Day 2 – 25th December 2012 – Santo Domingo to Port au Prince

 


5:30 am and the alarm goes off. After my scare at the airport on arrival where when I ask for the location of the Tortug Air’s desk, the airline which will carry me to Port au Prince. And I am told that that desk is at the other airport, my naivety and lack of preparation is made more evident to myself. My taxi arrives at the hotel prompt at 7. I am feeling bad for dragging a driver away at 7 am on Christmas morning. If he is Catholic, most probably true in any ex Spanish colony, he has had less than 5 hours sleep. However any regret is removed when our negotiation the day prior is exposed as a sham and the $50 all inclusive trip from Las Americas to Zona Colonial to the domestic airport, becomes over $60. Luckily I have useless Dominican currency which I can add without taking away from the US dollars I want to enter Haiti with. As the taxi drives to the airport I am struck with certain scenes which contrast with what I expect to see in Haiti. Political posters are abundant which show the population, unlike Haiti, is not apathetic with politics. A metro system towers above the airport road, and the road itself is three lanes wide, an infrastructure which Port au Prince could only dream of. This is the flight, the flight I booked in October and the flight which following name, nationality, the usual, then went on to ask for weight. The airport matches this context. It has two gates. It has a ratio of one custom official to two passengers. Strangely as I head into departures and get drug screened whilst being asked if I am single, I notice that the two gates are infact 1A and 1B. Basically theres one gate, with a double door it seems. As I use the unexpected free wifi to send my Christmas greetings to the parents I see the plane land and soon enough we are all called to use the right door, gate 1B. Boarding a plane which has six other passengers is an experience which has ruined flying. As I take my seat the pilot switches on the engine and as the propellers churn we are left to listen to the American voice give safety instructions. Safety instructions more questionable when they end in the phrase, ‘and welcome to corporate air’. Not the airline I thought I was flying. Even so the jolt, the no nonsense nature of seeing a pilot in the seat infront of you pull a level, press and button and then instantly feel the effect is something which you do not get flying Ryanair from London to Barcelona. The plane soared up above the trees and like never before it was the trees which told me I had now entered Haiti. Just over halfway through the 45 minute flight the rainforest becomes white scarred earth. The deforestation of Haiti is obvious and as the outlines of lakes become more gradients of green to brown to blue, rather than the defined tree, beach, water, of the Dominican Replublic, I realise it is a matter of minutes till I see my site. However I could not have asked for a better approach. The wind blowing from the east caused the pilot to fly over my site of Cite Soleil which is a slum to the north of Port au Prince. My left side seat was perfect as the twin engine propeller plane banked in the way a 10 seater plane can and I am almost looking vertically down at the shanty towns that push their way out to the bay area of Port au Prince. The plane lands textbook, the walk to the terminal is simply and the biggest fear which has faced me since deciding to base my project in Haiti is upon me, the arrival at the airport. The stories and the preparations haunt my brain. The map showing where not to stop, the you tube video showing the mob of guides awaiting any weary traveller outside arrivals. The best way I can describe what follows is in a few words, but in reading them you will spend probably longer than the time it took me to get through the airport. Visa free, man with sign saying ‘John Naylor’. I am escorted out of the terminal after trying on sunglasses at the duty free and a guy grabs my bag. I protest but for less than £1, a matter of money which is a day’s wages to 70% of Haiti and one less Pret coffee for me, he takes my bag to the car. The drive sent by my host, Jacqui is waiting and we drive off along the collection of potholes also known as the road to Delmas.

 

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