Saturday, May 28, 2011

Haiti...just say "No, Merci"

We left the house in Ventura about 5:30 and reached LAX in great time, despite the holiday weekend, boarded the plane and left LAX at 11pm.  After a few hours of layover in Miami, some bad coffee and meeting up the the rest of the team, we left for Port A Prince.  Haiti greeted us with a blast of heat and humidity and we boarded the shuttle to the terminal.  The smallest blonde member of our team, the Deeds, was immediately under the watchful eyes of just about all of us.  His mama, had such a tight grip on him, I'm surprised we didn't hear him squeel.  We were given and had read over and over in the airport procedures not to give anything to anyone and say "No Merci" to anyone asking to help us.  From the lines were ushered into, each took his/her turn infront of the immigration desk officer.  Their presentation behind the glass must be intended to break us down and show us right from the start that we are guests and can be removed from the country at the hint of a problem.  I admit I am always intimidated as they look at the visa paperwork, look at me, look at the passport, back at me, back at the passport and then slam the stamp of approval allowing us to move about 10 feet to the baggage claim area  A uniformed guy approached us asking how many carts we needed and though we remembered to say "No, Merci" it came out 4, 4 please!  Dang! That lapse in memory cost us the first $20.00.    In our defense, the US has effectively taught its citizens that when a uniformed anybody in the airport asks a question, we answer. Period.  No hesitation, no questions.   No body wants to be "that guy", the one who shuts down the airport for some security situation because he hesitated in answering the "uniform guy's" question.  So we did.  After all 23 checked bags, with nearly 1200 lbs of supplies and 12 carryons, we headed out.  Uniform Guy asked for our gate passes and our luggage claim tickets.  I'm pretty sure the correct answer was "No, Merci" but instead we each handed over the small claim tickets because "Yes we want to take our bags with us and your uniform has "obey me or go home in a box" written all over it, so here".  It took all of 20 minutes for the real baggage guy to find Uniform Guy and give him another $20.00 to buy back those baggage claim tickets.  We Americans are sharp like a tack we are!  "Big" wearing a hat that said "Jesus is the Boss" picked us up, and all 25 of us piled into the back of a caged truck bed with benches on each side and 2500+ lbs of luggage piled on top.  A bumpy potholed road lead us to the guest house and we listened to some information about the area, tent cities etc... while said Americans sweat the equivalent of a small swimming pool...and oh how I was wishing for one earlier today.  We were given an orientation, introduced to staff and then taken on a tour of the boys' home, girls home and sports center.  An afternoon full of darlings whose smiles could light up the darkest night. The Deeds and some of the young boys traded water bottle sprays and touching each other's hair.  Back to the guest house for dinner and some cause conversation explaining the history of the Manesstero family story of coming to Haiti.  Tomorrow, church then lunch and planning for the week.  Its been great so far.  We are all exhausted and as I finished this up at 9:30, I am pretty sure I am the last one standing and that is just about to end.  Thanks for praying.  I'll try to get on tomorrow.Sorry, no camera is having Err 99 issues.  Pretty sure a local repair shop would have a guy wearing some sort of uniform that I am helpless to stand up to.  We'll see what a good overnight charging for the camera and recharging for us brings..Night all.

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