sharing your trip with everyone. I can see why you were so excited about going - seems like quite the experience. Enjoy your down time until your next adventure.

Barb J :) said...

Owen, I have done exactly what you did in Gonaives. Sleeping out doors on a drive way wrapped in a sheet while those bloodsucking mosquitoes bit me through the sheet over and over. It seems remarkable in retrospect that being as tired as one can be after traveling any distance that sleep was impossible. I had traveled to Gonaives via 2 different tap taps and two scooters "Taxi's"

Good story telling, please give us an update of your reentry. Me, I couldn't go in a grocery store or make sense of it all for a long time.

Barb J :)

Matt Ruple said...

Doing the post in parts...I actually contemplated doing that, but then I realized that I would simply be prolonging my homework. I do like the suspense it builds though...kinda like a mini-series on TV. Did I mention that I don't watch TV? Get to work.

Owen said...

Hey Anthony: Thanks for reading along. Yes, I just got home on Tuesday evening, and I still have a few more posts left to complete the journal, but I think the blog loses its appeal being that I've already returned home, ha ha. Talk to you soon.

Hello Barb J: I think traveling to Gonaives would be an experience any time you go there. At any point, the people would either have just been hit by a hurricane, or they'd be in the middle of rebuilding from whenever they were last hit. I'm not so sure anyone thinks its a good idea for people to live there...ever.

Matt: I think you spend more time reviewing my homework instead of doing your own :). By the way, watching "The Office" counts as watching TV, sorry bud.

Anonymous said...

Welcome home!

Looks like an adventure!!!

Glad you're safe.


Joe B.