Monday, December 10, 2012

Haiti Travel Day

Haiti by the Numbers:
  •  Less than 45% have clean water
  • 74 babies due per 1000 births
  • 12% of all babies die before their 1st birthday
  • 1/3 of all children die before they reach the age of 5
  • 1 in 71 women will die in pregnancy or childbirth
  • 50% of the population earns less than $60 per year
  • The average life expectancy is 53  
Travel day July 2011

I was so anxious I hardly slept. The kids and I were very emotional when I left. Ben drove me to the airport. It was nice to spend the time with him alone. He was kind enough to help me with the 150 pounds of luggage I had to carry. The first flight from Vegas to Miami was uneventful. I had a window seat over the wing which is my favorite place to sit. I love watching the wing adjust as we fly. The plane had substantial hail damage which was a bit concerning. My two seat mates were two late twenty something brothers from Australia. A third brother sat across the isle.  They reminded me of my boys. There were two that were very similar in height and one suave looking youngest one who was much shorter. They were very nice and we spent a good amount of the time discussing similar places we had traveled over the world. 

 I arrived safely and got my bags only to have several urgent emails from Mamababy Haiti saying my flight must be wrong since the only 1130 flight arriving in cap Haitian was a cargo plane. Of course the ticket office wasn't open so that began the anxious night of attempted sleep. Every 15 minutes a loud speaker would come on and announce the time in both English and Spanish. There were several other repeating announcements in between. I had three sleep options. To try to sleep sitting up in the divided chair, to sleep alone right under a large speaker or to sleep with a bunch of traveling hitch hiker hippie surfing guys. I tried my luck by myself and got a little intermittent sleep. Evidently the Miami airport goes dead at 12 am only to wake up fully at 2 am. So I was up then as well sharing the airport Dunkin doughnuts line with cops and foreign travelers. I woke to these men walking around wearing black jumpsuits with wide green stripes running down the legs.I could not figure out who they were or what they were doing. They started pulling covers off of these contraptions that I assumed were napping pods (yes I think these napping pods to not exist but they seemed like a great idea to my exhausted body at the time.  A little pod you could climb into and nap with a secure place to hold your luggage. Why not?)  Turns out they are baggage wrappers. Wrapping you luggage in green saran wrap to keep it safe from theft. It cracked me up to see every ones luggage a bright green color.

 After walking for over an hour I finally found the tiny ticket counter in what looked like the Miami airport basement. I stood in line with many colorful Haitian people and eves dropped a bit. They were obviously wealthy in order to be able to fly to the states. I got to the ticket counter and everything was explained regarding my ticket. We would be stopping over in a city called Marsh in the Bahamas to drop off some people and refuel. The plane was small and we had to pay a ton for extra baggage and they weighed us before we boarded.  You always know the plane is small when they weigh the passengers this I learned while traveling in Africa. We proceeded to sit and wait. Two  Haitian business men started up conversations with me about what I did and what they did. One in particular worked for the better part of an hour trying to convince me that my time in Haiti would be better spent with him getting the royal tour of the city than at the clinic. I never wear jewelry when I travel internationally but sometimes a wedding ring would be nice. Our conversation ended when I showed him adorable pictures of my family and he commented that I looked too young to have a 9 year old.

The flight was very bumpy and I nearly vomited several times. An extra take off and landing didn't help much with the air sickness. I don't hate flying but I don't love it either especially flying over open ocean. The seats were so small I don't know how anyone larger than me could have folded themselves into them.

I arrived safely greeted by Mary the Mamababy Haiti site director and Martha a student intern and Otair an interpreter. They were lovely and helped me make it through customs easily.  They even got it cleared that customs did not examine by bags which turned out to be a fortunate thing. It trying to save space and weight I had taken all of the probiotics, garlic pills, cranberry pills, and prenatal vitamins out of their original packages and jars and placed them in huge gallon sized bags. I had four gallon sized bags full of questionable material. I had also taken a gallon sized bag of vanilla protein powder. It looked like a bag of cocaine and even felt like it through the bag until you opened it and vanilla filled the air. Do they make vanilla scented cocaine? They would have been confiscated for sure and I would have been detained for who knows how long if they had searched them. The men in the airport were very helpful with luggage and eager for their $1 tips almost ripping the heavy 150 pounds of luggage out of my hands. 


We rode to the clinic in the MBH ambulance, a Tan Landrover, was intense with many near death experiences and gawking people.  We stopped to get native cassava bread which they baked from cassava ground and cooked on large round flat stones. It is delicious and interesting to watch then make. Things are very expensive here. Gas $5 a gallon. I joked with Otair that he liked honking the horn and siren on the ambulance when he smiled and said "We are here and this is how they know to open the gate." Sure enough a compound on my right with bright red doors swung open to welcome me to Mamababy Haiti. 



There was a birth going on when I arrived attended by the two native midwives. I was quickly oriented and unpacked. I share a room with 3 other midwives. It is so hot and humid. I struggle with claustrophobia from the bottom bunk and mosquito net. Dinner of black beans and rice with some sauce was served and it is delicious. I crash early around 8 pm only to wake up delirious several hours later in a hot sweat. The city power had gone off, something that happens nearly every night, and with the lack of power went my fan and my sanity.   I stumbled out to the people talking on the porch and moved my bed to a top bunk in the overflow staff room which is attached to the dinning room and family room and is much more open.  Much less claustrophobic. It slept restlessly until I was woken at 5 am with two moms in labor.

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