It is so nice to be back home and with my wife. It was a fun adventure and I am glad that I went on the mission but I am very happy to be home.
Thursday evening went great. We packed up the tubs and bags for the return trip. If you recall, each team member was assigned two pieces of checked baggage. It was either a large tub or a canvas bag. These were filled with food and medical supplies. We need them back in Peoria for the September team. They were useful in bringing back souvenirs but still a pain to transport, to wait at baggage claim for, a struggle to move through customs, but they all made it home. At 5:45 M on Friday, Papa Dick drove the tubs and me to Jacmel airport. I stood guard as he returned to get the team to the airport by using his truck, and for some, a last ride in Son-Son’s smoking tap-tap. We waited about 1 hour at the airport for the Haitians to get there, set up, and check in our bags. The team was split into two airplanes for the return trip to Port-Au-Prince. I was on the first plane and it was a beautiful ride. From where I sat on the plane, I could watch the altimeter and we flew at 3.500 feet over the mountains. The small airport was very crowded so we waited outside with our tubs and bags for the other part of our team. Then we split up again to ride another truck to the main airport. I was on the second trip on this one and witnessed the confusion outside the main airport departure area as we off loaded our stuff and passed through the first of 3 security checkpoints. We stood around in a group waiting for American Airlines to check us in. That was accomplished by giving our leader, John, our passports and letting the AA people do their thing. It seemed to take forever and that part of the airport was extremely hot. Next we passed through Haitian immigration to get our passports stamped. There was just enough time for me to purchase some Haitian rum to be auctioned at the upcoming golf outing. A few lucky ones tasted a Haitian hot dog. Remember, we had not had our big oatmeal breakfast. Then it was on to the plane and off to the USA. Arrival in Miami was on time. Passed through immigration and on to baggage claim. Our tubs came out after all the bags had cleared and we moved trough customs and had to lug our checked bags to the next AA area so they could follow us to home. We had about two hours in Miami so it was off to the food courts for some grub. Our plane to Chicago was on time and we had a fairly smooth flight to O’Hare except when we picked up turbulence from a plane ahead of us. O’Hare was a sad time. Lisa lives in Chicago, John, Linda, and Audra were being picked up by Audra’s family. We had time for a hug and a quick good bye. There was a 3-hour layover here and AA did not have our gate posted so we hung out at gate G 2 with our bags. This allowed some to have some food at Chili’s or other of the many food vendors in the area. Things looked good for our 8:30 departure. Our plane was in, our crew showed up, we boarded early, and then the fun began. The stewardess kept calling out names of people who did not seem to be on board. We told them 4 times about how we had checked in as a group in P-A-P and that it was likely tat there were luggage on board that bore the names of group members who had left us in Chicago. Finally they closed the doors and we had a nice flight to Peoria. We encountered our last problem here waiting for the tubs. AA chose to keep them upstairs and not put them on the belt but failed to tell us so we stood and waited. Finally, Bill went to ask and we repositioned the cars to the upper arrivals level and loaded the baggage. The team members who did not have checked bags were the lucky ones to get home early. Soon, we will have our team picture part at Bill & Keri’s home in East Peoria and the trip will be recounted to the last detail once again.
In reflection, it was a great team. Each person contributed to the best of their ability and then 50% more. When you have 20 diverse people in any situation there are usually lots of conflicts but this team bonded and none of the conflicts were anything more than minute. I thank them all for serving with me. They taught me a lot. They put up with me a lot. They made me think and grow a lot. They became good friends of mine and I am very proud of them and honored to have served with them. The mix of old and young got along very well and I would be happy to serve with any and all of them again, soon. Perhaps I will get the opportunity to serve them once again.
I want to thank all of my readers for their prayers and kind words. I apologize if I offended any one with some of my humor. I did appreciate the feedback from those who chose to comment. I did not post the comments to protect the innocent. Please keep the Haitians in your prayers. Please consider sponsoring a child. Please be generous to our organization, FOTCOH, if you can spare a donation. Please consider going on a team. We can use you no matter what your talents may be.
So I’ll leave you with a little Kreole:
Mesi! Thank You
M’ale orevwa Good Bye
Bondye beni ou May God bless you.