Landed in Port au Prince about 1:15. It was loud and bustling…and hot and humid. The sounds of a steel drum group incessantly played the same 30 second rift over and over and over again. I walked up to pay the $10 to enter Haiti. The choice was Euro, US dollar or Canadian dollar…I chose to use Canadian, of course. I handed the woman two fives and she asked me for my passport. I reached down, retrieved it and handed it to her. “That will be $10” she said. “But I already gave it to you” I replied. “That will be $10” she said again. I replied again, “I already gave it to you, the two blue plastic sheets, that was two fives.” Without blinking she handed me a receipt and I move on to Immigration. Hopefully that would be easier. It was, without so much as a second look my papers were stamped and I was heading around past the load thrum of the band towards baggage claim.
Baggage claim was a zoo, people pushing and crowded together in a small space. A large number of men in red vests kept asking to help find my luggage for a “gratitude.” “Non merci,” I kept saying. Grabbing our bags another board member and I waited for the rest of our group to arrive in two hours. The steel band playe the same piece over and over, like a Caribbean Ground Hog Day!
I struck up a conversation with this fellow who was waiting for Air Tran. Turns out he had Haitian, US and French citizenship. He grew up in Greeenwich CT, about 45 min from where I did and he had served in the Green Berets. It was interesting speaking to him and his perspective is that Haiti is improving, “its beginning to enforce the codes and laws” he said. When the rest of my group arrived we headed out led by a group of men who were asking if we were part of Outreach. “No I dont need help rolling my bag” we all kept saying over and over. But they were insistent and relentless at “helping.” Eventually I Let one fellow push my bag the last 10 feet. You couldn ‘t fault them, they probably had families to feed and this was the only way to put food on the table.
We hopped in Toyota Land Rover for the bumpy 45 minute ride over uneven road, rutted dirt road and gravel road. Up and around, back and forth, hit the horn, swerve to avoid traffic, pull out in front of traffic. Good think I only had half a protein bar for lunch. I remembered doing this last time alone, with fires burning in 55 gallon drums and illicit sales occurring all around. This seemed a bit more pleasant. We eventually pulled up in front of the gate at the Mission House and entered to greet the staff and rest of the board. We caught up with each other and with Fr. Frank, the resident priest at the house.
Lack of sleep soon claimed me and since tomorrow is full I am turning in.