West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

At Least It’s Not a Camel!

Sat. April 5, 2014 (first day)

We had absolutely the easiest trip ever from Memphis to Port au Prince. Thanks to all who prayed for the safety of our bags and team members. The only hitch was getting the bus up the hill to get into the guest house. But more on that later…

After meeting at the airport at “Oh-Dark-Thirty”, as Sherye calls it, John soon discovered he had brought his wife’s passport by mistake. Several increasingly frantic calls to his wife to bring the correct one. Many apologies to Susan Mutin for having to make not one,but TWO trips to the airport before sunrise this morning. We all have family and loved ones at home who make it possible for us to do this work, this crazy adventure. Most of our team has been to Haiti before, but for those first timers I hope your families are reading this and know that you are all safe and had a fabulous dinner of goat, acra, pasta, plantains and piclis. “No, that’s not cole slaw,” I explained to several new visitors to Haiti. Piclis is the Haitian dish that John and I fight over, that is seasoned with scotch bonnet peppers and will make your lips sweat.

Getting our bags at the Port au Prince airport means fending off the swarms of helpers who insist on finding our bags for us, all 18 of us that is, hoisting them onto the cart, gathering all our baggage claim tickets and custom forms, and showing us to the door. And then asking us for a tip. At the door we are met by more swarms of people “helping us” push our carts (now about 8 carts with all the bags) down the sidewalk to the waiting bus, and asking for another tip. It’s always a joy to see Jean Robert’s smiling face and recognize an old friend.

After conquering the baggage struggle, and a standoff between Dr Sue and the baggage handlers, we made our way through the dusty city. The bus heated up quickly with all those people, so by the time we arrived at the guest house we were all quite ready for a cold beer. We pulled into the driveway of what I thought was the guest house, alongside a large orange sliding metal gate. The gate opened and a car started backing up into the small space between our bus and the gate. Whoa! shouted several people, including the boy who had opened the gate. No problem, the car pulled back into the driveway, turned around and drove forwards through the narrow space, with maybe two inches clearance. Astonished Americans watching. Next I expected our bus to pull into the driveway. Instead, the gate slid shut, followed by a small door opening to let the boy come out again. Apparently so he could stand and watch the bus full of crazy Americans, because at that point our bus pulled forwards just far enough to drag the rear bumper over the slight curb with a nice crunching sound, and leave it dismembered and lying in the street. The helpful folks in the back of the bus, including myself, volunteered to get off the bus with our bags, to relieve the weight. Except that now the bus door would not open! Memories of another bus incident in Haiti came to my mind (see previous blog post 2009) as we sweated and waited for Jean Robert to tell us what to do. Finally the driver engaged the wheelchair lift (that door DID open) and grandly lowered us to the ground, two by two. We hauled our bags and ourselves up the very steep driveway to the newly built Healing Hands guest house, happy to be at our destination.

Susan Nelson
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