(This is my experiences working and living aboard a 220′ treasure hunting ship, the M/V Sea Hunter)
Everyone aboard the ship, both crew and volunteers were on pins and needles awaiting the approval to unload the 200 tons of aid. We had been anchored ½ mile offshore of Miragoane for over three days. We should have already been done unloading. It was absolutely ludicrous!
Felix (our Haitian interpreter) was frustrated, but not as much as we were. He had grown up in Haiti and knew the politics. He kept telling us that it would all work out and we just had to be patient. It really made me think of the vast differences between the United States and other countries. Until you experience it firsthand you don’t really understand the magnitude of it. So we tried to keep busy to help keep our mind off of something we had no control over.
Since our arrival in Miragoane, we had many curious Haitians paddle their handmade dugouts to our ship throughout each day. They looked like a canoe but in a rough form. Many had homemade sails attached to them to help push them along. Some were made out of old sheets, some were sort of palms from a tree and we even saw garbage bags used for a sail. Some had a couple of men in each canoe but most were single paddlers. It was probably about 10-12 ft. from the deck of the M/V Sea Hunter to the top of the water below. They would hold out their arms asking for food. Since we had made up a lot of individual care packages on our way, we were ready. We were tossing them overboard to each canoe and in return smiles of gratitude.
One small boat with a motor came up and yelled out names like he knew someone aboard. In his boat were another man and a small boy around 5 or 6 years old. I believe he had worked for Greg on a previous trip. Greg said for us to help him aboard. When they were all three on deck, I couldn’t help noticing the young boy as he hid behind his father (or I assumed it was his father). As the two men and some of the crew talked, I tried to slowly coax the young boy to talk. I asked if they wanted something to drink as it was very hot out. The father kind of pushed him aside and told him to go with me inside to get a drink. As I held out my hand, he shyly put his small hand into mine. The first thing I noticed was how he was dressed. He had an old dirty shirt on, shorts that were too big for him and no shoes. He was quite filthy himself but had beautiful big brown eyes.
As we went inside to the galley I watched as his eyes grew even larger. He was scanning the room and carefully taking in each item. I gave him a glass of lemonade and he quickly drank it in one gulp. I filled it again and asked if he wanted some peanut butter crackers. He didn’t say anything but reached for them and immediately started eating them.
His dad and the other man had come inside and were sitting at the galley table talking. Greg and Gary were talking with them and asking they escort them to shore to meet with the local officials. I asked if it would be okay if his son stayed with me until he got back, of which he agreed. I asked the young boy if he wanted to see the rest of the ship. He didn’t respond but held out his hand to follow me. With each step he had to pull up his pants as they were a couple sizes too large. One of the other crew members found a belt and put it on him. A small smile came across his face.
When we got to the pilot house his eyes once again grew. Like most children that walk into the pilot house they are amazed. I lifted him into the captain’s seat and showed him how to pull the horn. He giggled as it let out the loud blast. Alex came in with a ball and handed it to him and he immediately clutched it to his breast. We gently took it from him and threw it across the floor and told him to chase it. He jumped down and grabbed the ball and lay on the carpeted floor. I watched as he rolled back and forth onto that floor with a smile never leaving his face. I assumed this may have been the first time he had seen carpeting. Next came a candy bar and a bowl of ice cream. As he quickly chowed them both down, I thought we had better be careful. I didn’t want him to get sick from too much sugar, though he was enjoying each and every bite. We spent a couple hours with him and I honestly can say, I don’t know who had more fun. It was wonderful for me to watch him enjoy each experience. When his dad returned, he went right to him but instead of his shy expression it was one of joy.
Meanwhile, Greg had given the manifest of what we had aboard the ship to the local government. It was detailed on a number of papers. When he went ashore to find out if all was set to finally unload, he was informed that the manifest was not sufficient as they wanted it consolidated onto one piece of paper. And if that wasn’t enough, they wanted it sent to Port-au-Prince to the office of customs to have them approve it. We knew this would take weeks.
While deciding what to do, another boat approached us and said there was an official on the dock waiting to meet with him to give his approval. So Greg and a few other crew members went back to the dock. They were led to a man dressed in business attire sitting in a chair under a tree. As they approached him he stated he would be able to help them. He spoke with Felix and made some calls speaking in Creole. He then and asked to see the manifest which at this point was with an official from Hope Village. He was taking it to a government office in Miragoane to try and get approval. Felix quickly called him and asked that he hurry back with the manifest. One of the crew asked to see the man’s identification. He handed over a business card that stated he was the CEO from a shipping company based out of Miami, FL. No credentials stating he was an official from Miragoane. Meanwhile, another so called official came and waited with everyone. Once the person from the orphanage arrived, he handed the manifest over to them. Upon reading it, they spoke again and stated there was nothing they could do since the aid was destined to the orphanage and the people of Les Cayes. Upon hearing this, the local Haitians that had been hanging around started to get angry. They were shouting to one another that the supplies weren’t theirs but for another community. Not knowing what more to do and feeling the anger rising among the crowd, Greg and the crew quickly left and headed back to the ship.
Once aboard, it was decided to leave Miragoane and head towards Les Cayes which was a 10 hour trip. Hopefully by the time we arrived, Father Marc would have the final permission for us to unload. We just couldn’t hit another dead end!