Planes, Terrains, and Ra-Ras


haiti-airport_100117Day One- By Elizabeth Arnold

At 3am we got our first wake up call to get up and get ready to leave the hotel for DCA where we were going to board our first of three flights that day. When we finally got a handle on all of our things we one by one checked the bags and got in the line to start going through the gate. When we got to the security checkpoint, I felt insanely nauseous and ended up throwing up right as the TSA agent was checking my passport and ticket information. When we finally all got through security we got to the gate and waited for our plane to be ready to board. The first two flights were easy and rather quick. When we finally arrived at the Port au Prince airport we finally were struck with the stark contrast of where we actually were and the journey we were about to begin. When you first get off the plane you are shuffled into winding corridors until you reach an outside bus stop where a “metro bus” loads a “butt ton” (amie scott) and takes you to a smaller house where they check your passport and luggage. Being shuttled in the airport was similar to feeling like cattle being shuttled down a pasture. You can’t move and you have no idea where you are going. Thankfully we got through customs all right, I got one of my boxes checked but they didn’t check it thoroughly. Walking out of the customs area we were greeted by a swarm of people ready to help with our bags and hoping to get some extra money for it. We finally got to our van and was able to get to a much smaller airport to take our small charter plane to Jeremie. This plane was the tiniest plane I have ever flown in and it was definitely an experience. One of the most beautiful plane rides by far. We were able to see all of the Haiti coastline on our trip to Jeremie from Port au Prince. When we finally landed in Jeremie we were greeted by Connie, an RN who is a long time volunteer at HHF, and Ed a retired dentist here to do some research on the oral needs of Haitians. We were also swarmed with kids trying to sell us bracelets and baskets and helping us with our luggage. When we got into the truck we embarked on a journey with our first experience of the roads in Jeremie. These make Baltimore roads look like the streets of gold. Basically, rock and dirt formed into a road. Nothing is paved and there are plenty of divots and ditches to make the ride insanely bumpy. While we were driving to the hotel we were going to be staying at we started talking to Ed, the dentist just to get his feel for Haiti and the Haitian community. Something he said that was very interesting was “Haitians don’t die by self-inflicted disease” I found this so interesting because its true so many public health initiatives in America and other developed places in the world involve things like diet and exercise and lifestyle type interventions. In Haiti, it is totally different. We screen for malnourishment, anemia, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases that aren’t self-inflicted by eating too much McDonalds or being too lazy. The people here don’t have the livelihood to be lazy. For our first night in Haiti where we stayed in a hotel owned and provided by the diocese of Haiti and Jean Paul the second. It was a beautiful hotel and they served such amazing and illustrious meals. We were all definitely starving after the looooooong day of flying. After arriving at the hotel and getting our dinner and picking our rooms we needed to get ready for the next day where we would be going out to a remote village called Moron. So we sorted through the 15+ bags we brought to find, gift bags, T-shirts, iron pills and vitamins. We then sat in the “lobby” and separated out 30 vitamins into 150 bags and 60 iron pills into 50 bags. As we were sitting and sorting and talking we started to hear a “Ra-Ra band” pass by. This is a truck; which the people equipped with a ton of speakers and ride through the town having people dance behind the truck down the street. The US state department warns against getting caught in one but being able to watch from afar and listen was an incredible experience. Finally it was time to shower and sleep and get ready for the next day, which started at 6am. None of us had ever put up a mosquito net before and we all had an interesting experience trying to figure out how it worked. Once everything was settled we each fell asleep to the beautiful chorus of Ra-Ras, dogs barking, and roosters crowing. These continued throughout all the night and into the early morning. That was the end of a long and tiring day one in Jeremie 🙂

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