Day 8: August 27, 2010

Haitian tap tap

Bright and early we load up and get ready for the 4 hour drive to Port au Prince (PAP).  Mama Michelle stayed back and had Otis drive.  Otis is the guy who manages the work site and the guy I caught making fun of me.  After his crazy driving to PAP I hated him!  He was my Haitian nemesis.  Actually he’s a great guy.  I was just feeling awful.  I took a dramamine and still managed to find myself severely car sick and vomiting.  I wanted to enjoy watching Haiti through the window but I was too sick to pick my head up.
We got to PAP airport and I was so excited to get home and see my boys.  PAP has one waiting area for American Airlines.  One small shop and 3 walk up restaurants all with premade food.  Thankfully the building is at least air conditioned.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at noon and got delayed multiple times.  At 5pm, after hours of waiting, it was finally canceled altogether.  That might sound like no big deal but remember we are not in America.  We are in PAP.  PAP is one of the scariest and most crime ridden cities in the entire western hemisphere.  Michelle and I spent the next 1.5 hours with Pierre, an AA employee, trying to get our group of 9 booked on other flights for the next day.  This is an absolute nightmare.  There is a Haitian woman who is having a complete fit with every swear word imaginable.  She’s angry with us for taking so long and not telling her how long we were going to take.  She told me I should’ve kicked her in the butt to move her to another line.  My response: “If I kicked your butt I know you could take me out.  I’m a little smarter than that.”  After that, although obnoxious and rude, we remained on her good side.  After all the rerouting we had to go to a separate counter to get our bags, boarding passes and hotel vouchers.  That took another 1.5 hours.  They wouldn’t give us our bags, they were out of hotel rooms but we did get our boarding passes.  It was also problematic because the Haitians were getting angry that the Blancs were getting service before them even though we all stood in the same line.  Mama Michelle was able to get us a hotel reservation at a hotel 5 minutes from the airport.  AA paid for the stay.  Four rooms for $650 US dollars.  As a group we decided to stay at the hotel versus sleeping on the airport floor.  Taxis are interesting in Haiti.  You have the option of a tap tap which is a truck or bus that piles in as many people as possible with the slogan “There’s always room for one more.”  And they mean it.  People just climb on and hang on the back, the sides or even sit on top.  Then they tap tap when they are ready to exit.  The other option is a scooter.  We have seen 4 people on a scooter!  Neither of these options seemed appealing during the day but to attempt them at night as a group of blancs with luggage seemed a suicide mission.  Luckily there were cab drivers with AA and they walked us outside to two cabs where other cab drivers were patiently waiting for passengers.  Those drivers began to get very loud with our driver.  It appeared a fight was about to happen, security showed up and watched while drivers were pulling on Chandra trying to put her in their car.  Poor Chandra looked so panicked.  Somehow we all ended up in two cars.  My driver had a very, old beat up Sedan.  He told us to roll down the windows and let’s go.  Mama Michelle had told us never to roll down windows in PAP so here we are a car full of blancs driving through some of the darkest streets and alleys with our windows down, no headlights, taillights or brakelights, no streetlights or businesses with lights. It was the darkest, scariest seven minutes of life EVER!
We arrived safely at the coconut villa hotel and were served a delicious dinner.  While rooms certainly don’t meet the American standards of $160/night hotels it was safe and more comfortable than an airport floor.  The rooms had pretty much a box spring bed (with what many of us think were bedbugs), burned out lights, big gaps under the door, an overflowing toilet with poop in it, exposed electrical wires and 10″ tvs.  But it also had a heavily armed security guard at the gate and ultimately that’s all that mattered.
Next day (Saturday)
Back to the airport where the line is extremely long out the door and in the heat.  We’re outside for about an hour.  All of us go through to the gate while Sharna and Michelle work on changing tags on checked bags and get the whole group boarding passes for the rest of our flights.  Plane is on time.  woooooohoooooo.   They board everyone and still no sign of Sharna and Michelle.  Eventually AA staff forces us on the plane.  They are demanding we get on without the girls and one man physically pulls me by the arm.  I feel like crying at this point.  We have to walk ourselves across a long tarmac to board.  Michelle and Sharna make it.  Michelle ran shoeless from security all the way across the tarmac.  Here we come America!
All is looking good.  We manage to make our flight in Miami in spite of passport services and customs.  Some of us board in Miami and are then asked to exit the plane because of mechanical problems!  C’MON!
Flight delayed.  Schedule a backup flight into phoenix in case we can’t make connecting flight in Chicago.  Possibly another night in Chicago.  Hopefully we get home soon.  We haven’t showered in days, we don’t have toothbrushes or toothpaste and we don’t have clothes because they are either in checked bags or donated at the orphanage.  We are a hot mess; A hot, stinking mess.

PAP hotel room

All works out and the flight in chicago holds the plane for us.  Thank God to be home!


About ThinkingWithVitality

Wife, Mama, Certified Wellness Life Coach, Certified Vet Tech, adoption and special needs advocate, adventure seeker, wannabe vegetarian, freethinker, knowledge hunter, secular humanist. Love writing, distance running, cycling, hiking, photography, nature, essential oils, natural medicine, traveling, RVs and tents, reading, adventures, organizing, authentic living, good beer, acoustic music and happy to have landed in Costa Rica for this moment in time.

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