What to Expect
Getting to Haiti
Your flight will be on American Airlines into Port-Au-Prince (PAP). Usually the connection is through Miami or Ft Lauderdale Florida. You might as well apply for an AAdvantage number from American Airlines. Once you make one of these trips, you will want to go back and pretty soon your miles start accumulating. In addition to personal AAdvantage miles, you may enter our Business ExtrAA miles code # 834408 to help support our missions as a fundraising effort. More direction will be provided once you’ve contacted us.
The flight to PAP from Miami is only about 1 hour 50 minutes. Your arrival at the airport in PAP may seem a bit hectic, but the whole process from landing to departure from the airport will run smoothly. You will have a local number to call in case of problems.
On the airplane you may be given a green form, otherwise you will obtain one once you arrive at immigration. The airline is usually good about giving you the white form for customs/duty, otherwise also find one within the customs area. Arrival at immigration is chaotic but it all progresses very well. You may need to find your green Haitian immigration card on an unmanned table as you come in the door. Some people will be crowded in front of the table, hogging it, while they fill out their forms. Just grab a form and fill it out on your buddy’s back while you are standing in line. This is also a good way to meet new people. Your next step is to pay $10 in US cash to obtain an entry permit in a special line for foreigners.
Arriving in Haiti
After immigration, the fun starts. You will need pick up your bags. To your immediate right after immigration and before the area where they dump the bags off the tarmac, is a lady at a small desk who sells small slips of paper for $2 US. You can then give this slip to a guy who will give you a large rolling luggage carrier that you can stack your baggage upon. Or you can simply hoof it along out into the heat.
It’s just before you go out in the heat that you pass one more Haitian official, the customs agent. Of course you have filled out your duty form that you are not carrying drugs or large sums of money. And that you are there for pleasure, not business. And you have indicated that your address in Haiti will be Verrettes. This form is given a quick grab and out you go into a milling throng of guys all with the same hats and shirts which indicate that they are officially there and not just bandits. Usually we wheel our carts past them without allowing them to help, but otherwise pick out someone (they will pick you out) and have them wheel your stuff for you and then be prepared to give about $5 in single dollars. They will be unhappy with this amount, but that equals about three days of labor in the backcountry.
One of our representatives will be there behind the chicken wire attracting your attention with one of our special hats on his head. You will be told what the signal will be. It is hot, chaotic and very exciting as you meet our representative and plunge into the highway system that is Haiti. The drive to the base in Verrettes is 4 hours, primarily because it will be mostly at night. The day length of the trip is 2 hours and 30 minutes from our villa to the airport front door.
Life in Haiti
Everyone comes outside and hangs out along the roads at night. Granted here are stretches of mostly vacant highway, but most of it is teeming with life. And your big adventure has started. You are heading into rural, ancient Haiti. You will go through several bustling towns, some of which you may visit in the days to come as we have permission to work in St Marc and elsewhere. But most of it will be rural. And the arrival at the Villa in Verrettes makes you feel that you have fallen off the edge of the earth. Narrow streets lined with ruts and rocks, bouncing between small shacks, up hilly side streets, until you arrive at the Villa. You will learn to love these streets and feel comfortable in them over the next several days of your stay. And the view off the back veranda is spectacular. You will only hear the rushing water during your first night, but early morning greets you with a view of Haiti as it should be: lush, tropical, with organized farms whose produce you will be eating the next several days.
The Villa: Address: 7 Rue Barrage Vincent, Verrettes, Haiti
Telephone: 509 3687 2813
Whether you’re a medical student, nurse, physician, medical assistant, or interested lay volunteer, there is a vast need for your efforts. You will not need to do anything you are uncomfortable doing, but you will be taught new skills, or you will be teaching others, during direct patient care. And it is not simply working in the cholera treatment center at the local hospital, but also within the normal wards, at local clinics, and at nearby hospitals. Some of those “nearby” hospitals do require an adventurous jeep ride to reach. But it will all be in a day’s work during you Medical Student Mission trip in Haiti.
Food: Meals are provided in the Villa or reasonably safe local restaurants, depending on how far out you are. We also carry Mountain House trail food in case – well just in case. Please refer to our section on “what to bring” for more advice on making your stay safe and more comfortable.
Laundry: The servants at the house will offer to do laundry every few days. You can choose to bring enough clothing for the whole trip or have them wash what you have. Bring your own laundry bag to keep things separated and to avoid losing pieces of clothing. Josaphat will decide on an appropriate tip for this service. The group will provide Josaphat (whom everyone calls “Te Pha”) with the money for the tip at the end of the stay, He will distribute that amount as he sees fit.
Concept of Haitian time: Often you will encounter a situation where you’re given a time when you will embark on a trip or be told the duration of time that it takes to travel to a place. Do not be fooled, these times are never accurate. If they plan on leaving at 8 AM, it usually means 9:30 AM. If they tell you it takes about an hour to get to the next town, it usually means 2.5 hours. You’ve been warned. Haitians have an expression that concerned the seemingly fixed value of American money (the green-back dollar) verses the gourdes which seems to have a non-fixed diminished value. If they wish to set a meeting or a time, and really mean it, they will sometimes refer to that as “green time.” So if you want to know if a meeting or departure time is really going to happen at a specific time, ask if that will be at green time or Haitian time and they will get a laugh out of it, but they will also understand. But don’t do this to a government official. Just with our Haitian staff.
Set up phone for use in Haiti
AT&T service works through contracts with local Haitian service providers but will cost significant money if you do not have an international roaming package, which you should set up before your departure.
Verizon and Sprint do not work through these systems in Haiti. So, make sure you remain friendly with someone who has an AT&T cell phone while on the trip if you wish to talk to your mother or your significant other.
Internet service is sporadically available and can allow Skype and other internet communications.
It is possible to buy a cheap phone in Haiti with a SIM card that makes calling the US inexpensive. Our friends in Haiti can arrange this if you wish.
Regardless what cell phone you use while in the US, it is best to carry it with you on this trip. The importance is before your international departure, as it allows you to contact us in case of US plane delay or change in flights caused by weather, etc., allowing us to ensure we are tracking your progress and can make alternate pickup arrangements for you. You will be given several of our US staff contact numbers for your assistance. Please do not hesitate to call if travel itinerary changes.
As part of your pre-trip departure, you will be asked for your cell phone number so we can communicate with you during this departure phase if necessary.