A 3:10 am wakeup call came too early after going to bed at Midnight but landing in Port au Prince made me feel exhilarated rather than exhausted. Though there has been criticism about the slow progress being made towards rebuilding in Haiti and what happened to the aid money that was donated after the 2010 earthquake, stepping off the plane and on to a jetway that led to a newly built air conditioned airport terminal signifies progress.
Last year I remember stepping off a jetway and arriving at baggage claim. Despite it being January, the warehouse-like building was steamy and hot. The baggage carousel seemed to limp along as the mostly American passengers claimed giant boxes, oversized duffle bags, and crates of supplies. This year signs proudly proclaiming that the promise to rebuild the airport was kept appear in numerous locations around the new building.
Driving through the city there were also signs of progress. Though we took a different route to the Hotel Montana than we did last year (which was memorable thanks to the Porsche dealership we drove by), there seemed to be lots of new construction. Dump trucks seen in the streets also signify ongoing improvement.
As we drove through the crowded bumpy streets, my fellow travelers were impressed with the helpfulness of Haitians who caught our attention numerous times to let us know that pieces of luggage piled high on the roof rack of our van were in grave danger of falling off.
“They’re so kind,” remarked a member of our group, wondering aloud if that quality was part of the Haitian culture. Indeed kind. And so many other things too that are yet to be discovered by those who are experiencing the country for the first time.
I received grant money from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) and a scholarship from Everywhere to help defray the cost of this trip however, all additional expenses are personally paid for. All opinions are based on my experiences.