Since we were unable to blog directly from Haiti, mainly because we decided against bringing a laptop with us, I'm going to back-post through a series of entries since there's so much that I want to share.
Arrival in PAP: After a red-eye and short layover in Miami, we arrived in Port au Prince to warm weather and carribean music as we cruised through the airport, which I was somewhat surprised at how modern looking it was compared to what I expected – I had low expectations at this point. Customs and baggage went smoothly and we moved towards the doors with our total of 10 suitcases, each pair weighing no more than a combined 70 lbs. They were meticulously weighed to not exceed the strict Haiti-specific baggage rules and were packed full of art supplies.
I recall saying to each other, "it's not as bad as people say… right?" Well, that is until you exit the building. A sea of guys in plaid shirts and baseball caps, trying to help you, weasling their way to pushing your baggage cart or taking your suitcase. I searched frantically for a "Wings Over Haiti" sign. Next, all I heard was some commotion that sounded like confirmation someone had found us – Reginal. Reginal fought off several men and even got into an argument with someone all the way to the car. Five "blancs" or whites walking through the airport – a gold mine. We met 4 other guys: Adam, Widley, Jaclyn and Dieumaitre – names which took us several days to pronounce correctly and several more to remember who was who. I now understand fully, how people get Asians confused with each other (being Asian myself, I never could imagine how we could possibly all look alike). Anyways, these four guys would be our escorts for the rest of the trip.
We boarded the tap-tap, imagine a pickup truck with a make-shift shell attached to the bed with a wood bench on each side for seating, and headed directly to the Wings Over Haiti school.
Lesson #1: However long you think it takes to get anywhere in Haiti – double it.
Most of the roads are dirt with huge sink holes. I compare it to 4-wheeling everywhere. Unfortunately, most vehicles in Haiti are not built for those roads. We quickly reached the school and saw our first glimpses of poverty and lack of sanitation. It was surreal that we were actually in Haiti now. After 3 months of planning, we were making good on this crazy idea. After a quick meet-and-greet at the school, we headed to Petionville to our hotel, Doux Sejours, an hour and a half drive from Croix des Bouquets where the school is located. We were pleasantly surprised by our brightly colored hotel surrounded by trees and tropical plants. We even had a veranda with lounge chairs where we spent each night winding down. A nice reprieve each evening.