*Note from the Author: My originally planned 8.7 day travel to Haiti was turned into a 6.3 day trip when Cholera arrived in the country four days after I did. It was not the threat of disease contamination that had me changing my return flight plans, it was the fact that the international medical response left me with no 'safe' lodging after Thursday. More on those details later. In the meantime know that I feel more alive than when I left, more alive actually than I have felt in years. Haitians are truly living in a pure conscious state which was completely obvious when I stepped out into it. The following report will be the first(a day early) of many supported by pictures and my pages of notes. These thoughts are mine and have been influenced by what I saw, and just as important what I felt while experiencing the conditions in the poorest country in the west.
In PAP I stepped off the airplane early in the morning on to the actual tarmac which was connected to the single runway my plane had just landed on. The humid heat and a solid airborne layer of diesel smoke hugging the ground stacked a few hundred feet above my head hit me in the face like a frontal punch. There were less than 50 people on the MD80 Series plane and as we disembarked we were instructed to get on one of the two waiting short buses for transport to Haitian Immigrations and Customs, only 50 meters, or half of a football field distance to drive. Useless and completely unnatural adding to the release of carbon, rather than not. We passed along side a row of clear plastic shrink wrapped pallets that contained several dozen large white boxes each marked USAID. The humanitarian supplies looked like they had been out in the elements for weeks, some boxes were torn into and falling over out off the wrap dangling above the asphalt. I wondered why this aid was just sitting there in the sun, pretty soon I would find out.
At the end of the row of pallets was the entrance for the immigrations into Haiti. There was plenty of confusion happening inside the warehouse looking building. Other flights had apparently just landed as well, coming from far and near. Creole and French language filled the air echoing in little pockets from around the metal walled room. I looked for a declaration form and when the wide eyed woman handed one to me from behind a dark wood counter I mustered an honest, "Merci." There was a shelf along one of the walls that I gravitated towards to fill out my entry/exit form. Thankfully the instructions were in Creole and French which reminded me of how much I actually learned in Madame Stuart's French class that I took for a few years in High School. Even before that in the 6th grade I remember Mr. Berthiaume playing a French lesson vinyl record that instructed us to, écouter et Répétez phrases in both English and French. Memories flooded back to my mind as I filled out the paperwork only leaving one box blank at the bottom thinking that whatever was supposed to go in that space surely was not important enough to keep me from entering Haiti. The immigration official behind the half glass and wood that I stepped in front of did not seem amused when he saw my empty line. He blurted out something in Creole, then French. My eyes were locked with his and I calmly said, "I do not understand." At this point he rolled his eyes and demanded in perfect English, "Where are you staying in Haiti?" I couldn't tell him that I wasn't sure and did not have a plan at that point, that I was looking for an adventure without being confined to standard parameters for international travel so I smiled, took my form and said, "Merci" for the second time since arriving. In my bag were various printed emails from a benefactor back in Charlotte with multiple contacts in PAP and the surrounding area that I was to try to coordinate with while in country. I picked out one that seemed apropos and wrote the name and location of the school in the box. Back at the counter, the same man grabbed my passport and declaration document and without further scrutiny stamped my arrival in the form of an entry visa. Then he welcomed me to Haiti with a wide grin showing off his large ultra-white teeth. I was in and completely clueless as well as a bit scared, but I knew that I was supposed to be there at that moment and that something amazing was about to happen.