Hard to hide, even in a 'clown car'

Haitian Ministries Executive Director Emily Smack jokes with Jean Marie Brutus, the ministries' Mission House gardener, as they sit in the front seat of a Mitsubishi Montero SUV that was crushed during the earthquake but still runs prior to a visit to the organization's Mission House, located in the Morne Hercule section of Petionville, Haiti, and the surrounding neighborhood Saturday.

Even in a city that turns your head at every block, we make a scene.

Dominiques Georges, a Haitian and the project assistant for the Haitian Ministries Norwich Mission House located here just outside the Port-au-Prince city limits, has been our driver. Saturday, Georges was going to drive Emily Smack and Kyn Tolson, two of the Haitian Ministries staff members, to visit the Mission House, an orphanage, and the hospital where the Mission House's cook is recuperating after having part of her leg amputated.

Tom Gorin, a pediatrician from Connecticut, was also along for the ride. Plus two Day staffers and two more Mission House staffers, both Haitian.

That makes eight people. The Montero semi-comfortably seats five.

Oh yes — and it had been crunched in the earthquake. The Montero was under a carport and was flattened before Mission House staff dug it out and popped the roof back up. It looks every bit the part: no glass in the windows, and dented, scratched and crumpled all over.

We created a Haitian clown car, to steal from Tolson: Tolson and Smack shared the front passenger seat; Gorin, me, photographer Tim Martin, and Joseph Jean-Baptiste (the Mission House manager) in the back seat; and Frantz Borno, a gardener, in the far back with suitcases and trunks of medical supplies.

As white people in Haiti, we find ourselves getting stared at quite a bit anyway. But this was beyond that: three Haitians and five white people nearly sitting on top of each other in a bombed-out car.

We went through an intersection at the usual slug's pace through Port-au-Prnce on Saturday when a truck driver coming the opposite way looked at us, then looked at Georges, and said something in French. Georges started laughing, then Jean-Baptiste and Borno started.

We knew they were talking about us. Pausing to stop laughing for a moment, Georges told us what the truck driver said: "What are you doing driving white people around in that car?"

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