Saved by the rules

by Patricia Brintle

My friend Eddy Leveque, FHTH’s Vice President, gives me so much advice about my expectations of Haitian work ethics that I’ve started numbering them and define them as rules:  Rule #1:  Always have plans A, B and C when traveling to Haiti.  Rule #2:  Never plan a stay of less than five days when traveling to Haiti.  Rule #3:  Take an open return on your ticket when traveling to Haiti.   Rule #4… And the list goes on.  I was born and raised in Haiti but having spent a half a century in the US caused my work habits have become rather Americanized.

It was in March 2013.  This particular trip was to be very short:  Day 1:  Travel from New York to Port-au-Prince and take care of business – Day 2:  Catch the morning flight to Jeremie and take care of business – Day 3:  Catch the morning flight back to Port-au-Prince and connect to the flight to New York.  Sounds simple, right?  Except that I had disregarded Eddy’s Rule #2 and only planned a three-day stay.

I arrived to Port-au-Prince in good order and took care of business.  I spent a wonderfully restful night at my cousin’s home up in the mountains of Fermate and woke up early the next morning in plenty of time to catch the 8:00 am Tortug’Air flight to Jeremie.  On the way to the airport we caught an unusually heavy traffic and were told that the road had been blocked.  We backtracked, made a right turn, and went down one of the most vertiginous road through the side mountain.  I was holding on to dear life through the bumps and turns and ups and downs.  When we reached town we sped when we could… you see, cars, trucks, tap-taps, pedestrians, sellers, hand carts, and even goats, all fight for space on the streets of the capital and without a horn to clear the road here and there, cars would be at a standstill.

2010Aug trip (41) blog

2010Aug trip (136) blog

We pulled in front of the terminal; I jumped out of the car with a fleeting goodbye to my cousin and ran to the counter.  “I am sorry madam, but the flight was full and the plane is already taxiing.”  My heart sank and for a minute I lost my breath:  I missed my flight.

I looked around in disbelief as if somehow something or someone in that waiting room was to solve my dilemma.  To one side was another counter, with a bright yellow sign: Sunrise Airways.  I remembered Rule #1 and changed gears to Plan B.  I walked over and the young man at the counter, to my disappointment, informed me that all their regular flights had been discontinued and they only took charters of six or more passengers.  I sighed heavily and without losing another minute switch gears to Plan C:  Charter a two-seater.  I called the flight school and to my delight, they had a trip scheduled for that afternoon.

2010Aug trip (16)

It was the first time I rode such a small plane.  No room to ensure you don’t get stuck with a bad seat, or to select a window or an aisle… There was only one seat and it was a window seat.  I was given a set of aviation headsets and was astonished at how much they reduced the noise.  Talking was almost impossible which gave plenty of time to enjoy the views.  The southern coast offers breathtaking sights.  The countryside is lush and green.  The coast is strewn with cliffs that seem to rise as soldiers holding back the crashing waves.  We flew low, so much so that we could almost see people walking along.  What an experience!

Plane 1 2010 (16) blog

I arrived in Jeremie in enough time to do business, enjoy a fabulous meal with friends, have a most restful sleep, catch the morning Tortug’air flight to Port-au-Prince, connect to the New York flight and have a delicious dinner with my husband that night.

My trip was saved by Eddy’s rules.

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