Sunday, May 3, 2009

On Traveling to Haiti and other related things #6

There would be a five hour layover at the next airport.

The local Haitian airport in Port au Prince is a small airport by any standard. As you walk in, you toss your belongings onto a small security belt and step through the metal detector. As you pass through the metal detector about 15 feet in front of you is the ticket counter. Just beyond the ticket counter is a glass wall and just beyond the glass wall is where the planes land and take off. The planes are small and can hold about 20 passengers and their luggage. There is a 70lb luggage limit and on the plane, the luggage is stashed in any unused seats and at the rear of the plane. The first row (all three seats) is about 3 feet from the cockpit. And the last row is about 15 feet from the first. The plane is in fact so small that during my flight in, it had started raining. I fell asleep shortly into the flight and was awakened to an unfamiliar, and yet somehow recognizable sound. The pilot had turned on his windshield wipers and they were scraping across the window. Not something you hear very often on a passenger plane.

The airport is comparably sized. To the right of the security belt and metal detector is the waiting area. There are probably about 50 seats available and most of them are taken, always. The ticket counters stand about 15 feet directly in front of the waiting area. Along the left wall of the airport is another ticket counter and the restrooms. The bathrooms are nothing fancy, but there if you need them. Along the far right wall are a couple offices. You are free to come and go from the airport as you please. There is no food court; just a stand-up cooler with some bottled water and occasionally bottles of juice. If you want to buy rum or wine, just see the girl at the back of the waiting area. You can get that from her. You can also pay her for your bottled water. If you want to eat, and have a long enough lay-over, just across the street at the Tigermart gas station they have a buffet line. The food is pretty good there. It’s worth the trip if you have the time. There is no A/C at the airport. The area is cooled by an old, by powerful, metal, oscillating fan. Sometimes when the electricity goes out, passengers are boarded by someone behind the counter yelling loud enough to be heard over the crowd. If the electricity goes off, so does the fan. It’s only then that it actually gets really warm in there. Except on really hot days. Then it’s warm regardless. It’s never quiet. People come and go. Planes land and take off. And the activity never stops. It seems as though everybody who’s there knows somebody else who’s there, but not because they came together.

I had made it through Jacksonville, Miami, and the International Airport in Port au Prince. I had passed security and customs. I had not gotten lost. I had not been deported and I had all my luggage. I was golden.

A ticket for my plane ride had been purchased at the airport in Cayes and arrangements had been made to courier the ticket from Cayes to Port au Prince. All I needed to do was show an ID and pick up my ticket at the Courier counter and wait until 4pm to board the small plane that would carry me away into the sunset.

Nadir took my passport and presented it to the counter. No ticket was waiting for me. Two hours later, after many calls between Billy Moses, Nadir, and the Office in Cayes, they were able to locate my confirmation number and issue me a new ticket. Hallelujah! I was goin’ home… in three hours.

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