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Touchdown in Haiti

Greetings from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
My trip started in rainy Seattle, and I do mean rainy. Considering that two days before my trip, my neighbors and I were shoveling slushy-snow (I know some folks call it snow but to me, it is far closer in consistency to a 7-11 Slushy). When the driveways were clear enough to drive on we moved onto the fallen trees and then back to the driveway to clear th fresh snow before seasoning it with liberal doses of salt to reduce the ice.

Getting back on topic, I loaded my suitcase with carpentry tools, wiremans pliers, box cutters and blades, mosquito nets, pencils for the classrooms, and of course the mandatory Leatherman, which is always a popular device on trips like this. Even if it is just used for the bottle opener.

On a whim I decided to check the weight of my checkin bag. Oops, 63 Lbs…..even with frequent flier status that ain’t going to work. Pretty easy to solve, take out the duffel bag that was inside the suitcase and distribute the weight across the two bags. My visit to the checkin counter was quick & uneventful. I didn’t get the expected request to present my credit card, which was a pleasant surprise because I thought all airlines charged for checked bags now……not complaining.  It might have been my Alaska frequent flier status but the trip is off to a good start.

The redeye flight to Miami was as good as a redeye gets for with a bumpy landing in a very foggy airport.  Breakfast in Miami airport was cheap and quick, equals not great. I could only find one espresso vendor and it was quite evident because there was a long line but no lines anywhere else. Would have been nice with no sleep but anyway.

Quite a few folks barely made the out-going flight because of the fog. Apparently there were some pretty significant traffic jams. Incoming flights were also delayed and the lady sitting next me had her incoming flight circling the airport for a 40 minutes. The flight to Port-au-Prince was scheduled for 5 minutes less than 2 hours.

We had some drama while we were taxi-ing out to the runway where an elderly lady was a little confused and got up to walk about. After refusing to sit down, the emergency procedures were triggered and we ground to an abrupt halt on the taxiway. The crew were presented with the option to returning to the gate to deboard her but one of the flight attendants did something fantastic. He sat down next to her and calmed her down. Very quickly he had control of the situation, which allowed us to continue on and take off. His name is Di-Stephano, I must recognize him on his courage, personable diplomacy and sense of humanity to do the right thing for the lady. A number of the other passengers felt the same way and commended him on his actions. This experience rates as one of the best flight attendant experiences I’ve ever had in twenty five plus years of frequent flying.

The flight revealed the most phenomenal sea colors. If you look at the photo above very carefully, there is a small plane in front of the engine at a much lower altitude

The lady I was sitting next to was heading home to her 200 children (she runs an orphanage) after visiting her son who is being treated in the VA facility in Houston. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in November 2015 and they just received the news that it had spread to his brain, hence her visit

Clearing immigration and customs was a breeze and I found the officials to be friendly and welcoming. They all switched to English so as not to endure my pathetic French.

The taxi ride from the airport to my hotel definitely drove the message home that I was no longer in Seattle. The driver leant on the horn at least six times just getting out of the airport, he didn’t stop the whole drive with other vechiles demonstrating similar behaviors. Then there are the motorcycles that come speeding up from behind and cut through the gaps. The trip was a string of close calls and mostly on dual direction roads with a couple of one ways and dirt roads thrown in for good measure . Oh yeah, the water gutters are SERIOUS and are very effective speed bumps because they are dips at intersections.

At the hotel,  I spent a ton of time getting connected to the Internet and grabbing lunch. Then repack all of the volunteer stuff into the right case so that I can get it stored for a few days so that I can do some tourist stuff and see the sites. Many thanks to Charles for arranging the storage with his aunt  Now I’m back to traveling light.

This left me with a bit of time to walk around the city before it got dark. Walking around a city that I don’t know, alone at night is something I’m not going to do.

I must say that the city reminds me a lot of some African cities I’ve visited.  I haven’t seen this much barbed/razor wire on top of high walls/fences and burglar bars on the windows since I left South Africa. Don’t mis it!

The pigs chowing down in a garbage heap which is located in what looks like a flood canal, to me, was a surprise.


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