How Julie got to Haiti


n order to get to how I ended up in Haiti, I have to back up a few years. The summer of '85 was a happy one for my parents… I'd like to think. I was born a happy healthy baby in central California.  A few short years later my mom and dad divorced, only to get remarried to others not long after that. My step-dad had a job down in Florida, so my mom, older sister and I moved down there. We were a church going family, and the congregation that we attended had multiple services. A few years after attending that church, we started going to a service after our regular one. Strangely it was in a language I didn't understand, and most of the members were of a different race than I.  Turns out that these warm inviting people were Haitians.  It wasn't long after that, that my parents told my sister and I, "We're moving to Haiti"

My step-dad had gotten a job at the international school as a guidance counselor.  My mom didn't have a job set up, but always accepting what may come, she knew that something would happen for her. In June of '93 we left our empty house on the golf course, and headed to Miami International Airport. Upon landing, I had no idea what life was going to hand me. The first difference I noticed was there was no tube extending from the airport to the plane. We stepped out to onto the tarmac and the heat and humidity blasted us like stepping foot into a steam room at the gym. We made our way through getting visas to the country, and proceeded to baggage claim.

Now to you and me, baggage claim is an orderly wait til the turntables power up. Then most of the time everyone around is polite enough to let you get your bags and then move on.  This was a completely different story.  Everyone is crowding the one turntable in the place. Not only do you fight to get your bag, but you must also beware of the "taxi" drivers who are so eager to help you get your bags. They aren't there to steal them, just to get you in their car. Here's the bonus. 99% of the people flying into Haiti aren't white. If you're a white person… You have money.  Not only are you the prime target for all of the "taxi" drivers, but also for the customs agents. White folks are known to bring aide down to Haiti. Whether it is ok for you to bring an item into the country, solely rests on whether the customs agent thinks they can sell it. Now don't get me wrong, not every single person you come in contact with is a corrupt individual. Most aren't.  Many of these people are trying to find ways to put some semblance of food on the table for their family that night.

We made it though the airport and customs then finally got into a "taxi." Down in Haiti, you could call a cab a taxi, but the most common word used is "taptap." The taptaps are crammed to max capacity, and then driven in a general direction. When you've reached close to where you want to go, you simply put your hand out the closest window and "tap(more like bang)" on the side of the car. There are no running meters in the car. The driver will tell you how much the ride was. Something to remember, if you're white it is key to have bartering skills.

We made it to our destination; a four story apartment building. We were the new tenants of the 4th floor apartment. Most of our belongings were shipped separately from us, so we had little to call our own that first night. Getting to sleep was relatively easy for my sister and I sharing one room. It was an entirely different story for my parents. They had a "bahhhing" goat directly 4 stories down from their open window. It was too hot to keep the windows closed. Why not turn on the AC? 99.9999% of places down there don't have air conditioning. Reason being… not that it takes up too much electricity to pay for, but for the simple fact that there is no electricity to run it.

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