Sunday, May 3, 2009

On Traveling to Haiti and other related things #7

The last thing I was a concerned about was knowing which flight to take to Cayes.

I certainly didn’t want to miss it; especially after all that. I knew it was supposed to leave at 4pm. I wasn’t sure however, if that was Haitian time or real time. There is a difference. I couldn’t understand much of what was being said during the boarding calls but could occasionally make out the name of a town or village that I was familiar with. I hoped that I would be able to recognize the call for Cayes but prayed that God would help me to know when to board. Tickets for Tortoug’Air are not printed for individual passengers but are slips of colored paper with the Tortoug Logo printed on them and the City of Destination Printed across the ticket. Different destinations have different colors. They are laminated. As passengers board they are collected and used again for the next flight to that same destination. I kept looking at other passengers boarding tickets hoping to see one that matched mine. Then I would know to board when I saw them board. The airport was bustling and all afternoon people came and went and no one seemed to be traveling to Cayes. I kept holding out hope that I wasn’t the only one going to Cayes.

One thing to note about Haiti is that Haitian men, mostly young ones, love to try and talk to American girls. Sometimes the motives aren’t always pure and at other times they just want the opportunity to practice their English. I usually enjoy interacting with the Haitians in the airport and appreciate the opportunity to practice my Creole. But this day I was just exhausted and didn’t have it in me to even try. I did my best to keep a low profile and not make any eye contact but sometimes it’s unavoidable; especially when someone turns around in their seat, stares at you for several minutes, and starts asking you questions, before you ever make eye contact. I know this from experience. I politely made what little small talk I could, which mostly consisted of me confirming that was indeed an American. (in case it wasn’t obvious) and that I didn’t speak much Creole. And that I was headed to Cayes. I also found out his name was Gilliam. Our conversation was interrupted a number of times when Nadir needed me for something and I would gratefully go and assist. I would come back, and for a little while Gilliam would have disappeared only to reappear after not too long. I had exhausted all of the Creole I had with him and the last time he came and sat by me, after he confirmed one last time that I was an American women, we sat in silence. I knew that my flight should be boarding soon but was still not confident in my ability to make the flight. I had seen one woman with a pink ticket and thought she would be the best bet I had but I still couldn’t be sure. After several minutes of silence, a call came over the intercom. I thought I heard them say Cayes but was still not sure. It’s all said so fast that I still have trouble separating one word from the next. Just as I was wondering if that was indeed my flight, Gilliam made one last effort to communicate. He tapped me on the shoulder, motioned with his head and hand towards the door and said, “Aux Cayes”. I nodded, thanked him, “Mesi Anpil” and headed off to board my flight, ironically, grateful for his company.

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