Once through immigration, reality began to hit me. This area, by contrast with the rest of the airport, was no better than a metal shack. Gone was the A/C, along with the security of the terminal. This is the place where local men jostle for position and fight with each other for the opportunity to con you into taking their taxi. I learned many things in these brief moments of arrival, and here are some tips I jotted down to help not only the medical workers who would follow me to Haiti, but also for anyone putting Port-Au-Prince on their itinerary:
· Use the bathroom before going through immigration because there will be none until your final destination.
· Bring your own hand sanitizer and toilet paper for the bathroom, because there was neither paper nor working sinks.
· If you have more luggage than a carry-on, you need to pay for a ticket to get a cart. Be on the lookout for non-uniformed personnel behind a podium. Pay that person 2 USD (exactly $2 because they aren't prepared to make change) and you will get a ticket for a cart. Give the ticket to another non-uniformed person by the carts and get your own cart.
· There is a small baggage claim with two tiny conveyer belts, so prepare to be caught in a scramble to get your luggage. There is no indication which belt will be delivering your flight's luggage, either.
· Don’t get offended or angry when people bump into you and don’t apologize.
· When exiting through customs, DO NOT let someone help you with your luggage. There are Haitians waiting outside the door and they automatically help you, to the point of fighting among themselves, because they are after tips or trying to con you into taking their taxi. Forcefully say "no." Any hesitation they will take as permission to aggressively go about “helping” you with your luggage.
Tomorrow, in Part 2 of this series, Soo Ah will share the state of lodging and transportation and where you do and do not want to sleep.
[Photos: Soo Ah M. Lee and esmihome]