Sunday, March 13, 2011

Haiti - The Journey

Haiti - 1614Bill and I left early Thursday morning and flew to Haiti through Fort Lauderdale. The flight to Port Au Prince was full of two kinds of people: missionaries and Haitians. The missionaries were mostly white, the Hatians black. Pretty easy to figure out who was who. You had the missionaries striking up conversations with each other, using phrases like "If I don't see you again in this life, I'll see you in the next", wearing the same bright colored shirts and even singing in the airport. Bill and I didn't do much singing, but we got to know each other during the layover in Fort Lauderdale. While boarding the flight down to Port Au Prince, they pulled us aside in line, which I figured was for additional screening. Instead, they bumped us both into first class. Kind of an ironic way to arrive in a third world country.

Haiti - 1619As we started our descent, my first impression from the air of Haiti was beautiful mountains and trees. As we got closer and closer, my jaw dropped. I saw destruction and utter poverty. I saw tents everywhere, buildings crumbled. My eyes got moist at what I saw. What I saw was some of the worst, and in my trip I got a chance to see some of the best parts as well, thanks to Tom.

We arrived in Port Au Prince and were ushered into exactly what you'd expect when you think of customs and immigration to be in a third world country. It was a warehouse they'd created due to the recent influx of relief workers. Immigration was a cursory glance and a passport stamp and at customs, the guy didn't even ask for my slip of paper declaring what I was bringing in and just waved me through.

Bill and I found our luggage and stepped outside to a million porters all looking to get a tip. Bill found a one armed man named Jackson that he recognized named Jackson who led us to Tom and Jean Rooney (after asking for $5 for him and another $5 for his buddy who had glanced at our bags at one point), waiting for us with the pick-up truck. Bill, Jean-Rooney, Tom and I drove through Port Au Prince as I sat there, trying to take in what I was seeing.
Haiti - 1630
I saw UN soldiers stationed with their tanks. I saw tent cities labeled with the name and flag of the countries that had donated the tent (who would of thought that the People's Republic of China does some good in the world?) pick-up trucks loaded with 15 or more people driving down the road. Tom explained that a few weeks prior the route we were taking had been marked as dangerous due to car jackers. He told me the story of driving along this road and having guys with guns trying to stop him to take his car and probably his life. With some hollywood style driving, he was able to escape.

The road from from Port Au Prince had crazy pot holes in it, but Tom explained that this was good compared to how it had been.  We stopped in one village to get some fruit and while we weren't looking, a guy helped himself to some food in a cooler in the back of the truck.  I saw a beautiful sunset along the way as we arrived into the town of Verette at night.  

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