Haiti Day 1: Travelling to Port au Prince & Jacmel

Our Centra Cares team at the Port au Prince aiport.


Our Trip Started at 2:30 PM Friday Nov 3. It actually started many months prior and all the planning has finally come together. The group of 14: John Tilstra, Ed and Lisa Vandermeer, Kristian DiGuistini, Steve Bartlett, Jeramy Smith, Lana Gordin, Kyle Herd, Doug Morelli, Dan Holmes, Jeff Foster, all from Centra, and from BC Building Science, special guest Andrew Creighton along with our 2 hosts Lisa and Jeff Bontkes, are all very excited to get going. We all know each other a little bit and there is nervous anticipation as to what we will experience.

We crossed the border without delay and made our way to Seattle for a 10 pm flight to Miami, landing at 2:30 am. A bite to eat and a 3 hour layover then off to Port au Prince. Once landed we collected all our baggage and then waited 45 min or so for our transport. The local transportation operators were not too excited about losing these possible fares to our Haitian hosts vehicles and there was much yelling and gesticulating of arms etc. But the police got involved and then we were ushered outside to load and off we went.

View from within a transport vehicle.

Exiting Port au prince was a huge eye opener. Most of the crew rode in a large 6 wheeled truck resembling a Prison Vehicle. Very uncomfortable wood seats with no bars to hold on to. It was however somewhat open aired so at least they had ventilation. Some rode in the back of a pickup and a lucky few rode inside with air-conditioning. The sights and sounds as we traveled through the town was like nothing I have ever experienced.

All traveling vehicles fight for space and constantly cut each other off. A small toot on the horn is the equivalent of a signal light indicating a horn. So horns are constantly being honked, cars and trucks are moving all over the place and this is nothing compared to the motorcycles that weave in and out at twice the car speed…barely missing each other, or almost getting squished between passing vehicles. It is utter confusion and very slow moving.

It took 2.5 hours to get beyond town, (15 KM) and then we moved into the mountains and less traffic. The part of Port au Prince that we traveled through is not very pretty. All garbage is tossed to the ground and left there. Plastic bottles seem to float to the surface and they are everywhere. Imagine all the bottles and cans that your household uses in a month being left in your yard, lying beside the road etc. Now imagine jamming all the people in say the Langley area, into the Walnut grove area. Any yard space from current homes would then be filled with tents. All boulevards and open spaces filled with vendors, kids and tent cities. And all that garbage is left lying about. No city workers to pick it up. You get the idea.

But once over the mountains and into Jacmel it’s a very beautiful area. Jacmel feels clean and safe in comparison to P.A.P. Our Hotel is small and quaint, but safe. It has its own compound and feels very safe. We arrived to the hotel at around 2 PM Saturday with little or no overnight sleep. All were tired and hungry. Dinner, a little planning for tomorrow discussions, and off to bed. Tomorrow will be another long day!

This Update by Jeff Foster.