Saturday, January 22, 2011

The journey home for chirstmas

Well, I have been back in Haiti a week now, and its been great. I missed teaching, I missed the kids, and most importantly the HEAT! I realize it has been a while since I last posted, I am apologizing now if this is a really long post.

Lets go back to December, which seems forever ago....

The election results were released right before I was suppose to leave on the 9th, and things turned ugly in Port, tires were burning, bottles were flying, as well as bullets and tear gas. People in general were not happy with the election results calling them a fraud, because it should have been Manigot and Martelly not Manigot and Celestin like the results came up as. Because of all the rioting my flight got cancelled, and as soon as we booked another one, it we get cancelled, it went on like this all weekend. Finally after about the third or fourth time, we decided enough was enough and made plans to get to the Dominican Republic. Even though our plans were pretty vague. We knew how we were getting to the boarder, we knew we had a ride on the other side, and we knew there was a bus. So we went with it, know and hoping it would work out. Also at this point in time, none of us had tickets yet. So on the 12th we were all ready to go. Our ride arrived around 5 am, and we loaded up the bags into the back of the truck, piled in, and drove off. We went through an area in Port that I had never been through, and on the hillsides of the highway there were tents, hundreds of thousands of them, making up the main tent cities of Port au Prince. It was heart breaking to see this, especially 11 months after the quake. Then on the roads right in front of us were the reminders of the rioting that took place the week prior, were tires were burned then pushed to the side. It wasn't long after we left port that we made our way closer to the boarder. Right before you cross the boarder, you literally drive through a lake with caves on the other side of you, that Haitians are hand digging with a little pick and axe for the gravel.

The boarder is its own experience on its own. And the goal for the boarder workers? To get as much money out of you as they can. The first stop is at a police station where you have to go through a gate and they ask you for money. Then you drive a bit up the road and stop at  the Haitian customs building, were Dan and Gary took our passports in to be stamped, so we could "leave" the country, and where they try to get more money out of you. Then you drive to the Dominican side where before you even cross over they scam money out of you, where they ask you to pay for you tires to be "cleaned for all dirt  so you don't track in cholera." Then once again Dan and Gary headed into the customs building on the DR side with all our passports to get them stamped and to pay the entry fee, where they yet again tried to up the entry fee price and extra 10$ a person. (And in either Haiti or DR customs some one managed and extra $40 canadian that I hid in my passport folder). After taking our luggage into get inspected, we came out and found the missionary that was picking us up and taking us to his mission for the night, or so we thought. Our original plan was to catch a bus in the middle of the night and go to the airport which was another 7 hours away and have a pastor pick us up at the bus stop and take us to the airport. But the missionary had a better idea, he has a medical student group from the university at Santo Domingo heading back a few hours after we got there and had room for us and our luggage in their bus at no charge. We went with that idea. We hung out at their mission for awhile and tried to get through with american airlines to change our tickets, but due to bad weather in the east in the states we had a hard time getting through, eventually my mom back home was able to change my ticket at no extra cost, and the others decided to chance it when we got the the airport. We then boarder the bus then took off through the country side of the DR. In Jimanni where we started out, there was quite a Haitian population being so close to the baorder, and the cement houses looked very similar, except they were more finished looking. But one of the main differences as we drove through was the forestation. In Haiti most of the tree are cut down so people can burn them for charcoal to make some money so the hillsides are very bare, unlike the DR where it is very green and full.
Haiti on the left, DR on the right
The group of college students were great and informed us about where we were and what not. You can tell that the DR is a very Catholic country because there are shrines to Mother Mary all over the place. Once we hit a major city, they told us we were going to stop for dinner at a place that had chicken. I was thinking something along the lines of haitian style with beans and rice along the road. Where we stopped was similar to Swiss Chalet but to go. We were prepared to buy our own dinner. But the group insisted that they buy it for us. A few hours later we were in Santo Domingo. Which is a beautiful city that I would one day like to explore. Once at the university the pastor picked us up and dropped us at the airport where we planned to spend the night, and once 3am came we would check in and Gary, Carolyn and Dan would change their tickets. We were forced down stairs to the arrivals area, where is was very loud, from flights coming in all night, and lots of people, at least there were restaurants open. Hours later we were all in the boarding area waiting for our flights hoping everything would work out due to a blizzard on the west coast. The other 3 left on an earlier flight than I did, because of all the UN soldiers that were booked to leave on a vacation that  day. I made it to Miami with no problem, except a long customs line, and raced to my gate for my flight to Dallas which I made just as they were calling my group to board. I relaxed once in Dallas as I had a few hours and found my gate. After finally getting a good meal I sat down and waited for my flight, which ended up being delayed 2 hours because of mechanical problem. Lets put it this way, I was not happy, I had hardly slept in the last 36 hours, and at this point wanted to get home, because this delay was going to make me miss my connecting flight to Kelowna from Vancouver. After yelling at the poor guy at the counter he finally promised me a hotel voucher when I got to vancouver. I finally arrived in Vancouver much later than planned got my luggage, and went to claim my voucher, which they denied me, because they got me to Vancouver and my next flight was on another airlines. Then I turned ugly, crying and yelling at the poor guy once again. I stalked off to the payphone to call home. Which resulted in me having to pay for a hotel and spending the night, and getting the first flight out of the day. It only took two and a half days but I finally got home. It was an adventure of a lifetime, that I wont be forgetting any time soon.

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