One Day in Haiti: Part I
When we discuss riding in the Dominican Republic  (DR) with a potential client, invariably geography enters the conversation. Fact is few people really know much about the DR,  the island of Hispanola or even its exact location before contacting us.

When we explain the DR is 2/3 of the island and Haiti the rest, often there is a silent pause.

We know what they’re thinking. “Haiti? Isn’t that dangerous?”

So we’ve become as much of an authority on Haiti as we are on the Dominican Republic, and go into great detail that about the only thing in common between Haiti and the DR is they share the same large island.

Recently MotoCaribe’s Robert had a chance to visit Haiti for a day to document the noble charity work that his wife Alida and her family do for a Haitian orphanage near a northern border town. He wrote about his experience and the stark amazing contrast with the DR.

Enjoy a peek of our brief experience in Haiti as seen through the eyes of an American expat who lives in the DR.

Part I:

The route. Orange to Santiago, purple to Ouanaminthe.

We knew it was going to be a very long day. What we didn’t anticipate is the emotional drain we were about to experience.

4:30 a.m. came early, especially seeing how we didn’t get to bed until around midnight. If it hadn’t been for the aroma of the excellent Dominican coffee dripping away I’d maybe have just chucked it all. But didn’t. We got up, fed the cats and dogs, showered and drank as much coffee as we could.

We left home in darkness and drove down the mountain (the Cordillera Central range) to the Autopista Duarte, the main N/S road in the country. An hour later we were at Alida’s brother’s house in Santiago. They’d had less sleep than we had.

This will be the day’s route. Orange is where we live to Santiago, purple is Santiago to Haiti:

The mission crew was Alida, mi esposa, Raphael, Alida’s brother and a local pastor, George, Alida’s cousin and a law enforcement officer in California and Director of the DREAM Project, Home, George’s esposa, Argellia, Karin, their spunky 8th grader who envisioned the DREAM Project as a 7th grader, Daniel, their young son, Robyn, Karin’s Korean school pal, Dr. Enriquillo Vargas (Santiago, familiar/oncologist, radio show host) and Christian Bueno, Santiago community leader volunteer.

This is George:

Mountains in the morning mist.

I learned I didn’t understand today’s work. I thought it was for engineer planning. Nope. That was done the trip before by George/Alida/Raphael’s *other* cousin, Peter Olivo (Hope For Children International ) by his foundation; the groups work together. This was to install some water equipment, deliver a bunch of beds and build some playground equipment. The big truck, full of stuff, was already headed to Haiti. And it seems over 1000 lbs. of food -mainly powdered milk- 400lbs of canned meat, 300lbs. of pancake mix, syrup, and a bunch of other foods were still held up in Dominican Customs….waiting for the signature of a Jefe on vacation…for a month. The organization doesn’t pay bribes.

We left Santiago around 6:30 as the day began to brighten, Alida, me, Robin, Karin and Daniel as passengers in my car, the others in the Drs. car. We drove north to Navarette, then northwest toward Monte Cristi, then on to cross the border in Dajabon. I’d not been in this part of the country before but I’d heard it became much dryer…and it did. Cactus and dust were common, but the landscape was still green.

Dominicans call this area the “frontier” as the population gets sparse and the weather less hospitable.

As we got 20 km from the border, we stopped near a military checkpoint to pee and drink something. They look for illegal Haitians.

Raphael and I sharing some soda.

Onward into Dajabon. We stop to get papers from Customs, Alida, Raphael and George go in, I stay behind with the wimminzes and kids, taking pics. It’s HOT.


Our caravan, dusty from the road.

The border, just down the street.




A hard-working young fellow.

Moto-conchos, motorcycle taxis, lined up.



 Our truck, loaded with stuff for the orphanage.

Seems things didn’t go well in Customs.

The three “diplomats” come down the street bummed out.

Seems Customs wants a letter outlining all the stuff on the truck…again. So George and Raphael go to the internet café down the street to print one. We can go into the Custom’s office and wait…in air conditioning. Relief!

And while there I see an interesting box and sneak a pic while the manager went out for a minute (no photos in their office.). It was plugged into the wall, had a big coil inside, had several plugs and a fuseable link. I dunno, you tell me: Dominican extension cord? Voltage regulator? Beats me…



Part II Part III Part IV Part V Part VIPostscript