Our plane touched down just after eleven. I turned to look at my mother whose head was bent in a silent prayer. I looked over my shoulder and my father was doing the same. A low murmur began to spread throughout the plane as the passengers peered out the widow—it was beautiful. The plane had descended on the other side of a river. You could see the plush greens of a sugar cane field and the people bathing in the river. On the other side I could clearly see the layout of the small airport. There was a small outside restaurant located in a shaded area near the west side of the airport and a mass of bystanders—most of them probably waiting on of loved ones—crowed on a low stretched platform. My father whispered something to my mother, but I was too lost in my own excitement to hear. I hadn’t been to Haiti since I was eight. When I was younger my parents would take me and my brothers every summer, but after the death of my Aunt we had no place to stay so our trips stopped. My parents, a year and a half ago, decided to start building a summer home—it was almost finished. This trip wasn’t an ordinary vacation; in fact I’d describe it more as a pilgrimage—a trip of self discovery, for me, anyways. My parents were here to finish the house and I to sort some things out. My dad got our bags out of the cabinet and handed the smaller bag to my mother. The bright sun and humidity greeted us as soon as we got off the plane. I scanned the faces of the crowded platform. Excitement, surprise, and worry were some of the few emotions that played across the nameless faces. I noticed a scruffy man smiling at me; he looked like he had been burnt by the sun. I stared back at him and his smile widen. I looked back at my parents who were busy talking in Creole then back at the man who was now making his way towards us. He shouts, “Andieu!’’’ from the distance and my father looked up then laughed. He hugged my mother and smiled again at me. My mother asked me if I knew who this was. I shook my head, not answering. It turned out the man whose name was Serge was my mother’s distant cousin. He was going to be staying with us while we were here. Serge went to help my father with the rest of our luggage as my mom led me to one of the benches under the overhang. The smell of rice and fried pork made my stomach growl; I hadn’t eaten since that morning. We made our way out of the airport and onto the streets. I looked up at my dad, a little taken a back. It was like we’d transferred to another planet. Outside the airport was filthy—the beaten down cars, the people, the buildings. “Not what you expected, huh?” My dad asked, reading the words right off my face. Two small children walked by asking for change. Two little boys, one of them reminded me of my younger brother. They were both skeletal. I wanted to wrap my arms around them and take them home with us. My parents gave them each two American dollars; they thanked us graciously and took off. A really old rusty Toyota pickup pulled up and Serge dropped our luggage into its bed while my dad ushered me and my mom into the front seat. I guess this is supposed to pass as a taxi. The inside of the car definitely looked like it had seen better days. My mom and I squeezed in while Serge and my dad rode in the back. Port-de-Paix is a city right on the northwest, Atlantic coast of Haiti. The waters surrounding the city are beautiful— bluish-green and clear right down to the bottom—and the city itself it of great historical significance. I leaned my head against my mother and closed my eyes. The windows are rolled down and the wind brushed my face as the man brought us closer and closer to a home I’ve yet to see.
October 14, 2010