July 29, 2010…so, today is the Big Day! Passport in hand, I make my way to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport… at 3:30 am. My sleep-deprived bud, Brian, graciously chauffeured me to the airport at this unseemly hour.
Once inside the airport, I was to meet up with this “group”… all strangers to me. I felt awkward because I didn’t know anyone. But somehow when we all put on our light blue Northwest Haiti Christian Mission T-shirts, I felt like I belonged with this Light Blue Mob of folks.
Just getting to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission was an adventure. First, we flew from Atlanta to Miami, then from Miami to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
The international flight to Haiti was packed and it was a HUGE plane… Kind of like this picture, but wider and lots of TVs hanging from the ceiling :
I had never seen so many black people on a plane in all my life! The few non-Haitians on the plane seemed to be with some sort of Humanitarian organization. I sat beside a nurse coming for a medical mission.
Anyway after deplaning in Port-au-Prince, the Light Blue Mob hopped on a shuttle to customs. Because the airport had been damaged by the earthquake, Customs was in a revamped airplane hangar. It was crowded, hot, and no A/C. Our guide, Jacque, from the Mission helped navigate us and our luggage through customs.
Once through customs, we were introduced to the Haitian “Tap-Tap”. Some tap-taps are more elaborate, but our tap-taps were basically a pick up truck with wooden planks in the back for passengers to sit on.
So, our group piled into two tap-taps and headed a mile or so to a smaller airport.
Port-au-Prince is in southern Haiti, but our work was in North Haiti where many people have fled post-earthquake. We took another 45 minute flight on a tiny propeller plane to Port de Paix (pronounced like “pour duh pay”).
My nervousness about the tiny plane gave way to the beauty and awe of Haiti.
Amid the blue tarps covering some neighborhoods was the grandeur of Haiti’s mountains and beautiful blue water.
I didn’t expect the country to be so beautiful. (I’m kicking myself for mistakenly erasing the aerial video I had of the propeller plane ride).
After landing on a gravel/ dirt road runway in Port-de-Paix, we had another 45 minute Tap-Tap ride to the Mission in St. Louis du Nord. Mind you, the Mission was only about 7-10 miles away from the tiny airport in Port–de-Paix, but it takes 45 minutes to an hour to get there.
This is where we were introduced to the terror of the Tap-Tap. The roads were not paved! Therefore, we rode through all sorts of dusty dirt roads, craters, and massive puddles. EVERYBODY complained about how sore their rear-ends were. Even the brawny men were belly-aching. The roads were so dusty that people covered their faces, and if you didn’t cover your face, your hair and eyebrows were covered with the red dust. We were a bunch of red-heads after that brutal Tap-Tap ride.
Three flights and two Tap-Tap rides later…we finally made it to the Mission.
My first thought was, “Oh my goodness, we’ve got to do all of this again on the way back home!”