Thursday, June 30, 2011

Haiti - Day 1

5:20am - Ooohhh its SO early!! My alarm went off at 3:45 and I was slightly confused. For like half a second. Then I was PUMPED! I threw my clothes on, washed my face (didn't even touch my hair, but my mom braided last night), grabbed my cameras and bags, and was out the door by 4am - which is entirely too early to get to KCI. I mean an hour and a half early for a 6am Thursday morning flight?? I don't think so! But the girls I am meeting there and traveling to Haiti with (Amy-24, Christa-27, Kara-20, and Amelia-30) were meeting THERE at 4am!! So I thought getting there at 4:30 was a compromise for me. I parked the car and my mom helped me drag my bags in. They were HEAVY! I could have managed on my own, but it wouldn't of been pretty. The cheap suitcase from Goodwill that is missing a wheel made a terrible loud dragging sound the whole time!

Turned out when I got there, the girls were still waiting in line because the check in gate didn't even open until 4:30!! I didn't have to wait in line too long, maybe 15 minutes ... and then the bag shuffle / rearranging began! It was somewhat of a disaster because the line behind us was getting super long, and we each had two huge bags. Some were over 50 pounds and some were under. So, like I said, we all had our bags spread out (in the front of the line) pulling heavy stuff out and putting it in the bags that were under, etc. I'm happy to report that one of my bags was slightly under 50 pounds (and one was slightly over).

Kara, me, Amy, Amelia, and Christa

One of my bags, weighing in at only 47 pounds!

After about 10-15 minutes of this mayhem (throwing bags on and off the scales), we got ALL of our bags right around 50 pounds each and they let us go! The airline workers were so over it, they let several go with a few extra pounds. I'm sure the people behind us were just a little irritated with us, but oh well, ALL of our stuff is officially on its way to Haiti!!  No line at security and we were at our gate by 5am. SEE! This is why I don't come to KCI this early! ;) The wait really wasn't too bad. We sat around and talked a little, and boarding actually started on time!  I was in my seat by 5:40am. We took off before 6:15 and the quick flight to Dallas was pretty uneventful, but it was a completely full flight, which kind of surprised me for so early on a Thursday morning...

1:30pm - Landed in Dallas at 7:25 and took off for Miami around 8:40, so not much down time between getting off the plane, finding a bathroom, getting a snack, finding my gate, and boarding the next plane! 2.5 hour flight from Dallas to Miami, and I slept for maybe an hour. We had some super greasy (and super good) chinese food at the airport, and didn't have too long to wait for our flight to Port Au Prince - maybe 30 minutes. The gate definitly looked more Haitian than America. 

Its really been an easy day of traveling so far. Flights haven't been too long, not much waiting around, and my back pack isn't near as heavy as it usually is! Oh yea, and Tori Spelling, Dean McDermott, amd their two kids came by on one of those little cart things in the airport here in Miami. I didn't recognize them, but the three Tenpenny sisters did and were all pretty excited about it! I thought you had to be old or sick or injured or something to get on one of those things.  Apparently you just have to be rich or famous!

4:25pm - Did I really have to say this has been an easy travel day?! I totally jinxed it! We have now been sitting on the plane - on the runway - for close to two hours. WITH the "fasten your seatbelt" sign on, ha! A big storm moved in right as we were boarding, and its kept us grounded. No estimate on when - or IF - we might get to take off - just lots of thunder, lightning, wind and rain. I've always heard those horror stories of people being stuck on the airplanes for like 8 hours or something crazy like that, I've just never experienced it.  2 hours and counting now - I hope its not much longer. This is getting old. (The guy next to me said American Airlines has a policy of only allowing passengers to sit on a plane for 3 hours. I think I'm going to find out if that is true or not...)

7pm - Hallelujia! Exactly 2 hours and 50 minutes after we were supposed to leave Miami, we actually took off for Haiti! All that waiting made the 1.5 hour flight to Port Au Prince seem much longer! We were actually lucky we got to take off at all. We were the last flight out for the day, because Haiti's airport shuts down at night. I guess its not safe to be out and about in the evening.  Awesome. ;)  Anyways, we landed, walked through the "nice" part of the airport, which really wasn't too bad. However, you could see the other side of the airport, which had cracked walls and some broken out windows. Crazy.

cracked windows at the airport

We all had to squeeze in for a spot on the bus to take us to another building (more cracked walls and cement floors) where immigration and baggage claim was. Utter chaos is the best way to describe it really. Well actually, immigration was a joke. It went super fast and they didn't even really look at me, my form (that I messed up on) or my passport - I just got a stamp and was waived on through. The chaotic part was the baggage claim. There are only two baggage claims and three planes had just come in. One was a HUGE one from Air France.  So people were just packed in this little blazing hot area trying to grab their HUGE bags. And the airline workers just chucked them all on the moving ramp and stacked them, so as they went around, they were falling off and knocking people over. People were actually climbing up on the moving ramp and walking around trying to get them! Nuts, I tell you! Aaand I'm sweating to death. Too many Haitains and not enough air!! Okay, Amy and I are off to fight the madness of baggage claim to try and find our bags - since none of the other girls want to jump in the middle of that.


