Friday April 26, 2013
Rough day of travel up at 3:00 a.m. and arrived in Port au Prince at noon. It was dark by the time we reached Garcon.
Thursday night was a flurry of activity. We have been packing since Monday night. Traveling to Haiti is always hard, but when in involves a group of eight on a medical mission, it intensifies tenfold.
Cecile, a nurse practitioner, arrived at our house about 6:00 p.m. We packed and repacked supplies until we had 6 huge duffle bags maxed out at the allowed 50 lb. limit. We are allowed on free checked bag each. Our second checked bag cost $ 40. The cost of a third bag jumps to $150 so we are limited to these six bags.
Team members Janine, a nurse, Chris her husband, and Crystal, a surgeon, are all coming from Detroit. We will all meet up in Miami. They are bringing five more bags of supplies.
The final two members of our team, Pevwa and Rose are our translators. They are both Haitian Americans and are from the Miami area. They will meet us in Port au Prince.
Around 10:30 Thursday night Haley, our daughter, and Casey, her boyfriend comes. They are spending the night so that they can take us to the airport at 3:30 a.m. Haley has brought a large donation of children's vitamins that somehow has to be squirreled away into our luggage.
I am the first up at 3:00. I take a quick shower and wake the rest at 3:15. We are on the road by 3:40. This time of the day traffic is light and we are at the Nashville International Airport by 4:35. Surprisingly there is already a line at the ticket counter. It does move quickly and we are headed to security by 5:00. Things get a little testy in security. I had moved some wheel bearing for the Gator, our primary transportation in Haiti, into my carry on to allow more weight in our checked in luggage. This caused confusion but it was not critical, just added to the stress of traveling by air in today's reality. We made it to the gate with minutes to spare. Our connection in Miami was very tight, but I did manage to get us some coffee and cookies for breakfast. We met Janine, Chris and Crystal and all boarded together for our flight to Port au Prince. We touched down in Port au Prince at noon.
The new airport in Port au Prince has been completed. Although small it is clean and modern. This is one place that the post-earthquake construction is unarguably successful.
However, like pre earthquake days navigating through with your luggage is not a pleasant experience. There are five "zones" you have to get through. Two when you depart Haiti and three when you arrive. Each zone has its own set of baggage handlers that aggressively handle your baggage with demands for compensation for this "service". I always try to make sure that I tip at least $2 a bag, but when I have to do it each time a different group "handles" our bags, it gets expensive. There is a genuine need for assistance and I gladly compensate those who are helpful, but for the cost of this "service" we can feed many children.
While waiting for our Pevwa and Rose, we met another aid worker that was accompanying a Haitian that she had taken to the United States for a medical procedure. Her name was Wendy. Wendy's ride to St. Mark had fallen through and she was stranded. That boosted our van load to 12 people plus I estimated over 1,000 pounds of luggage. It was very noticeable when trying to pick up speed or climb a hill. We had agreed on $350 U.S. for the transportation, but I think there might be a little surcharge.
It was good to meet Wendy, I am sure that our paths will cross again.
Once we cleared the airport we headed to an area that local artist sells their work. We purchased many beautiful paintings and several stone sculptures. We will have them available for sale when we return to the United States.
The road from Port au Prince to Gonaives is now complete. It is another example of success in post-earthquake reconstruction. We stopped for food just south of St. Mark. It was our first meal of the day and very welcome.
The road from Gonaives to Grose Morne is still under construction. Although the journey is only about 20 miles, it takes a good 1 - hours. We reached Sr. Pat and Sr. Jackie's around 6:00.
It was almost dark when we got to Garcon. We received a very warm welcome. The generator was running so that we had lights and a meal had been prepared. We were all very thankful.