Sunday, January 20, 2013

Arrivals and Meetings

The National Palace, soon to be removed by J/P HRO
I arrive in the late afternoon after a full day of travel, accompanied by two adoptive moms coming to visit or to go to court, respectively. We manage the airport, which has changed radically since my last visit. Much more permanent and organized looking, and easier to get through too. So that part was simple.

Next we had to run the gamut outside, with many baggage handlers wanting to be our friends and carry items for us. Particularly our cash. Once through, I leave my ladies in a safe spot with my regular deaf, mute, very large and reliable baggage guy and wander off alone to look for Franck. No dice. He’s nowhere to be found, and since Digicel and Voila just merged, my Haiti cell phone doesn’t work either. I return to the ladies, our baggage, and my baggage guy. He sees I haven’t found Franck and manages to ask someone to borrow their phone. Who needs spoken language?

I can’t reach Franck, but I do reach Margarette and she assures me Franck is en route with Sonia to meet us. And he’ll be here ‘soon’. I take a deep breath because I know what ‘soon’ means in Franck time. Sonia must have been a good influence, because I only spend about half an hour or so chatting and arguing with the baggage handlers until I see Sonia. There’s something about an American woman speaking Kreyol that just fascinates the regular folks in Port au Prince, and their opinions are fascinating to me.

Everyone is buzzing about the new increased DOS travel warning to Haiti. We’re MAD. All of us who live or work here agree the escalated warning is unwarranted and not based on actual fact. Haiti is just like it has been since things settled down post-quake. In fact, a friend of mine who works at DOS here and lives in Haiti pointed out that this was the lowest crime rate she’s seen in December in more than a decade. Makes you wonder what political motivation there might be to try to scare Americans out of Haiti. The Haitian government has officially protested, but DOS remains absolutely silent, neither attempting to defend nor agreeing to change their latest warning.

Sonia is flustered. She’s NEVER late. Or if she thinks she might be, due to a traffic jam, she always calls ahead so that we’re forewarned. Her first words are of apology, even as we do the two-cheek air kiss. I tell her I know exactly why she is late today, and we both laugh. I’m here with my visitors, so it doesn’t matter. When I’m not here and Franck is late, I see red. The airport can feel scary to the uninitiated, despite all the security and police standing around. It’s just so strange and so frantic and so completely, overwhelmingly NOT Kansas anymore.

It’s Sunday, but it’s a workday for us staffers. I’m prepared to argue, but Franck agrees to drive directly to AUBE without a debate. I get to watch an adoptive mother meet her son, and her son (who is very dear to me) meet his very own family at last. Kind of reminds me why I do this in the first place…

I have to say hi to all the kids and check out Melissa’s uniform and shoes. Melissa is a special case. She’s twelve, but she lives at Sonia’s and is going to be adopted by someone she already knows. Tomorrow she’ll start school. She’s thrilled, and everyone is thrilled for her. Melissa has not had an easy childhood, and it’s sheer joy watching her feel excited about her pretty clothes and lacy socks, all ready for the excitement every child deserves.

It’s too dark to take decent photos, so we scoop up the two children coming with us and go to BRESMA guest house. Both these children are from AUBE, so normally they and their mothers would stay at Sonia’s home. But tonight it’s full to bursting with two of my other adoptive families and three more children. We get them settled at the BRESMA guest house, I hurl my stuff into the bedroom I’m assigned, and I’m right back in the car. Franck drives us to Sonia’s house, which is quite close by. There I get to meet two more of my adoptive families. It’s always a treat to actually put a face to the voices and home studies and documents for parents, not just the children. These two families are really fun, experienced parents and the kids are all similarly aged boys. They’ve been having a great visit and have enjoyed travelling together.

Finally, I’m off to bed. The rooster may be crowing, but after waking at 4:30 am, I probably won’t even care.

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