Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back at Home

Written by Nick
Before I talk about the adventure I had getting back to COTP I want to thank everyone that had a part in our trip back to the states.  First the limited and already overworked Staff at COTP had to take on extra responsibilities with not much notice of our absence.  Thank you to Jamie and Jenny who hosted us at Minnesota, we had a wonderful time getting to know everyone and talking about our long future here at COTP.  Finally our Families who we completely surprised, they dropped all of their plans and spend wonderful time with us.  I truly enjoyed being home and it really re-energized me into coming back!

My journey back to COTP was an adventure to say the least.  I used the phrase many times “we have more time than money”, so for instance when booking our tickets and planned the trip I opted for 2 layovers between Portland and Flordia.  I will say that the trip back was normal and a perfect success, some might disagree, its all relative.
I arrived at PDX a good 2 hours before my flight to Sacrament, where I had my first layover.  When I arrived I was through check in, through security in 5 minutes and at the gate in another 3.  Everything so far was going perfectly.  We landed in Sacramento and I needed to switch planes.  Unfortunately the plane I was suppose to go to Denver on was broken so they re-assigned us to a different gate.  After they figured out that there were logistical problems with the gate that they assigned to us they gave us a different gate and delayed the plane 20 min.  
About 40 minutes after the plane was supposed to leave we left for Denver.  I began to consider that I only have 70 minutes from when I land in Fort Lauderdale in Terminal 1 to get to Terminal 4, check in, go through security and board the plane.  At this point though I was still pretty confident that I would make it.
In Denver I had to stay on the same plane to Fort Lauderdale, the plane landed in late so they made everyone stay on the plane and tried to turn it around as quickly as they possibly could.  I was flying on Southwest and they have a unique boarding system.  Everyone gets a number and when its your chance you get to board the plane and sit where ever you want.  This to me is foreign and strange but so far it has worked out really well.  When we landed in Denver I was able to ‘pretend‘ to disembark and then sit down in the very first seat.  I thought this would give me an extra 5 minutes in Fort Lauderdale if I didn’t have to wait for everyone in front of me.  (this worked great by the way.) However, when a large family boards last and throws a huge fit when they all get separate center seats it can delay the plane 20 minutes!  So now on top of our other delays I figured at best I would have 30 minutes by the time we arrived at the terminal in Fort Lauderdale.
Usually I am able to sleep on flights, I board, I sleep, I wake up to get my free drink, I sleep some more, and then I leave rested.  I sat there wide awake thinking of the delayed factor and the huge unknown of the level of violence that was in Cap-Haitien.  I was still debating whether or not I should have changing my route, etc... I was wide awake the entire time.  
We landed in Fort Lauderdale and I had 25 minutes exactly as I ran off the plane and down the terminal.  The Fort Lauderdale has 4 terminals.  I was not sure which one I had flown into so as I ran past the TSA dude I asked him,  It was an additional blow to hear that I was in Terminal 1.  Terminal two or three would have made it a much quicker transfer.  In desperation as I exited the building I asked a taxi driver if he would drive me to Terminal 4 for $5.  He said No.  So then I had to make the decision of walk/jog or wait for the shuttle.  Although typically reliable I figured that I could not chance the shuttle at 10:30 at night so I would walk and Jog to Terminal 4.  I arrived at the counter sweaty, huffing and puffing, and 10 minutes before the plane took off.  The desk agent first told me that I was too late.  Then his supervisor piped up and said that the plane had been delayed.  Apparently it had been late getting out of Boston.  The desk agent reminded me about 10 times how lucky I was, I just kept thinking ‘I know!’.  
The nice part about flying into Santiago was that after that I had no plans on what to do.  So arriving at 4am was pretty much no different than arriving at 3am!  My plan in Santiago was to wait until daylight, go to the bus station and then get a bus to the DR.  
I met some people on the plane that were headed to Puerto Plata, a resort town north of Santiago.  After the plane landed, we got our bags, made it through customs and even though I was planning on hanging out in the airport for 2 hours they asked me if I wanted to split a taxi with them to the bus station.  I figured that this was probably a good option because the Taxis are expensive, and the bus stations are safe.  
