The phoenix has landed

I arrived in Haiti today around noon.

Looking out the airplane window while flying into the Port-au-Prince airport, I saw scattered roofless houses. The four walls were still standing but the tops were missing, like a succession of half-empty ice cube trays.

The airport was structured completely different than before. My step mother told me they are now routing passenger flights into the cargo terminal so that the main terminal can be used as a hospital and post for relief organizations. The passengers from my flight were ushered through the cargo terminal outside where we boarded shuttle buses that escorted us to a makeshift customs/baggage claim area, past rows of military aircraft and supply tents.

I had a moment of worry because I didn’t realize at first that it was a different building, I just though my memory of the airport had faded. But when I got my bag and walked outside into the tropical sunlight, it was a completely unfamiliar sight and my family wasn’t there. I hesitantly walked forward, scanning the people in sight while I shrugged off men offering to carry my bags let me use their phones (for a small fee) and drive me places, as I obviously looked lost. But no more than a few minutes later, my dad’s Jeep Liberty came rolling up tooting the horn.

Looking out the window during the ride back to my family’s house in PetionVille, I didn’t see as much destruction as I expected. The physical damage was rampant, but I didn’t see the human misery I assumed there would be, given what so many people here have been through the past few months. People were sitting under umbrellas cooking food, playing music, and laughing as usual.

Later this evening when I went with my sister and her boyfriend to get dinner, I told him that people seemed to be in pretty good spirits for the most part. “Well, they have to be,” he said. “They have no choice.”

I didn’t drive through too much of the country side in the daylight, and couldn’t make out much of it at night, but I have already seen massive destruction: buildings completely collapsed, piles of cement rubble lined up on the side of the roads. Coming back to this place after visiting it in June, before the earthquake, I felt like Dorothy in Return to Oz.

Granted, Port-au-Prince was not quite the Emerald city before, but the net change is about equivalent. And I haven’t seen anywhere near the worst of it yet.

There’s much more to tell but I am beyond exhausted after not sleeping at all last night. More updates to come on here and Twitter @arikia.

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