Saturday, July 23, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016 - Day Zero - Departure and Arrival

Friday, July 22, 2016 - Day Zero - Departure and Arrival 

After meeting at SFO at the unholy hour of 5.30 am, we checked in and found our flight to ATL on time.  After a terminal shift in ATL, we also boarded an on time flight for Port Au Prince.  We did not know why either was a surprise but we were thankful for everything running like clockwork.

We landed in Port Au Prince without too much fanfare in spite of the random flashes of lightning in the background and new world crosswinds.  Streaming through customs and immigration, we picked up all of our luggage, proceeded out of the airport and found Mr Daniel Tillas waiting for us.  

Daniel has been our prime translator and guide while in Haiti, and this trip is the eighth installment of this very successful immersion experience program.  He has been helping us with contacts and arrangements since the very beginning.  There are eight students (plus one who will arrive tomorrow night) with us on this trip, with three being second time participants.  

Outside of the airport, the intense humidity hits you in the face like a Scandinavian sauna stalking us everywhere we go, broken up roads with plenty of random rubble, and total darkness illuminated by the occasional car and very scant city lights.  Apparently, the city power grid is offline until about midnight.  People are milling about, being social ... music is blaring from a truck on the left and a makeshift corrugated tin roof hut on the right.  The poverty seems to be a given, but the joy on people's faces is clear.  And, maybe that, too, helps to light up this early part of our journey.

Daniel drove us to our residence for the next three days, the Eucalyptus Guest House.  We were greeted Ernso, the proprietor of the guest house who warmly greeted us and welcomed us to his place.  After a very tasty meal consisting of fried chicken, red beans and rice, fresh avocado, beets, carrots, and finished off with eucalyptus tea, we sat for our first reflection meeting of the trip.

Mr Joe Palladino led our reflection and asked us:

Who are we?
Why are we here?
What we might be afraid of? 
and, What are we curious about?

And, with that, we proceeded to share with one another our intentions and aims for the trip and we got to know one another.  Already bonds are being formed as short stories of our early experiences were being shared with one another. 

Words of wisdom were shared by all:

Lean in, don't lean out; 
"Punch the devil in the face" (to be explained later, says Palladino); 
stay present;
wrestle with your questions;
and, work with "island time."

Group responsibilities were also divvied up with rather interesting titles:

Dean of Water: Caetano
(responsible for ensuring the group is hydrated at all times)

Overlord of Timeliness: Dane
(to counteract island time, our group needs to be on time all the time)

Vibes Co-Coordinators: Peter and Lizzie
(to ensure inclusive community within the group)

President of Introductions: Gabi
(responsible for formally introducing our group to folks we will meet)

Sheriff of Smartphones: Cole
(no phones, only our presence!)
Assistant Manager to the Regional Manager of Blogs and Pictures: Mr T
(to share our stories with our loved ones back home)

Minister of Sunscreen: Ari
(to remind us to protect ourselves from UV rays always)

Secretary of Bugspray: Katie
(to remind us to protect ourselves from miscreant bugs)

With that, and after a long day of travel, we decided to call it a night.  Tomorrow, we meet Daniel after breakfast for a daylong excursion to Sakala

(wi fi is a little slow, and we'll try and post photographs when the line speeds up!)