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Return to Pierre Payen

May 2, 2011

The 767 noses up to the terminal at Port-au-Prince International Airport.  The letters shaken from the sign on the building by the earthquake still haven’t been replaced.  As I descend the escalator a band plays to welcome me.  Outside the door a tram squats to take on passengers for the short ride to the warehouse that Customs and Immigration now occupy.  As I pass through the terminal door the heat presses in on me.  It is not the dry heat of my last visit but an oppressive sultriness smelling of the tropics.  Quite a stark change from the snow and freezing temperatures I left this morning.

I hand over my immigration form and my passport to the all-business immigration agent.   Eyeing me critically she stamps my passport, tears off the return section of the form and hands them back to me.   I go to get a baggage cart; I am prepared this trip, two American one dollar bills at the ready.  My bags are among the first on the carousel.  I have made sure they are easily identifiable.   An airport employee checks my baggage tags and I hand over my customs declaration.  I am waived through.  Managing to stave off the porters on my way to the parking lot, I am pleased with myself for being able to get through the airport like a veteran.

Chris isn’t there.  As soon as it is obvious I don’t have a ride waiting I am assailed by Haitians offering to help me with my luggage, to drive me where I am going, to call someone on their cellphones for me.  I turn them all away knowing any assistance will come at a high price.  I pull out my cellphone and try calling Chris.  Predictably the call fails.  I try again with the same result.  The third time I fake a conversation and tell my would-be helpers my ride is on the way.  It works.   Shortly afterward, to my relief, Chris arrives.

The trip to Pierre Payen is quick and smooth.  From just outside Port-as-Prince the highway is newly asphalted with a brilliant yellow double centerline and guardrails on the curves.  Things have changed significantly since I left a few weeks ago.  I quip that I am amazed the guardrails are still unscathed.

Chris updates me on some of the problems he and Leslie have been facing in my absence.  I try to hearten him with reassurances that everything will work out.  He thanks me for my efforts.  He outlines some of the things he wants me to do.  Much of what we have previously discussed is now on hold and he hopes I do not feel I don’t have a role here.  I respond that I see my role as doing whatever needs to be done.

We pass through a localized rain shower.  Chris informs me Pierre Payen has not yet had rain and he is looking forward to it.  As we pass through Montrouis I realize how glad I am to be back in the colour and chaos that is Haiti.  I have missed it.

As one of our guards swings open the gate to the yard Leslie appears in the doorway of my little house where she and Yonesse have been making things ready for me.  Annie the Rottweiler assaults me repeatedly as Leslie tries to give me a welcoming hug.  Chris helps me carry my bags into the house.  My bed has been moved to the main floor bedroom so that the four boys from the family who will stay here with me in Chris and Leslie’s absence can be accommodated upstairs.  As she stocks my freezer Leslie tells me we will go shopping later in the week to get anything I need.  She drops a fistful of keys into my hand and tells me I can spend some time figuring out what each fits in the morning.

Olivia appears in my hallway attired in a green fairy dress.  At first she seems not to recognize me but then her face erupts in a huge smile.  She stays while I unpack checking to see if I have brought anything of interest to her.  By the time I am finished putting things away Leslie has supper just about ready.  Olivia and I rustle through the leaves that litter the ground as we walk to her house.  In this climate there is no dormant period; trees shed their old foliage and immediately produce new. Olivia shares one her story books with me as we sit on the couch waiting for our meal.

We will have a meeting after breakfast tomorrow to discuss what needs to be done in the coming weeks as Chris and Leslie prepare to leave for Canada.  I will be responsible for the bookkeeping and orchestrating follow-ups over the summer.  To escape a bit of the afternoon heat we now begin our workday at 5:30 AM.  In light of this and tired from a long day of travelling I excuse myself soon after supper.

As I sit at my dining room table writing this the waves of the Caribbean, hidden in blackness of the tropical evening, crash on the beach just outside.  God is in His heaven and all is right with my world.

One Comment leave one →
  1. laurence permalink
    May 2, 2011 7:43 pm

    glad to hear that you got back okay,if it feels so much the right place to be all the rest will work out

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