The madness of baggage claim

 10:15pm - Holy cow I am tired!! Actually, I was tired about three hours ago. Okay, so the update from the airport... 6 of our 9 bags did NOT make it here. I stood there for a long time...and the same 2 or 3 leftover bags kept coming around...none of which were ours. How do they lose THAT MANY bags?? I started wondering if someone else just grabbed them, so I kind of walked around and looked at what bags were on the other peoples carts that were still there. No luck. Didn't see them. And then I remembered just HOW that many bags get left! When we were sitting on the runway - FOR OVER TWO HOURS - I saw a big cart full of luggage sitting right by our plane. And we were all like, "Oh, well we can't leave until they get our luggage on here..." But then we left. And we just assumed maybe that wasn't our luggage after all. But yea, they just left an entire cart full of luggage on the runway in Haiti. Pretty sweet, American Airlines.

So anyways, Wes (guy from KC who has lived here for 9 months with GOP) took our baggage claim stickers and boarding passes and went to talk to the gal at the American Airlines desk. They got in to it about needing ALL of the boarding passes, from KC on, which I had already thrown away. And he was arguing saying she didn't need them all because he does this every week with them and all she needs is the baggage claim stickers. This was mostly in Creole I think, he filled me in after. So we had to leave without our bags. Thank goodness I had all my stuff in my carry-on (except for some more food). Everything in my big checked bags was for the kids, and it should be here on the first flight in in the morning.

Wes talking to the AA lady about our missing bags

 So I mentioned earlier how the airport closes at night and we were the last flight in. That's because it gets dark so early here! We finally got out of the airport right at 7, and it was pitch black! I couldn't believe it! There was a newer looking big chain link fence separating the people on the streets from us as we walked along this long corridor thing, which I was thankful for. Also thankful it was late (not so busy) and dark out and very poorly lit, because I couldn't see all the sad faces of the people clinging to the fence asking, "Please sistah, gimme one dolla! God bless ya..." One little guy, probably 8 or 9, followed me most of the walk, saying that over and over. It took all I had to not give him some money - but I know, that's only encouraging the begging and not really helping at all.

Just outside the airport - the fence separating us from the street

We got to our big white van - which is really nice - pretty unscathed by the beggers. There weren't really that many people hanging around the airport anymore. The only bad thing about getting in that late was that I didn't really get to see much of the area. I mean it was dark out! It wss kinda cool to see a little of the night life though I guess. There were SO many people just lining the streets! Lots of activity, people cramming in to little "tap-tap" taxi things - basically a little pick-up truck all decorated with a topper on it piled full of people. Lots of crumbling buildings, and LOTS of barbed wire. I don't mean just regular barbed wire, I mean like the biggest sharpest barbed wire they make, and it lined the cement block fences of any building worth anything I guess. We drove along bumpy pot-hole roads, and drove right by a giant tent city. I knew there were tent cities, and I knew I'd probably see one. But it still caught me off guard and made my heart sink clear down to my toes. :( I can't even describe it. 18 months after the earthquake, and there are still MILLIONS (literally) of people living like this?? In a little square separated by a tarp?! Youv got to be kidding me, right? What happened to all of that money Americans raised and donated? Where did it go? Why do so many people still have absoutely nothing to call there own, living without electricity or running water, getting cholera. Its such an injustice and makes me sick to even think about, so I'm going to stop for tonight - for the sake of time (and my thumbs typing this on my phone).

We pulled off the main road on to an even bumpier road for a few hundred feet, honked the horn, and the cutest little guy opened the big gate. I thought the kids would be in bed already, but they were definitely still up and playing a little after 8. So it turns out, we aren't actually staying AT the orphanage. There is a little mini-motel kinda thing, called the Jumecourt Inn, that is right next to the orphanage (in the same compound or surrounded by the same big cement fence/barrier, its just across the parking lot) that we are staying at. Normally, there is ac and running water...but not tonight, haha! The pump broke today, and the electricity is on and off. So not water, no flushing toilets, lots of bugs, and I'm super tired. Yea, that's all I have to say about tonight! ;) I'm gonna wash my face and brush my teeth with the water I have left in my water bottle, and call it a night! (They warned us several times to not use this water for ANYTHING, even if it was running, because there is a big cholera outbreak right now.) Maybe, just maybe, if I kill a couple more cocroaches (already killed 2) and crickets (just killed one giant one) around my bed, I'll stop sweating enough to try and get some sleep.

