The Plane Touches Down
I distinctly remember the first time we came to Haiti. The plane touched down and parked several hundred yards from the terminal. So we got our carry on luggage, go down the steps and walk across the extremely hot concrete to the terminal.
Keep in mind, if you come to Haiti in the summer, you are coming when the temperature is hotter than it is in Miami but not that much. If we travel in July, the high temperature is maybe 20 degrees higher than it is in Michigan.
But if you travel, say in February, when the high temperature in Michigan is maybe in the 20’s, then you are going to be looking at a temperature difference of maybe 70 degrees. Plus we all know how much the air heats up when the rays of the sun are bombarding a concrete parking lot. The “feels like” temperature is probably easily 15 degrees higher than the air temperature is. That’s a big adjustment compared to temperatures in places like Michigan.
In 2003, we would be “herded” into a building (most people in the first world would call it a glorified pole barn.) My recollection of this building is that I would not want to be in it in a hurricane. Once the paperwork and customs and such is done, you would go to the “second” part of the building.
The baggage claim area.
Normal airports have a “conveyor belt” that spins around and the luggage gets put on the conveyor belt and people grab theirs from the belt.
Not in Haiti, not in 2003.
There was a straight conveyor belt and the luggage was being thrown on one end of it and there were employees on the other end who would take it off and stack it in rows on the floor.
How did you find your luggage? You climbed over other people’s luggage, moved it around and dug through it until you found yours. Chaotic to say the least.
Not so any more. In 2017, we pull up to the gate, the door opens and we walk out into a typical airport terminal.
There is air conditioning, it’s organized, all looks relatively new and everything works. The escalators work, the luggage carousel works, it feels like a “normal” airport.
We get our luggage, load it on carts and begin to head for the door. That’s when it happens. We almost immediately are surrounded by men. Most of these men are talking in Creole with a little bit of English mixed in. It’s just a bit intimidating.
“Oh no! Are we getting robbed?” No, they all want to “help” and put a hand on your luggage cart so that you will feel like you have to pay them/tip them. While it is still intimidating, it is significantly better because the “official” cart helpers have a uniform on and because they don’t allow nearly as many of them. A vast improvement over past years.
And then you meet up with your driver. If you are with an organization (like we were with The Apparent Project), then there will be a truck or some sort of vehicle to bring you to your destination.
Our vehicle of choice was a Mitsubishi crew cab pick up with a cage in back. They put suitcases and such on top of the cage and Rico (our security guard) even road up there. Then there were 5 of us who rode in the back and 5 in the cab.
We pulled away from the airport and the real adventure starts……