Published: November 16th 2008November 16th 2008
We arrived in Port au Prince on the 4th around 12:30. Getting off the plane into the humid heat and walking across the tarmac, several team members were delighted by the temperature which was a really good sign for the rest of the trip. The Haitian band that sits in the entrance to the airport for the passengers played away as we lined up at the passport check point. We all got through without a hitch and into the baggage claim area.
I think of this part as "Welcome to Haiti, get ready, it is an intense place"
After you have gone through the airport a few times it is not a problem, but having led a few groups through it now I know it can be a bit overwhelming. There are many people there who want to help you get your bags and many more that are trying to get their bags, there is a system to it all but you don't know that until you have been through it.
There are a couple guys who I work with there. one to help get our bags on our carts and out the door and the other to get our bags from the door to the car. Even though we have an agreement, there are still other workers who are trying to get a hand in so we will have to pay them too. It is exciting, a totally controlled chaos, which makes sense once you know the scheme of things.
This time however we were bringing in allot of medications, something I hadn't done before. So there was an edge for some of us. All we could do is push on through and see how it went. We had all the documentation from the companies we had got the medication from, that I knew had worked in Haiti before, but still it was Haiti and you just never know.......
Meanwhile, each of us had two giant bags filled to exactly the 50 lbs allowed and our carry on's so it took awhile to get all our stuff together. This was November 4th remember, and Dylan had worn his Obama t-shirt, which got a great and happy response from all the Haitians he met. The politics of the U.S. are followed very closely in Haiti. I actually had more talks about the election in Haiti than I had at home.
Before we arrived in Haiti I had cautioned Dylan that he needed to reign in his natural exhuberence and openness a bit especially, at the airport. But Dylan was happy for the attention and the support of Obama and the friendliness of all the porters who wanted to ask about Obama and were also asking for his shirt.
One guy said they were having a big party at the airport after the election and he wanted to wear the shirt at the party, so my son 'gave away the shirt off his back'.
I could not help but be proud of my son for his generosity, and cautious because I knew within about 2 seconds everyone inside and outside the airport would know about his
Meanwhile we had our bags and were ready to go through customs. All we could do was push on through and hope we didn't run into any problems. Generally when bringing any kind of medication or baby formula into Haiti, customs wants to be sure that none of it has expired and sometimes they choose to check the expiration dates on each item and sometimes not. My fear was that they would keep bags to check and throw off our whole schedule-which wouldn't work for us as we where leaving town for Belle Anse directly from the airport.
Our porter helped get most of us through, without a hitch, but there were a few bags that ended up being checked. It was a tense few moments. Me speaking my tidbits of Kreyole saying it was for Humanitarian Aid and we were taking it to the children in Belle Anse, trying to show them the paperwork we had, them not agreeing. ....Me talking fast the doctors showing what we had brought. After about 15 minutes some older un-uniformed men walked up looked at our stuff and said "Okay Go" And we did as fast as I could get us out of there. The from-the-door-to-the-car guy 'Big' ( who is big by the way) was there sayng Guesno was late but would be there soon and lets go. So we did.
By the time we got outside the gates, Guesno was there, with 3 vehicles The Toyota land cruiser 'van' that was a generous gift from one family in our medical team earlier this year and two rentals. Food, water and transportation and gas costs were a major expense and planning hurdle for the medical expedition. Sionfonds brought cooks (and equipment and food and water) and interpreters, to Belle Anse for the medical team. The costs were split among the medical team members.
Of course by this time everyone did know what Dylan had done giving away his shirt, and Big gave him a quick lecture on how he should not be giving away his shirt. We Greeted our friends and made introductions and we were under way, bags and people were crammed into machines ( which is Kreyole for a vehicle, there are gro machines- big machines and piti machines-little machines, but they are all machines) one stop at the gas station and quickie mart and we were headed out of Port au Prince to the remote village of Belle Anse on the other side of the island.
We jumped right into a great adventure just getting to Belle Anse that night. Of course we started late but the good news was that the road from Jacmeal to Belle Anse had just been opened the day before. Which meant the drive should be "4 hours" instead of 6.
I suspected that meant 6 hours instead of 8 - no matter- we were in it now, and we were off.
Later that night we would have a new understanding of the words
4 wheel driving
what a full car is
and wondering who it is who decides a road is "open" in Haiti
And most of all seen many small Haitian villages lit by oil lights and people walking everywhere, along the way.
Ps photos don't seem to be up loading I will ry to add them later