Welcome to HAITI!! ;)

The gate outside the orphanage/inn

The front room - my bed is the blue one on the right, Amy's is on the left

The back room - where Emily and Erin (sisters from CO) will stay

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Haiti Here I Come!

I know, I know...I just went on a trip last month.  But this is a much shorter trip (only five days) and it's a (little) closer destination!  HAITI!  I leave at the crack of dawn tomorrow, and will come back Monday night.  I am traveling with 5 other girls from here in KC (three sisters around my age and two other girls) through The Global Orphan Project - they are an amazing organization and I love the work they do.  We will meet up with several other girls from Colorado, and will be staying at an orphanage with over 90 kids just outside of Port Au Prince.  We will also be visiting three or four other orphanages in the city (I believe) and we get to go to church Sunday in the city!  I'm SUPER excited to get down there and love on those kids! I really have no idea what to expect, as I've never stayed at an orphange before, let alone one with so many kids.  And I don't speak one word of French or it could be interesting. :)

Weather wise, it's not ever supposed to be below 80, not even at night...and we only get two meals a day - breakfast and dinner.   (FYI, I normally eat something almost every two hours.  Forget clean clothes - my back pack is definitely half full of food.)  I know I won't have access to the internet there - they said even electricity is hit or miss - so I will just have to write my updates on my phone again and get them up here when I get back next week!  I'll try to keep my pictures under 500, but I make no promises. :) 

So many people have been SO genergous with giving me things to take down to Haiti for the kids (mainly my awesome church).  My dentist gave me tons of toothbrushes, a family from church gave me lots of peanut butter and their daughters made over 100 bracelets, one for each kid at the orphanage!  It's really been an amazing experience already - just to see the generosity and love people here in the states have - and I havent' even left yet!  I've got soccer nets, blow up toys, jump ropes...I could go on.  Hey, you know what, I think I WILL go on!  Last Sunday I actually took inventory of everything I've received!  I was getting a little worried about how it was going to all fit in two suitcases (and be under 100 pounds), so I just decided to document it all to see what exactlly I was dealing with.  So here's the list: (I'm warning you, it's long...)

-110 hand made bracelets
-28 pairs of flip-flops
-3 soccer balls (I deflated them), 1 air pump, and 2 soccer nets (the soccer nets were a special request, as the orphanage just recently got soccer goals put up)
-4 jump ropes
-8 hacky sack balls
-4 blow up beach balls
-2 inflatable bat and ball sets
-2 sets of Disney princess twin size sheets
-2 sets of white twin size sheets
-4 full size towels, 4 hand towels, and 22 wash clothes
-1 book of smiley face stickers
-1 sticky notes memo set (for house mom)
-3 sets of markers (36 packs)
-3 sets of huge markers (6 packs)
-3 sets of glitter glue pens (10 packs)
-12 glue sticks
-3 packages of multi-colored beads (400 pieces each)
-8 jars of peanut butter (that stuff gets heavy really fast!)
-6 packs of toothbrushes from my dentist (17 in each pack - that makes 102 toothbrushes)
-12 tubes of toothpaste
-22 tubes of chapstick
-12 pack of combs and a 10 pack of combs
-6 bottles of body wash
-2 bottles of baby shampoo
-14 bottles of regular shampoo
-1 bottle of baby lotion
-14 bottles of regular body lotion
-at least 200 bars of soap (I stopped counting at 50 when I realized I hadn't even made a dent in the bag!)
-8 packs of first aid ointment
-30 boxes of hand sanitizing wipes
-5 boxes of bandaids
-6 boxes of gauze
-3 packs of disposable washclothes (8 packs)
-1 digital thermometer
-$70 cash

I told you it was long! 

deflating soccer balls

I bought a big suitcase at the Goodwill store that is missing a wheel and has a hole in it for $4, so I can just leave it down in Haiti.  My other bag is a HUGE black duffel bag I borrowed from my brother.  In order to keep it under 100 pounds (well, I THINK it's close to being under 100 pounds - guess I won't find out until I get to the aiport tomorrow because I don't have a scale), I got rid of EVERYTHING that wasn't needed...  I mean everything came out of boxes and bags, all tags were removed, etc.  That stuff is CRAMMED in those bags/suitcases, and all my personal stuff (ie lots of food and a couple tshirts) is in my trusty back-pack which I will be carrying on with me.  Don't ask me how I possibly think I am going to carry more weight than I weigh myself.  I'll cross that bridge at 4:30 in the morning I guess...

all my luggage

So that's it - I'm off to Haiti tomorrow! :)

(Oh yea, and today is my birthday!  I'm officially O L D - 28!!)

My whole family came over for dinner to celebrate!