Saturday, June 5, 2010

Haitian Drivers' License

Today Nixon renewed my Haitian Drivers' License. He doesn't have that authority, of course. And my Oregon Drivers' License is legal here. But even with all of the legal formalities in place, driving in Haiti is not for the faint of heart.

Today Nixon drove Kim Montroll over to Jacmel to connect with some friends. He asked me to go along for company. And I wanted to get out of Port-au-Prince and experience how the earthquake has impacted other parts of the island. This trip worked out for all concerned.

The roads in Haiti were badly damaged by the earthquake. Rocks have fallen in the roadway. Hillsides are unstable and a threat to fall away, creating very hazardous conditions. And crews are out with shovels, wheelbarrows, trucks and backhoes clearing the way and making needed repairs.

I have driven in Haiti over the years, providing transportation for the groups we brought to the country. It has always been a challenge. Drivers in Haiti are better than average (in my experience). But they have a need to get ahead of the car in front, and the drivers are willing to take risks. Most of the time those risks pay off. Sometimes not.

The way to drive in Haiti is by adopting a psychological pathology, which therapist call “passive-aggressive.” Usually that isn't a very good way to identify yourself or for some one to call you. But when driving in Haiti, the term fits perfectly.

And it works this way. Most of the time you simply flow along with the traffic, allowing others to pass and ease their way into the line of cars ahead of you. You simply go with the flow. But there are moments when the traffic is gridlocked. And the only way to move ahead is to take the smallest of opening in the traffic to nose the front of your car ahead of the others trying to take that place. Otherwise you could be stranded in traffic for hours and hold up the people behind you.

So, today, Nixon asked me to get into the drivers seat of his car. That in and of itself is a vote of confidence and a sign of his trust of me. And along the way he took the above photo to prove to the world that I was actually driving his car in Haiti. That is enough proof that I now have renewed my Haitian Drivers' License. It must be renewed by frequent returns to Haiti.

And Nixon even offered me a job driving one of his cars. (just kidding) A relocation to Haiti is necessary.

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