On the way to Logan Airport, I reflected on my last trip to Haiti. I thought about the people I met and patients we had seen. Since our last trip, there had been flooding in the area where we were staying and I wondered how bad the damage was. I was excited to see people that I had met on my prior trip, and a little apprehensive about revisiting the poverty and hopelessness of some of the saddest cases that we saw last time.
The return to Haiti was chaotic. People rushed to get on the plane in NYC, shouting to family members, moving bags around, arguing about baggage space. No attendants were around, so I helped the woman sitting next to me stow her bag. I inadvertently started an argument about who gets what space among three rows of passengers. I sat down and pretended to sleep. Our flight left late because there were three bags that belonged to passengers who were not on the plane.
During the flight, an American woman helped a Haitian man fill out the Customs paperwork. When she realized that she made a mistake, she threw out the paperwork, expecting to be able to get another copy. For whatever reason, neither she nor the Haitian man saw the woman come back around with more paperwork. When they did finally see her, she had no more forms. Another argument began between the American woman and the flight attendant. The man also expressed discontent and then others began to yell as well. The American woman kept asking for the attendant’s name. The attendant refused and yelled some more. I continued to pretend to sleep.
The rest of the flight was uneventful until we descended for the landing. It was a slightly rough landing, which was not out of the ordinary for me, but the Haitian people began cheering and thanking Jesus once they were on the ground. The cheering lasted until we were at the gate, when chaos returned. I exited the plane last and went to retrieve my luggage, which was nowhere to be found. I finally found it among the last of the bags. There was a band playing island music in the airport. As we exited the airport, we were met with a huge group of people all wanting to help with our bags for a tip. We found our ride and off we went.
On the way to the guest house, I sat in the back of the pickup with one of the team members and talked about what I knew and remembered from the last trip. At one point a kid jumped on to the back of the pickup truck and shouted something that I couldn’t make out. He had crutches under his arm and I finally understood that he was asking what hospital we were going to. I responded that we were going to St. Luke’s and he nodded and jumped off. I then saw that the crutches were for a below-the-knee amputation. I watched him disappear into the mass of people and traffic in the road.
We finally arrived at the guest house and met with Denzo, the manager of the guest houses. It was good to see a familiar face. After going to pick up groceries, I made dinner and saw Wilson, the night manager. When he came to say hello, he was grinning this huge amazing smile. We hugged and I gave him a phone I had brought for him, as he had told me on Facebook that his was broken. I also had brought Nutella for some Italian midwives who work in St. Damien’s hospital, and they were thrilled.
After dinner we turned in early to be ready for the next day. Welcome back to Haiti indeed.