When I got to my bus station I jumped out and said ‘Dajabon’, I was hoping that by me saying one word he would understand that I didn’t speak any Spanish and that I wanted to go to Dajabon on a bus.  He nodded yes and sent me to the counter to buy a ticket for the bus.  I went to the counter and again said ‘Dajabon’ hoping that if there was any translation issue with the first guy that she would be able to figure it out.  She nodded, took my money and printed me out a ticket and I returned and climbed aboard the luxury bus, once again saying my destination to ensure of no mistack.  I just kept thinking how lucky I was because 2 minutes later I would have missed the bus, and who knows when the next bus comes.
After riding the bus for about 20 minutes I began thinking that I didn’t recognize this at all.  It was difficult because it was still dark and raining lightly.  Then I saw signs that said Santa Domingo Straight ahead.  I didn’t want Santa Domingo to be straight ahead...
So I arrived in Santa Domingo about 2.5 hours after I left Santiago.  I thought ‘well God, you must not have wanted me at the border yet.’ I got off the bus, bought another bus ticket and was headed back to Santiago 5 minutes later.  The bus I went back to Santiago was even fancier than the one I had left behind in Santiago Domingo.  It had onboard WIFI, who has ever hear of that, not to mention that there were no signs advertising it.  I just happened to check for wifi, not that there has ever been free wifi on any vehicle I have ever ridden on.  It was so nice to have internet.  I was able to connect with Nikki and update her on my status. She was also able to give me information from a phone card so that when I got to the boarder I would have service.  It was amazing that it worked out so well.  
When I got back to the bus station I was able to find a person to translate to the Taxi driver exactly what I wanted.  The taxi driver then took me to the bus station that I had originally wanted and I got aboard a not so luxury bus.  Again, I arrived just in time, two minutes later I would have missed the bus.  The bus ride was fun, I find it amazing that I can understand some creole now, and incredibly frustrating that I can’t understand or speak any Spanish.  My seat partner had bought an orange from a guy that jumps on and off busses selling goods when the bus makes their super quick stopes.  He shared it with me and had a good laugh watching me spill orange juice all over myself.  After that I shared a can of BBQ Pringles with him and my other bus friends that I could not talk to.  We arrived in Dajabon about 3 hours later.  I jumped on a motorcycle and said ‘Haiti’ He understood that and took me the 15 or so blocks to the boarder.  
When I go to the boarder I stood around and looked confused for a minute trying to figure out my next step.  I tried to call Nikki buy my phone was still on the DR networks so it was not working.  From what I could tell they boarder looked pretty peaceful.  I then saw some guys that looked friendly and started talking with them.  They had just came across from the Cap area and told me that everything is fine.  They said that they were waiting for a group from the nearby hospital to come, and that they would be there any minute.  I said thanks for the great info and started across the boarder.  
The boarder bridge was as peaceful as the day we had left.  I crossed with no problem. Just as I was finishing my paperwork on the Dominican side I saw two trucks pull up with people that were leaving, as well as one of my friends that had been working at the Hospital.  I literally could not have planned, predicted, or even thought of it working out so well.  I finished my paperwork on the Haitian side and we were off back towards COTP.  I talked to Nikki and they were relieved that they did not need to come pick me up because everyone was so busy.  
The ride back through Haiti was fine and peaceful.  You would not have known that awful rioting had been happing just 2 days prior.  I also made some more friends with the people that had escorted the doctors to the boarder.  They were nice guys, and were able to drop me off at an intersection next to where I live where I was met by one of our staff members on a motorcycle to take me the rest of the way.  
When I made it through the final gate into COTP I was full of joy to see my Wife and Son sitting under the tree waiting for me.  
Traveling to and from Haiti is an event.  I find that it is better to always think of it as an adventure rather than dreading it.  For instance did you know that they sell Krispy Kremes in Santa Domingo?  I bet not.  But I drove past the store.  Next time I have an craving for some good doughnuts, it would only take me about 8 hours to get there, but it might be worth it!
Thank for reading all of this, I know it became a bit long, bud I didn’t want to leave out details, I hope it was entertaining, I also hope that you can rejoice with me in how amazing our God is a protector, planner and comforter.  

1 comment:

  1. Wow, please tell me that my trip to Haiti will not be the "adventure" you just had. I'm way too old for all that excitement and stress. God truly had a hand in your trip home. We thanked him over and over for both your and Nikki's safe return.