Letters from Haiti: Day One
#1 Thing to Learn from This Post:
Thanks to the generosity of a small number of people, I have arrived in Haiti and have joined up with my fellow travelers for five-days filled with learning and connecting.
A More Detailed Exploration:
Good morning from Bellevue, the growing operational center of Haiti Partners, settled up two miles up the mountain overlooking the sprawling city of Port au Prince. I’ve had my first cup of delicious Haitian coffee, served black with sugar, and am rested up from yesterday’s long day of travels.
The journey began at 3:15am in Boston with the wake-up alarm going off followed by the haze of getting ready and heading to the airport. My flight from Boston Logan to JFK went quickly thanks to my ability to sleep sitting up. At JFK, I joined up with Jesse Engle and his son, Jonathan, who took the red-eye flight from San Francisco.
Jesse has been traveling to Haiti to visit his older brother, John, since 1995 and this trip was the first time Jonathan, who’s 11 years old, was making the journey. As a father of a ten year old son, I know it’s going to be great to watch the son travel outside the comfy confines of the developed world with his father.
Landing in Port au Prince on a sunny day from the west is one of the most beautiful approaches you’ll experience. The deep blues of the Caribbean with the lush green of the Haiti shoreline make for a pastoral contrast to the dense urban expanse of Haiti’s capital and largest city. Disembarking the plane and getting on the bus to the main terminal, we were greeted just like every arriving plane with a band of Haitian musician.
Passing thru customs and entering the baggage claim area, the three of us meet up with another fellow traveler, Jonathan Chan, who serves as the Haiti Partners social media coordinator. He had arrived shortly before us on a flight from Ft. Lauderdale. After a short wait, we made our way outside the terminal to meet up with John Engle, our host, his two young children, and Felix, a local Haiti Partners team member.
Coming out of the terminal, you have to run what I’ll call the “Port au Prince Porter Gauntlet”. It’s a surreal experiences as men in red shirts jockey to help arriving passengers carry their bags to their cars. It’s the first sign that there is a great supply of labor in Haiti and a desire to hustle.
With a change of plans because of our planned fifth traveler, Mark Dowds, having to call off his trip from Argentina due to a labor strike, we load up the truck and head up the mountainside toward Bellevue, Haiti Partner’s operational center and our home for the next five days.
Driving thru the streets of Port au Prince, we came quickly across the ubiquitous tents housing the many thousands of people the earthquake displaced almost two years ago. It was encouraging to see the progress being made to resettle and rebuild, but much work remains.
After a respite over a late lunch at La Reserve, we made our way to Bellevue to settle into our living quarters, recharge our phones and laptops, and enjoy a delicious dinner.
Catching our second wind, we loaded up again in the car to drive down the mountainside to the Hotel Oloffson for the magic and mystique of RAM, a legendary rasin muzik band known for its Thursday night performances. It was a wonderful way to end the long day.
On our second day, we have a full agenda meeting with a number of leaders from different NGOs and companies to learn about the innovative approaches they are taking here in Haiti to help Haitians raise themselves up from the bootstraps. More to come on that.