Friday, April 20, 2007

Traveling to Haiti- Coming Home

When we got to the airport at Port-au-Prince we needed to show our passports before even entering the airport and went through a bit of security right there at the entrance to the airport. The ticketing counters were right there, easy to find, and we had no problem at all checking our bags on and getting on our flights back home. The employees spoke English and it all went very smoothly. Since you should be there a couple hours early we had some time to kill so we went upstairs in the airport where you will find a couple of snack bars and some little shops that were so fun to look through, including duty free shops that people were walking out of with big boxes of liquor! :) The only downside of this (for me anyways) is that smoking is allowed in that area and since I'm extremely allergic to cigarette smoke I had to leave and head to the terminal before I became terminal.

Then when it was time we went to our gate. Once again you walk outside, up the stairs and onto the plane. On the way back we filled out a different and easy form (since we were US citizens). When you get off your first flight back in America you will have to go through Immigration again. This again was no biggie except for waiting in lines. You will give them the form you filled out and your passport. If you have a connecting flight you have to go and collect your luggage (yes, even if it's on the same airline and tagged for the next flight) and take that luggage through customs again. Again, no biggie...just more waiting in lines and this time with your luggage. After getting through customs they have locations that you just take your suitcases and hand it to someone with the airline your flying with. I did not have to wait for this or have anything done. Your bags are already marked for the connecting flight when checking in at Port-au-Prince. So I just walked over. Left my suitcase and headed towards the terminals. From then on it's all back to "normal" flights home. :)

Traveling to Haiti: The roads

I borrowed the above pictures that I found online to show some of the different types of tap tap's we saw. basically if it could be a tap tap!

My camera was on the fritz. I wish so much that I could have video and pictures for you of what it was like to be on the roads of Haiti! It was like being in another world!! I was so fascinated by all that was around me and tried to take it all in. One thing you learn quickly in Haiti is there are no driving laws...and if there are any they sure are not enforced! It was CRAZY. I thought it was really fun but could see how someone would find it terrifying (I just happen to really like a good adrenaline rush). Our driver just flew through the streets laying on his horn and every car and person better get out of our way. There was no order. There was one road that had lanes but no one paid any attention to them and drove where ever there happened to be a space. It was hysterical to watch. The view along the drive was sometimes absolutely fascinating and at others so heartbreaking. I couldn't believe the things they could carry on their heads without even using their hands! It was amazing. At some places the sides of the street were covered with food, clothes, or other items to sell. Small outdoor "markets". This is how the birth mom of our children used to make her income too. It was also amusing to watch the tap taps! I've seen lots of pictures of them and heard stories of them but it was unreal to see them in person! Tap Taps are the Haiti version of public transportation! Some are just old pick up trucks that tons of people pack themselves into the back of (you wouldn't believe how many people were packed in!) other tap taps looked more like a bus type vehicle (sort of) and is in really bright colors and wild designs. As we got more away from the downtown area it became much sadder as everywhere you looked there was huge piles of garbage everywhere and people had the saddest looks on their faces as if they were all tired and discouraged. There were some of the "markets' just about anywhere you went. On the less busy streets our driver continued full speed ahead. What made this a little scarier for me was that the streets are now filled with people instead of other cars. We would plow ahead towards them while our driver laid on his horn. People would just continue to walk towards us and our driver would continue flying towards them and I was sure we were headed into a tragedy, but every time... at the very last second... the people would look up and slowly step aside just as our car would get to them. I think I might have held my breath the whole time!!! :) It was terrifying and exciting and I can't wait to do it again. haha.

I thought it was funny that on the way back to the airport (for this treat I got to sit in the front seat with my daughter on my lap, talk about adrenaline!!) I saw two vehicles full of UN troops. What was funny about it was that they were in nice looking SUV's but had taken black masking tape and obviously torn chunks of tape off and used it to write a very sloppy UN on the side of SUV's! Have budget cuts come to this? My three year old could have probably made it look better! :)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Traveling to Haiti: Port-au-Prince Airport

Above picture is BirthMom-Vilcianne, Vilner 1, Jude, 9, Lovenie 2, Me, Jacques 15, and Stephanie 11. Our family in Hait!

I know this is a bit out of order in my posts but I just got back from Haiti a couple days ago and met our 5 children and the birth mom of 4 of them. If you are interested in reading about my personal experience with this you can check out my blog at . Otherwise on this blog I will stick to traveling matters.
This was my first trip ever to Haiti and I was extremely grateful that a friend who had been there MANY times allowed me to tag along with her! She was headed to bring home her 14 year old daughter (her 3rd daughter adopted from NLL) so I got a really good example of how it all works. If you get an opportunity to go with someone that's done it before- jump on it! I would have felt very lost without her.
On the airplane ride into Port-au-Prince the flight attendent started handing out these long blue forms. I had no idea what these were. They are immigration papers. I kept cheating and looking at my friends answers because I was so confused about this form! :) One thing I do think is good to know for this form is to have the information with the address and phone number of where you will be staying in Haiti on you or in your carry on because you will need it to fill out this form. I did not have this information on me so was glad I got to copy off of my friends information. I'll know for next time and hopefully reading this... you will be prepared also!
When you fly into Haiti you will be exiting the plane down stairs outdoors and then will walk into the airport from the back of the building. You go right to immigration windows (you can't miss it). This is where you hand them the form you filled out on your flight and your passport. After all the stressing I did about trying to figure out the form they hardly glanced at it, stamped it, looked at my passport, and gave me the bottom part of the form that tears off and put it in my passport. Honestly I was not ever sure what that was for but I do know that my friend seriously cautioned me not to lose it or I might have problems when trying to leave Haiti, so hold on tight to that piece of paper!
After immigration we went to claim our luggage (also easy to find). Near the luggage claim you will see a bunch of carts. If you want one you just hand someone at the counter a dollar and they will bring you a cart. The wait for our luggage took forever! Me and my friend both waited worriedly when neither of us (with 4 suitcases) had any of our luggage show up. They would drive up with in a truck about the size of a small U-haul and unload suitcases. You could see them doing it through the windows. When a truck would get empty my friend and I would pray "Please let there be another truck" again and again until at last (I think it was the 4th truck) our luggage finally showed up! We were so relieved. So be prepared that you may have to wait and watch for more trucks if you don't get your luggage right away. On the way out of the airport you will be stopped and asked for your baggage claim which should be stickers that were stuck on the sleave of the tickets the airline gave you when you checked in so keep that handy. Then... you are out! When you get outside porters will come up to you and be very pushy. I actually did not experience much of this because I was meeting my two oldest children for the first time while friends took over with the luggage. A couple of porters did tag along even though we told them we didn't want their help and then were very insistant with me that I pay them for their help (I was so distracted by the kids that I don't know for sure, but I don't think they did anything more then follow us to the car!). My son pulled me into the car and that was the end of the discussion with the porters! :) We were then on our way to the orphange where I could meet our other waiting children!