Sunday, May 29, 2011

From Columbus, with love

Wow. What a long day it has been for those of our team who originated in Columbus, Ohio. After nearly 12 hours we weren’t even half way to Port-au-Prince (PAP). Had all gone as planned, we would have arrived in PAP by 2:00pm, gone through immigration and customs, gathered our bags and met our fellow teammates. But alas, the timing was not in our hands, reminding us of our motto when working in Haiti: be flexible.

Our 6:30am flight out of Columbus was on time, headed for Chicago O’Hare, normally less than an hour soaring in the sky. Next would be Ft. Lauderdale and then PAP – simple, right?

About 40 minutes into the first flight, the flight attendant announced that visibility in Chicago was down to ¼ mile and the plane was going to circle the airport waiting for the fog to lift. About 45 min later, we were forced to divert to Indianapolis to wait out the weather. As we sat on the tarmac in Indy, we got to know each other better.

First there’s Bob, a TV producer from Columbus, who we met just a few short months ago. A small business encounter led to an extended conversation about The Red Thread’s work in Haiti – our first glimpse of the red thread of destiny connecting us to Bob. He is an amazingly talented professional whose skills are sought after across the US. (Some of his work was even aired during the last SuperBowl. Check out when you have a moment.) Following several meetings, he offered to travel with us to film and produce our first video documenting our work. What an amazing opportunity for us.

Then there’s Al, a Columbus-based cinematographer recruited by Bob specifically for this video shoot. A Filipino who has been stateside since he was 7 years old, Al jumped at the chance to go to Haiti with Bob and the grouop. Having only met at the airport this morning, we feel as if we have known this man for a lifetime.

And finally, there’s Pierré. None of us knew we would meet today – he is not a team member and had never heard of The Red Thread Promise. He was just another passenger on the flight to Chicago who happened to hear us talking about PAP and mentioned that he was also headed to Haiti. And the conversation began.

Pierré lives and works as a business professional in Dublin, a suburb of Columbus. His pregnant wife, the dean of a school and teacher in Haiti, and their 8-year-old daughter live close to PAP. He is headed home to visit for 2 months, thus our shared travel itinerary this foggy / stormy day. During our conversation, he shared the chilling account of watching the news coverage of the earthquake from his home in Columbus and the following 3 days over which he tried desperately to reach his wife in Haiti by phone. He soon learned that she was in the yard when the quake hit and a wall of their house fell on her, pinning her to the ground. Pierré was eventually able to fly into the Dominican Republic and drive across the border to his family, bringing them back to the US for medical care. (A news article in the Columbus Dispatch was published about this amazing couple.) Following her recovery, his wife and daughter returned to Haiti so his wife could continue her role in educating Haiti’s children.

While we waited for hours in Indianapolis and Chicago, we got to know Pierré as we shared lunch and discussed politics (both American and Haitian), education, Haitian music and Kreyol. We told him of our plans in Haiti over the week, including going to Montrois to scout the area for Camp Jake, bringing supplies for the blind to St. Vincent’s and going to the orphanage. We were surprised with his knowledge of St. Vincent’s. He was even able to tell us of some famous musicians who were educated at St. Vincent’s (who we certainly plan to look up) and he expressed an interest in visiting our team at the Center.

It was an amazing encounter that we won’t forget and hope that we have made a friend for life. We are very excited that Pierré has invited our group to his home for dinner during our stay to sample his wife’s “amazing Haitian cooking”. How could we say no to such a fantastic offer?

This kind of friendliness is so indicative of the people we have encountered in Haiti. While Americans would scarcely consider inviting complete strangers to their home for dinner, Pierré never gave it a second thought. Of course, the invitation was extended on our end too, to have his family to our home in Columbus following the birth of his second child in November.

While our day was not what we expected, maybe it was what it was meant to be – something even better. Who knows what the rest of the trip will hold or what kind of new and unexpected connections we will make.

(We’d love to tell you what is going on in Haiti right now, but we don’t know! We pray that the rest of the team made it there safe and sound and look forward to greeting them in the morning. Unfortunately, our new flight leaves at 6:20 so we will be getting up at 3:30, again. Hope to catch some zzz’s driving to Montrois! More tomorrow from Haiti.)

Bon nwit!
(good night in Kreyol)

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