Our travel days back and forth to Haiti are definitely the hardest days of any of our trips. The trip down carries worries of making connections, all the BAGS making the connections, getting through customs, meeting Pere Sadoni at the airport, and finally arriving at the guest house for the first decent meal of the day. Most of us can’t manage breakfast before leaving for the airport at 4:30 AM, and the airlines don’t feed us anymore.
Coming home is slightly less worrisome, no valuable medical supplies to worry about; and once we are in the States I dont worry so much about connecting flights. However we still start the day at 5 AM and usually travel all day to get to Memphis by 10:30 PM or sometimes midnight. Then there are the inevitable curiosities of airport security. Port au Prince airport has been completely rebuilt since the earthquake, and is now a comfortable, clean, air-conditioned building, with gift shops and a few small restaurants, even a Duty Free liquor store! This trip we had our bags sniffed by police dogs at the first security checkpoint. We were feeling sorry for the dogs having to smell all of our week-old unwashed clothing!
For some reason there is a security checkpoint on the first floor, and another one when you reach the top of the escalator on the second floor. This trip Bheki Khumalo had to give up some rocks at the second security checkpoint. That’s right, rocks. Bheki told me later that he likes to collect rocks as souvenirs when he travels. He apparently has quite a rock collection from all over the world. He has a piece of the rubble that was St Vincent’s School, destroyed in the earthquake, and a small piece of concrete from Holy Trinity Cathedral.
This recent trip, apparently Bheki had several rocks in his backpack, and the security agent asked him to take them out. Bheki explained what they were, and the agent studied them for a minute. He then told Bheki, “You have too many rocks!” He took two of them away and told Bheki he could keep the rest.
Now this story may not seem funny unless you have been working in Haiti for a week, and are exhausted from the heat and a long day of travel and too many emotional experiences to count, but to Bheki and I, in Fort Lauderdale Airport last Sunday, this story was hilarious.
Now that I am more reflective, (today being Easter) I think the story is a good metaphor for the things we take with us from Haiti, and the things we leave behind. The randomness of rules, sometimes. Situations beyond our control. Mysteries that foreigners will never understand about another culture and country. And sometimes the need for a good laugh at something ridiculous.