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Vasectomy Haiti: Changing Money And Learning Lessons

August 14, 2015
changing-money-in-Haiti
The bank’s ‘official’ money changer in Haiti.

Exchanging money in Haiti was an experience. We drove towards the center of downtown and stopped in front of the main bank. I was expecting we were going to exit the car, walk into the bank, and exchange money. It did not work that way.

Changing money in Haiti…interesting experience!

Instead a well dressed man standing across the street notices the car filled with mostly non-Haitians (i.e. white people) and walks towards us. He was wearing a nice shirt, a good pair of designer jeans, and wore a gold chain around his neck. He was dressed very differently than the other people walking on the street. On his wrist he wore a flashy gold watch and in his hand he was holding a cell phone. Being an American, my first thought was this seems like a drug deal.

I did not sign up for a drug deal. My intention was to go to Haiti, do some vasectomies, come home, and feel good about myself…it was not to buy drugs and get high…I could go to Colorado for that experience.

It was then Elisabeth chimed in, as if she could sense what I was thinking, and told us this was a guy you could trust. This guy was the ‘official’ money exchanger for the bank. I thought why did we not just go inside the bank? Why must we handle wads of cash on a busy street in an impoverished country? I was in the back seat so I just kept my mouth shut.

The money changer guy reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of Haitian Gourdes. This role of cash must have been at least 5 inches thick. Some of these bills had the feel, consistency, and appearance of used toilet paper. The entire transaction took place in Creole. We handed him a wad of crisp, clean US money. He calculates the exchange on his cell phone calculator and handed us a wad of not-so-clean and far from crisp Haitian Gourdes.

“It has been my life’s experience that women are often the creators and the motivators. Men like to think they are but they really are not.”
– Haiti Vasectomy: No Reservations

Women: Motivators and creators

Elisabeth-in-Haiti
Elisabeth was a critical member of the vasectomy team.

Elisabeth was one of the few women on the vasectomy team and, as fate would have it, she would be the most instrumental and most meaningful member of our team. Elisabeth would be the ‘do-er’. She was the one who you could count on to get it done and make things happen.

It has been my life’s experience women are often the creators and the motivators. Men like to think they are but they really are not. In Africa and in Haiti, it seems the men do the hard manual labor, the drinking, and participate in the ‘mens decision making club’; however, these same men go home only to be told what to do by the women.

Although the same happens in the US, we are more reluctant to acknowledge it. The women make the decisions and often motivate us to do the labor to make it happen.
This would be the role Elisabeth would serve for us.

Haiti: A safe country to live and travel

As the money deal was taking place, Elisabeth taught me my most memorable lesson about Haitian culture. She informed me Haiti is a very safe country to live and travel. I was dumbfounded because that was not the impression I had when coming to the country.

Dr-Stein-money-counting
Dr Stein counts the money to ensure US to Gourde currency exchange was accurate.

Violent crime is minimal; assault, murder, mugging, and armed robbery were almost non-existent. Petty theft was more common but physical harm was not usually not a part of the crime equation. Elisabeth informed us the worst insult you could give a Haitian was to call them a thief. The average Haitian is very prideful and does not like to be thought of as being so depraved they would steal from others.

For the remainder of my trip I felt more at ease about my stay in Haiti, but being an observant physician, I could not but help to notice the high walls with sharp objects around most of the buildings.

Our money deal was done and off we drove towards the Hotel Du Roi Christophe, which would serve as vasectomy mission headquarters.

Next article: Vasectomy Haiti: Base Camp Hotel Roi Du Christophe

About the Author

Dr. Monteith is an Ob/Gyn in Raleigh, North Carolina who specializes in tubal ligation reversal. He also performs No-scalpel vasectomy procedures in his Raleigh office. In this recent blog series he describes his experience during a recent vasectomy mission to Haiti.

His first article is Vasectomy Haiti: No Reservations

If you would like to support permanent birth control form men in the developing world you can do so through the NSVI website: No-Scalpel Vasectomy International, Inc

For a mere $45 you can provide a man with permanent birth control and help him to better provide for his family.

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