I first tried to go to Haiti in 2011, to celebrate my 24th birthday with my best friend Ursula. We were at JFK airport, when American Airlines kicked us off the flight, since no one would voluntarily take a delay in exchange for a travel voucher. We were chosen since we were last to check in, the arbitrary system AA uses to deal with overbooked flights. This year, I visited Ursula in DC to try and take her with me, and booked a super cheap flight to Port-au-Prince with AA. I only flew AA because I was still trying to finish the $600 voucher they gave me back in 2011, but swore this would be the last flight I’d take with them.
By the time I had convinced her to come, the prices of flights had nearly doubled. But I didn’t give up even after she had dropped me off at the airport and said goodbye. As I suspected, AA had overbooked the flight, and they asked for volunteers in exchange for travel vouchers. I volunteered first, got the voucher, and called Ursula. She wasn’t sure if she could come, so I stayed at the airport long enough to get bumped off my next flight, and get another voucher, and then went back home thinking I had enough money to buy her flight. But, we didn’t, so I planned to leave the following morning, alone, until I got a call at 8 am that I had been rebooked 24 hrs later…
I still wasn’t sure Id make it Friday morning, but I got yet another voucher and actually got on a plane bound for Port-au-Prince without Ursula because she didnt believe me or we would ever get there. I finally landed Friday afternoon, half an hour late, but my couch surfing host made up for all the lost time. He showed me the city from ontop the mountains surrounding the plains, with the thousands of tiny concrete houses piled ontop of eachother and spilling into the lowlands without any sign of the 2010 earthquake. There were a few deserted, cracked houses, but not more than you’d expect from any developing country. Apparently Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but that was also hard to believe with proof of the rich and luxurious also calling Port-au-Prince home.
After years of defending a dangerous reputation, the stability of security and crime has also risen since the earthquake. Hundreds of ex-pats and NGO’s have made progress in the infrastructure, economy and human rights, and Haiti wasn’t any different from what I’ve seen in local neighbourhoods of the Dominican Republic. I wondered over and over why so many people questioned my motives for going to Haiti, asking what I could possible want to do there, and felt both a sense of relief and pride that I had finally made it to Haiti…. and enjoyed every minute there.