Well folks, let me just start this final Haiti blog by saying this: we made it home safe and sound. Was it how we planned? No. Was it on time? No. Was it cost effective? Not even close. But here’s how it happened.
We woke up on Tuesday morning ready to go home after a long week of work. So far, everything was normal. Breakfast at 8. We packed up our suitcases. Then we had about an hour to kill before we’d leave for the airport. Our flight was at 3:47pm so we planned on leaving at 11:00am. That way, if we hit any traffic, we’d still have plenty of time. I mean, the airport is only 28 miles away, there’s no way we weren’t making the flight, even if there happened to be bad traffic. More on this later #famouslastwords
At about 9:30am we decided to go on one last walk around the neighborhood. It is absolutely gorgeous around the guesthouse. We walked up the mountain to a spot that overlooks the ocean, turned around and saw the mountains across the street, and then headed down to a banana/fig tree farm (I can’t tell the difference) that was like a dense forest of bananas with a beautiful stream flowing through it. It really was incredible! However, time was winding down. We wanted to get back to the guesthouse around 10:30 so that we could have 30 minutes to make sure we had everything packed up and have time to say our goodbyes. It’s always hard to say goodbye to new friends that you’ve served alongside all week, but we said our goodbyes, loaded up, and headed for the airport right on schedule.
We were driving along quite nicely, but then about 20 minutes down the road, Pat’s phone rings. It was the guesthouse letting her know that her bag didn’t get loaded into the truck. Shoot! So we turned around, met them halfway up the road and got her suitcase. Now I know what you’re thinking, “oh boy, here we go, this is where it all starts,” but that’s not the case. We still had plenty of time. These are the types of things we planned ahead for. It only ended up being a 15-minute delay and we were right back on track. No problem.
As we drove down the road weaving through traffic (not in a hurry, that’s just how people drive in Haiti), we came to a point where things started to slow down. Again, this wasn’t a huge deal, traffic in Haiti is expected. The roads aren’t the best, there aren’t many traffic laws being followed, and there aren’t many roads to begin with, so congestion, especially around high-traffic intersections, is expected. So we just sat there and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. And then we realized…. We haven’t moved in 30 minutes. Maybe we should try a different route. So we turned around and made our way through a couple of the bumpiest back roads my bum has ever experienced, eventually making it to another paved road, and we were right back on track. We were a little behind schedule, but again, that’s why we left early. There was still plenty of time to make it to the airport.
It didn’t take long driving on this road before we started to slow down again. We ended up stopped in traffic, no different from before, now just on a different street. We were inching along slowly but surely. We were going to be later to the airport than we had hoped, but we were still looking good on time. But then disaster struck. From the back of the car we heard, “I reeeaally have to go to the bathroom.” Oh. No. This wouldn’t have been a huge deal if a guy had said this, however, this female passenger was going to have a difficult time finding a place to pee in a land where there aren’t public restrooms. So after some location scouting and a quick wall-sit later, she was back in the car. The whole process took about 10 minutes. The car didn’t move once.
I could tell everyone was getting a little nervous. Our flight was in 2 hours, and while we were only 10 miles away, it was looking more and more like we’d be lucky to make it to the airport by midnight at the rate we were moving.
At this point we had been sitting in traffic on the same 100 foot stretch for the last hour and a half. There was still a good chance we’d make our flight if the traffic let up, but it just wasn’t happening. We still had 2 hours, but it looked like walking the 10 miles would be more promising for us than making it on time in the car. 60 more minutes went by and I doubt we even moved 60 feet. It was at this point when the rest of the girls in the car decided it was time for pit stop #2. There was a Western Union near by so the girls got out, made their way past the 3 armed security guards, took care of business, and made it back to the car. The car had moved forward 3 car lengths in that timespan.
Now with everyone back in the car, our flight is 45 minutes away, and we decide it’s probably time to call Delta and let them know we might be a little late. We hadn’t moved in 2 and a half hours, but hey, maybe we’d still be able to make it. We finally were able to connect with them and tell them not to cancel our flights as no-shows, and continued to hope that we’d make it just in time to sprint through the airport and squeeze through the airplane doors right as they were closing just like in the movies.
I could hear the action movie music playing in my head. Everyone was getting a little antsy. We started going through the five stages of grief, and tried to come to terms with the fact that we might actually miss this flight.
With 30 minutes until take off, we started slowly moving again. It wasn’t much, but it was a glimmer of hope. Inching along turned into slowly moving along, which turned into moving along, and before we new it, we were well on our way. We knew the chances were slim, but we were cruising! Questions started being asked, “Do they delay flights often?” “Do you think they’d hold the plane for a group?” “How fast can you run?” We pulled up to the airport at 3:50pm and ran straight for the Delta Check in counter, but there was nobody there. I guess everyone else decided to show up before their flight. Weirdo’s. On the bright side, we didn’t have to wait in line :)
We missed our flight.
It was a real bummer. There is only 1 Delta flight that leaves Haiti each day and we missed it. We were going to have to wait 24 hours until the next one.
I called Mike and let him know what was going on. I had him call everyone’s family to give them the brief summary of what was happening and that everyone would be able to call home later. It certainly was not the ideal situation, but there really wasn’t much we could do about it. So, we hung out at the airport for the next hour while we figured out flights home for the next day and our sleeping arrangements for the night. We got a hotel in Port au Prince for the night because we definitely weren’t going to chance the traffic again the next day. We hopped in the back of the truck with our luggage, headed down the street to where we were staying, and settled in to our 24 hour home.
We made the best out of a less than ideal situation. We had a nice dinner, spent time as a team, played games, and got a good night sleep. It just goes to show that there are things in life that are just out of our control, and that being upset or frustrated about them is only making worse out of an already unfortunate situation. Everyone called home, called work, and let them know what was happening. It was a shame we didn’t get to go home as planned, but praise God that we made through that mess of traffic safely, that we had a place to stay for the night that was close to the airport, and that we had each other to keep company. It really wasn’t all that bad. It was kind of fun actually. An adventure for sure.
The next day we woke up, had breakfast at the hotel, and made our way to the airport what seemed like 10 hours early. We weren’t taking any chances :) We grabbed some food, hung out at the airport for a while, and eventually made it to our seats on the plane. We were finally headed home.
All in all, it was a crazy ending to a crazy and incredible trip. We met so many amazing people, helped with so many projects, and got to experience things that we never would have in Des Moines. Haiti is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with some of the most wonderful people in the world, and is a place filled with hope for an incredible future. I feel so honored to have been a part of this amazing team of people. Every single person brought a unique set of gifts, talents, and abilities to the plate, and it was so much fun to see God use those gifts to bless the amazing people in Haiti. We can’t wait for next year!
-Team Awesome Sauce
Banana Tree Hike
Missed Our Flight
To the Hotel!
We made it. God is good!