To answer the question on the minds of most people who wanted to know what this trip would include for – ahem - accommodations: It’s cushier than camping.
The Haitian Ministries staff didn’t know until the last minute where they’d be staying during this trip to Port-au-Prince, but as it turned out, they found a roomy house in Petion-Ville. The displaced staff from the Mission House will live here for at least the short term, and the ministries team will stay here during subsequent visits.
The house belongs to a friend of Paula Thybulle, who operates an orphanage that the ministries helps to support. The friend is not a full-timer down here and the ministries might rent the place from her for a while.
Located on Rue Freres, the stucco house has a high gate at the driveway and is walled in on each side, a good idea normally but a must during these times of looting and the unknown whereabouts of thousands of prisoners who escaped the jail during the earthquake.
It is at least 2,000 square feet, two stories high, has a carport, a front porch, and a small backyard where the Haitians have pitched their tents because they are still too afraid to sleep inside.
And the best part: there are three bathrooms, honest-to-God bathrooms with actual toilets and doors that close. There’s no power at the house, so flushing – though kept to a minimum - is done the old fashioned way, pouring a bucket of water in the tank and then hitting flush.
Enough details on that.
The house manager at the Mission House, Joseph Jean-Baptiste, has cooked for us every day. We had ratatouille and mashed potatoes with white wine one night, then scrambled eggs, mango and fresh orange juice for breakfast Saturday morning. Every night is a full meal at which staff – and we media, when able to break away - is all expected to sit at the dinner table and eat together.
The Mission House staff has treated everyone royally. They tracked down mattresses for the empty box springs; keep full a plastic trash bin-sized container with water for flushing and washing up; set out pitchers of bottled water upstairs in addition to keeping the water cooler downstairs fresh; and they make the rounds at dusk each night to light the oil lamps.
“It’s family,” Executive Director Emily Smack said when I mentioned how much the Mission House staff was going out of their way. “Family takes care of family.”