Day 1 ...early morning awakening (245 am), at Philadelphia airport by 345, waited to Delta personnel to arrive, once in JFK, I waited for my Flight to PAP in the same gait as a crowd going to spring break to Fort Lauderdale. One crowd was white middle aged parents with their teen age kids, and 20 year olds with Abercrombie across their ass on sweat pants and flip flops, which boarded first. “this gate MOM? Thats not right, its going to France!” “No thats Port of Prince, thats Haiti” “HAITI?!”
I fit much more into the first crowd.
For my flight sat muscular black men, with acid washed jeans and baseball caps atop their carefully tight haircuts and with their slightly less well quaffed wives. I feel pale after a long winter, my hair is red, I'm short, I'm Jewish, suburban, and my jeans are 5 years old. I definitely stood out. I was too self conscious and too ridiculous to read my Paul Farmer book I brought on Haiti, so I opted to the New York Times magazine and an old medical journals I never got to read at home. My seat row mates were a sweet couple from Haiti and the Dominican Republic who were visiting the wive's mother in PAP. That laugh and smiled very easily and at everything, including me, but I was part in on the joke, not the butt of it.
Haiti looks and feels like Mexico only with more rubble and striking mountains, and a land mass that you can take in at nearly all at once from the air. Otherwise the streets and buildings and vegetation that I have seen so far are exactly the same as the non-resort parts of the Yucatan. The airport is apparently brand new this year but yet had guys in red shirts ready to grab your luggage despite you begging them not to “you can pay me now, $20 is good”... They looked like they had been doing this scam for years. I loved the live music as we walked in (that was more NOLA like).....I found Susan outside the airport, thank God. Although it really was not that hard once I tried to find her with my eyes rather than the cell phone. The medical students that were supposed to meet me got delayed in Miami so we took a van that was hired by our group back to the house. The van will go back later to collect the 4 students stuck in Miami.
The streets are steep, and definitely no strict rules... or any rules...about turning or which lanes to stay in. There are still tarp homes and shanty shacks and bare foot kids with homemade kites from discarded plastic bags along the side of the road. What a maze. The house we are staying in was untouched by the earth quake. There is an iron gate and stucco construction. There is a middle entrance floor that has the kitchen and dining area. Some really friendly gentle guys are in the kitchen trying to figure out how to serve the vegetarians in our groups and asking if canned sardines are ok? (well, stick to just vegetables) I met the other two women that are the attendings on the trip, all 4 of us will be staying in the room together. Its officially named by Linda “the faculty lounge” Its humid, I am still getting used to the smell of my super potent deet on my skin, and drank way too much coffee this am to sleep now. Talked to Susan for a while and reassured that most of the medicine we will be doing is basic primary care stuff. Whew, I can trying to absorb anything from my used tropical med book aside. Apparently hypertension is rampant and mostly untreated. The people are all thin, and not a salty diet, its genetic but walking around with 200/100 blood pressure is common. Childhood immunizations Susan was told is the job of the health department but one wonders “what health department” but she was dissuaded from approaching that aspect. We are joining a organization call the “United States for the Children of Haiti” which was started by a haitian woman named Gladys who I expect to meet later. She coordinates groups that come to Haiti and clinics where they are needed. She and Susan met through a friend and when Susan looked into coming to Haiti only 2 weeks after the earth quake. We will be housed and fed in this large (and yes appears sturdy) home for much of the next week.