I’m here, in Haiti, yea! Charity and I are sitting in a coffee shop in Petionville, the first of its kind in Port-au-Prince. It’s amazing. A lot has changed since I was here last, in 2003 I think.
The airport scenario did not play out quite how I thought it might. First, we left about 30 minutes late from Miami. This was because someone checked in, and checked baggage, but never showed up for the flight. So, they had to rifle through the luggage to find this person’s stuff and get it off the plane. And Haitians take their right to baggage seriously…most people carrying suitcases equivalent to their body weight or size. I saw someone taking on board a full-size keyboard, many boomboxes (80s style, all square), plants (yep), and the woman seated behind me had a gigantic plastic bag, at least 4 feet tall. She also had a roll of packing tape around her arm during the whole flight, and when we landed started to tape up the bag…why when we landed? I have no idea.
So we land in Port-au-Prince, and there are a few sprinkles coming down. They turn off the seatbelt sign, and everyone jumps up. There’s a mad rush for the door. Then, the flight attendants tell everyone to sit down. For those of you who have been on one of these flights, you can imagine what happened. If you haven’t, here’s what happened–no one paid one bit of attention. They kept shoving toward the door. It took the Creole-speaking flight attendant barking for people to sit down before anyone moved. It became apparent that it was raining outside, along with thunder and lightning, and they said we would have to wait for 10-15 minutes before we could get off the plane. Well, 10-15 became about an hour and a half, during which one guy tried to start a riot, a pastor tried to calm him down, and a whole group of people started singing hymns and having a party in the back.
Then, and this is the best part, they told us that they would take us off in small groups with umbrellas and a small van, but we would need some patience. HA! The mad rushing of the door continued, and American Airlines actually ferried us individually into the airport under umbrellas.
I got through customs and immigration easily, but when I came out of the airport, was again pursued by many, many men wanting to help me with my luggage or give me a taxi ride. I exahusted my knowledge of Creole with “M’pa bezwen” and “No, mesi,’ I don’t need it, and no thank you. Trying to keep some space, I acted like I knew exactly where my ride was, even though I wasn’t quite sure. Making a fool of myself, I actually tried to wade through the now rushing river accumulated in front of the airport from the rain. A wave of laughter rose from the crowd as I was almost up to my knees in what I can only imagine was some sort of sewage/trash/rainwater sludge. Eventually I found my ride, but lost any sense of dignity. Ah, Haiti.
Anyway, the rest of the trip so far has been great. Charity and I have been hanging out, eating all the wonderful Haitian food, and playing Scrabble. Mangoes, baguette, diri, etc. have been so good. I’m hoping for some banan peze at some point and then I’ll be set. I’ve spent a lot of time reading outside on the porch while Charity works, and generally taking in Haiti again.
I’m not really sure how to describe Haiti…it’s the same as it was, but a lot has changed. And you forget how much it can assault your senses. As I was sitting outside one morning I realized how much I was being bombarded with–I could alternately smell trash and someone cooking breakfast, I could see the street with its masses of people walking to and fro, the birds flitting tree to tree, and the neighbor’s kids playing on their steps. Possibly the most assaulting, at least in Port-au-Prince, is the noise. That morning I could hear the birds, loud trucks on the street, people walking and yelling, someone selling mops, a radio playing loudly somewhere, and a couple somewhere arguing. Amazing.
Church on Sunday at the Fellowship House reminded me of other realities of Haiti. The sermon was about fear, and after the sermon the pastor asked for anyone who wanted to to share about how they had been delivered from fear. 3 different people spoke, 2 sharing stories of loved ones or friends who have been kidnapped in the past few weeks. It’s a reality here. One of my former students, now an 11th grader, was kidnapped, and thankfully returned.
Being here makes you much more thankful for the small things. This morning the electricity was on for about a half hour, which meant I could shower with good water pressure–I was elated. You get far more excited about just hanging out with good friends and having dinner with people.
Anyway, I’m having a good trip, despite a few pesky mosquitoes. Hopefully non-malaria and non-dengue mosquitoes, though that remains to be seen.
I may or may not have a chance to update again while I’m here. Hope you all are well! Bon Swa!