October 31: Arrival in Haiti
Phil and I arrived in Port Au Prince on an easy 2-hour flight from Florida. The flight was busy and buzzing with an excited crowd of Haitians, giving us a little taste of what to expect already. Upon arrival at the airport in PortAuPrince, we paid a $10 arrival fee, and then lined up for immigration. The immigration hall was quite busy and after a one hour wait to reach the desks, some people in line started getting a little bit impatient and the hall was filled with voices of frustrated Haitians, urging to get through the immigration process and probably be reunited with their loved ones.
While we were waiting, an airport staff member took everyone’s temperature and recorded every party’s name on a list for COVID regulation purposes. Since Phil and I were traveling together, his name was recorded on the list and for me she just wrote “+ husband”…
The immigration process itself was easy, requiring the usual fingerprint donation. A Haitian address and phone number was required.
We then proceeded to pick up our luggage, aided by a friendly Haitian who, once we identified and had our suitcases proclaimed that “he was now done” and demanded a tip. Luckily he was not offended by us not finding that tip justified.
Once outside the airport building, about 100 Haitians came running up to us offering to carry our luggage, drive us to our hotel, or be our guide in the city. Most of them just went to my “wife” Phil, so I did not get hassled too much, but in any case everyone is very friendly and polite. Vladimir, who had worked with Earthship before in Haiti ever since 2010 found us immediately, and took us to a prearranged taxi with which we drove the short 5 minute journey to the adjacent local airport.
Our host, Kelly, was unfortunately delayed because of technical problems with her flight from the US, so Vlad, Phil and I decided to fly over to La Gonave early since we did not have to wait for her. At the airport terminal both our luggage and ourselves were weighed on a scale to determine if we were light enough for a small airplane, while a couple of friendly Haitians offered us their art for sale.
After about an hour waiting in the very clean and comfortable waiting lounge, we were taken to our 5 seater plane, and the friendly MAF pilot and copilot made us feel welcome and took us on our short 17 minute flight across the ocean to La Gonave. It was a real treat to be able to see the landscape and architecture of Haiti from above. The ride was smooth and so was the landing on the short and sandy runway in La Gonave Islands.
The incredibly welcoming crew from Pi Gwo Byen, Kelly’s organization and school, were already awaiting us at the airport and somehow managed to take all three of us and our luggage on two small “moto-taxis” to our destination. We traveled on dirt roads through the town of Anse-a-Galets, a buzzing town of 60,000 inhabitants that immediately felt friendly and full of everything we needed – small hardware stores, supermarkets, piles of sand and gravel on the side of the road and incredibly beautiful and well-dressed locals minding their own every day business.
When we arrived in Pi Gwo Byen and went through the big gate to enter the compound, we were both blown away by the beauty and tranquility of where we had just arrived. A perfectly flat and prepared site to the right for the school we will build with a bunch of tires just waiting for us, a pavilion and a beautiful shaded area to the left with a number of big trees, and then of course the perfectly blue and still ocean lying just in front of us…