Ahh, finally time to breath. We're in the airport in Salt Lake City waiting to leave on the first leg of our journey to Haiti. After seeing the Lord's hands pour out blessings in the form of baby formula, infant Tylenol, prenatal vitamins & Advil, we just saw the first of hopefully many more blessings. The Jet Blue employees at the ticket counter were kind enough to call corporate and waive the charges for our extra bags. That felt especially sweet due to the fact that I had been on the phone trying to accomplish that feat for the past few days... with no success. We're all excited and anxious to actually see what we have gotten ourselves into. All we know is that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. I feel blessed to be able to put so much effort into collecting, packing and delivering these supplies to the people of Haiti.
As I sit in a chair flying through the air, I can't help but think how spoiled I am. I think of the clip from Conan when guest Louis C.K. explains, "Everything's amazing and nobody's happy". Though I feel that he put into words exactly how I feel, I fear that I too, at times, fall into the category of "zeros" he talks about. The television in front of me flashed in and out of signal as we took off. I became increasingly more impatient as I flipped through channel after channel of "we're sorry, this channel is temporarily unavailable". Just about the time the stewardess handed me an eye mask for sleeping and informed me that blankets would cost $7, the tv flashed "to continue watching this program, swipe your card ($6)". No I don't need a $7 blanket or $6 movie. For now I will be content with my complimentary eye mask and 5.5 oz. apple juice. I have a feeling that after this trip, I will be content with far less.
Boarshead pastrami with crumbled blue cheese and peppercorn gourmaise sauce on marbled rye was a good choice... breakfast of champions.
We landed yesterday in Santa Domingo and had a few hours until my mom and her crew from California arrived. The day before we left, I was put in charge of the rental cars; something that was supposed to be taken care of long before we left. Anywho, I called the Dominican Republic and spoke with Eddie. I was able to talk him down $400 from his original asking price. After we were greeted by Eddie at the airport, Caleb and I were able to talk him down another $400. That money will be much better spent on the trip instead of paying for vans. During the hour or so we had before the California crew arrived, Eddie took us around and showed us the local beach and arena. Eddie drove one van and I drove the other. I quickly learned that follow the leader is more of a game of "let's see if you can keep up whilst dodging potholes and other cars on the road while pretending that there are no lanes" "all while countless motorbikes dodged in and out of traffic". Luckily, learning to drive in California.. helped me to navigate without killing anyone. Or any stray cows, dogs or goats dotting the road. But it was nice to have a little time to just see a bit of Santa Domingo while we were there. We were elated to greet my mom and her crew and happy to load the vans with 12 people, 1200+ lbs. of supplies and make our way towards Haiti.
Sidenote: I found it interesting that when you rent a car in the U.S., it comes with a full tank of gas and you return it full.. paying for the gas used. Here, the vans come running on fumes (we spent $160 filling them) and were told to bring them back empty... sounds like any gas above empty is a tip. Makes sense for them, I guess.
Downtown Santa Domingo was crowded and chaotic. It seemed that the nearer we got to the Haitian border, the fewer the cars and the worse the roads. As night fell, my focus switched from dodging cars to dodging potholes, spending at least half of the trip driving in the opposite lane (I say potholes but sometimes the "pothole" was a hundred yard section of road missing). Speed bumps in the D.R. and Haiti are brutally high, especially for a weighed down van. They are also very well watched, it seemed a rarity to pass a speed bump without a person or ten sitting and watching the action. I write this as my DVR at home fills with episodes of The Office, Lost and Oprah (Britt). Entertainment has a different meaning here. We reach the border around midnight to the sight of soldiers wielding assault rifles. We were told crossing at night wasn't normally aloud but because of the tragedy in Haiti, supposedly they would let people through. They told us straight away that it was closed and that we would have to wait til morning. Our driver (a native Dominican) explained our situation but they still didn't seem convinced. A soldier came to my van and in non fluent spanish, I explained that we were part of a medical team and showed him our badges. They didn't seem too impressed or inclined in the least to open the gate. Our native driver, Misael went with the shady border control officers behind a dimly lit wall. We waited, each of us praying that we would get the medicine and supplies through tonight. I couldn't help but think that the scene was reminiscent of something out of a movie. I sensed Britt's anxiety as we all sat there quietly. It was definitely a tense moment. Misael returned and informed us that they would let us through for $30 a vehicle. We had already anticipated a border bribe, so we were happy.
Then came the Haitian border. A little less intimidating. They originally asked us for $50 US and Paul's earring to get across. But when they heard Chris speaking Creole, they were so excited and forgot their "tough guy" front. They joked with him for a minute before waving us through.
Finally in Haiti.