Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I have arrived!

This morning I woke up in a hotel in Charlotte, having had an overnight layover from Tri-Cities. The alarm was scheduled to go off at 4:00, and I woke up at 3:59. I rubbed my sleepy eyes that still had my contacts in them, checked out of the hotel, rode the shuttle to the airport, and boarded my plane without any problems. I arrived in Miami and proceeded to gate D24, which was my departure gate for Port-Au-Prince.

I chose a seat that was facing a row of 4 pay phones. People kept coming up to use the pay phone, and the phone kept eating their money, and I kept offering them the use of my cell phone, which they gratefully accepted.

Kate arrived at about 9:30, and we started talking nonstop, finding out each other’s stories. We have a lot in common with each other! It was fun to get to know each other better after having only exchanged brief emails.

Angela arrived at about 11:15, and she had an amazing story of faith and God’s clear direction to take this step. Leann arrived about 11:45, and we didn’t get to hear her story, because we went to get some lunch together.

The place we chose to eat had only some horrible little sandwiches for $10 each, plus really nice, yummy coffee. I had a cafĂ© con leche, which was delicious, and I bit the bullet and bought the sandwich, because I was starving hungry, and it was not so delicious. None of the other girls wanted anything, so we went to a Wendy’s that was farther down the concourse, and right across the aisle from the Wendy’s was this beautiful, cheap Cuban restaurant with empanadas and tostadas and amarillas and beans and rice and fresh orange juice and all sorts of deliciousness. I was so SAD that I had spent 10 bucks on that sandwich when I could have had THIS. Angela ordered from the Cuban place and Leann and Kate ordered from Wendy’s, and then we all went back to our gate to wait to board the plane. I did get myself an empanada for only $1.35, and I LOVED it!

When I had booked this flight, I had prayed about what seat to choose, and I had chosen 21E, sort of at random. Only middle seats were available to choose, and it was the closest one to the front, so it seemed the best option. However, when I got to the check-in counter in Charlotte, the agent said, “Oh, let me get you a better seat.” So she put  me in a window seat, 17A.

I got to the seat and the husband and wife seated in my row looked like Christians. “Have you all been to Haiti before?” I asked.

“No, have you?” they asked.

“No, this is my first time,” I replied. “So are you going on a mission trip? humanitarian aid? What’s the call for you?” I asked.

“A wedding, actually,” the wife said. “My sister is getting married on Saturday.”

They told me the story of how she had fallen in love with this Haitian named Elage, and now they were getting married. Ironically, they were going to the same city and same street as the orphanage I was going to!

So many “coincidences” occurred in our conversation that I could not think it was an accident that we had sat next to each other. I wasn’t originally supposed to be on that seat, and they weren’t originally supposed to be on that plane (they had missed an earlier flight due to a too-short layover).

The flight was pretty short, and we got off the plane and walked down an air conditioned concourse to an escalator that led to a door to the outside, where a shttle bus was waiting. Apparently this was new, because everyone around me was saying, “Whoa, this is fancy!” and “Wow, last time we had to get down off the plane and take a shuttle bus to the baggage claim area.” Through the windows of this concourse, we could see the airport. It was in not-so-good shape.

Leann, Angela, Kate, and me about to get on the shuttle

The scene of the immigration location

The orphanage had sent a man named Ronald to get us and manage our luggage and exit from the airport. He was amazing! He collected all our bags, got us through customs, and took us to the van affectionately dubbed “the Blue Bullet,” which was to take us to Club Indigo.

Ronald and the Blue Bullet

The Blue Bullet felt very dependable and sturdy, despite it's dented appearance. I was sitting in the front seat and noticed that the odometer said 113,000. I wondered if that would be miles or kilometers, and in either case, I thought, that was pretty low for a vehicle to get to this condition. (Maybe it's a million and 113,000, I thought.) But about an hour later, I realized that the odometer hadn't moved--so it's anyone's guess. The speedometer also didn't move--the needle just rested tranquilly at zero, giving such a sense of dichotomy to the times we were aggressively passing a tap-tap, going uphill in the oncoming lane.

The sights we saw on the two-hour drive to Club Indigo were far more numerous than what I could photograph. The photos are actually reflective of the least interesting sights, because the more interesting ones (the ones that included people) were never taken in the first place, because I had to be careful about showing my camera out the open window. So I only really got any pictures when we were really moving on the lonelier stretches of road, and most of those turned out blurry. However, for what it's worth, here are some:

I sat silent for most of the drive, my eyes alive with curiosity at all the sights, and my mind racing with a multitude of thoughts.

One of the thoughts I had was about withdrawing cash. They had told me that it was difficult to get cash, but I  had said to myself, "Oh, that doesn't matter; my debit card always works at ATM machines; and I'll just go and make a withdrawal in local currency. Why would that be difficult?"

But on our 2-hour drive, we passed through several towns, and I began to realize that I hadn't seen a single bank. There was a lack of brick-and-mortar institutions in general--Not just a scarcity, but a total absence. It dawned on me that the difficulty in getting cash lay in the nonexistence of ATM machines at all, not in the difficulty of finding a place to exchange for American dollars.

And then I saw a bank. I realized that I had seen a bank, dozens of them, lined up along the main road in every town. So I started trying to get a picture of one. I know this picture is blurry, but you get the idea. The other pictures I had were even more blurry, believe it or not. (My camera simply WILL NOT FOCUS.) :(

THIS is the bank.
Now I understand why they were saying that about getting cash. Hmmm...This should be interesting. But I brought some with me, just not as much as I would have if I knew this much had to last me for 3 months. Well...maybe it will just have to do.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you arrived safe and sound! Sounds like an adventure already :-)


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