Motorcycle Crash #1

I have promised for over 15 months that I would tell my story of how I got hit by a motorcycle in Haiti. The crazy thing is that I have two stories about being hit by motorcycles. Here’s the first one:

It was Easter morning and we were about to go through the process of crossing the border from the Dominican Republic back to Haiti. It was a rough night; all 5 of us slept in one room and I’m not sure anyone slept more than 3 or 4 hours total. (For a recap of where we were and why, click here: Hotel Masacre)

After packing everything into the truck, I bought some coffee, donuts, and orange juice and we drove the 3 block trek to the border crossing and immigration office.

As we arrived at the very large concrete parking lot, I decided to park away from the building. I did this because we wanted to avoid people begging and staring at the kids while they ate their breakfast. I parked the truck, made sure everyone was OK, grabbed our passports and some money. (Beyond the normal border and immigration fees, there is always a need to have some extra cash to pay some “tips” for either a job well done or a job done faster.)

As I stepped out of the truck, I saw something just like this:

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I paused for a moment to see what the driver of the moto (motorcycles are called “motos” in Haiti) was going to do. When he began to veer wide to his right, I began to walk toward the main building. Then, for some reason, he turned back to the left. I stopped in my tracks. Waiting. Watching. Hoping to catch his eyes. But he didn’t look at me. Then I realized why he wasn’t looking at me: he was texting with both hands. While driving a moto with no hands!

So, here I am. I’m tired and a little angry for both lack of sleep and having to stay in the DR an extra night because the head of the border decided to leave 3 hours early. I’m in the middle of a huge parking lot in Dajabon, DR, just over the river from Haiti, I’m away from all of the other cars and people and a texting Haitian on a motorcycle is making a beeline, seemingly aimed straight at me.

He’s now about 100 yards away from me and doing no less than 40 MPH, still looking down at his mobile, and driving while his hands are on the mobile, not the handlebars of the moto, and I’m starting to realize that this situation is not going to end well. I’m in somewhat of a crouch, ready to run or jump out of the way, at the last second, in the opposite direction of the texting Haitian and his moto.

When the texting Haitian moto driver was about 50 yards away, I shouted “Hey!” as loudly and forcefully as I could. The shout caused him to start. As he looked up, the moto began to veer to his left, so naturally, I jumped to my left – the opposite of him. Then, inexplicably, he jerked the handle bars to his right, swerved to his right and therefore, even though he’s now about 10 yards away, I calmly jumped to my right hoping to avoid being cut in half by a moto.

Unfortunately for me, we’re not even close to the end of the story. You’re probably not going to believe it, but the now not-texting, two-handle-bar-holding Haitian moto driver once again turned his bike back to his left! By this time, I only had enough time to turn slightly to my right and jump up into the air to try and avoid getting completely run over. Alas, I did not avoid the collision and went flying, over the side of the truck, landing on my ribs on the tail gate of the truck. I know that I did some equations in my physics classes in college that could help me determine how far I flew and what the speed was of the moto when I got hit, but I’m pretty sure he was going at least 25 MPH and I flew at least 15 feet. How I didn’t end up with major injuries is a miracle.

Now, here’s the funny part. By the time I gathered myself to my feet, there was a crowd of no less than 20 Haitians and Dominicans who had stopped and encircled the moto driver.  Several of the locals came over to me and practically dragged me over to the moto driver. I was, honestly, a little scared because I was not sure what was happening.  While standing in front of the moto driver with 20 or 25 people yelling back and forth, I was desperately trying to pick out what Creole words and what Spanish words made sense. I couldn’t tell if they were yelling at me or not. All I wanted to do at this time was get away from the crowd, go in and get my passports stamped and then make the 2 hour drive to our home. I think the moto driver wanted the same.

I finally realized that many in the crowd were talking about “pay”.  I quickly said that I wasn’t going to pay anything because I was the one that got hit! Then, in what was one of the strangest things to happen to me during my time living in Haiti (and believe me, there were a lot of strange happenings), the crowd told the Haitian to pay me!

At that point, the moto driver was trying to talk to me while he was trying to stay on his moto (yes, the people were actually trying to push him off of the bike). He was scared and yelling, “Can’t pay! Can’t pay!” My response was a smile and “M’ale” (“I go” in Creole) and “Voy” (“I go” in Spanish). I pushed away from the crowd and limped up to the building to get our passports stamped.

Usually, I try to tie in some learning opportunity to my blogs. Unfortunately, there is no great moral to this story. It’s simply a funny story about how I got hit by a motorcycle. Me getting hit by the moto is the only “impact” in this story.

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