Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bringing Them Home At Last

I'm slowly still working on finishing telling the story of our trip to Haiti and bringing our children home. Can you believe that they have almost been home a whole month already? Boy am I lagging in my story. Here we go:

Last story of our trip I told you about unfolding our 11 people, 8 suitcases, and around 10 carry on's or backpacks out of the small 5 person SUV. Briefly hugging and kissing sweet Jacques goodbye and that is where our story picks up again...

Once at the airport you immediately go through security just to get in the front door. We had to put everything down for screening and show everyones passports. From the moment we got out of the car we were swarmed with porters wanting to take our bags and somehow one or two of them won out over the others and assisted us. Once inside one of the porters told us to give him $50 and he would help us get through security and through the system quicker... Uhm... NO! We had planned to tip a combined amount for all our things of $20 since we did have a lot of stuff and could use the help but we sure were not going to pay a "tip" to help us get through. Do you think we looked that stupid? Okay, don't answer that! So we refuse to pay it and yet we somehow end up passing everyone up and ending up at the front of the line anyways.

At the check in counter we were requested to show all our passports, the passports and visas for the kids, and their immigration paper work. It was a breeze getting our tickets and moving on. From there we had to go through an immigration window where they again checked our paper work and passports and again... no problem. We didn't have time to look around the airport shops like we would have liked to so we headed towards the terminal where we would board our plane. We had to go through security 2 more times before getting there. Nothing really had gone wrong at this point but we were already exhausted. Stephanie and Jude were also saying they were really scared about flying. They didn't say so but I'm sure they were scared about much more then that (who wouldn't be?). So it was not a time we could really whoop it up and act super excited that they were coming home because we knew how they were feeling.

Once at the terminal Jim headed to talk with an employee because they had booked us to sit in 3 different areas and with only 2 parents that just was not going to work. The employee told Jim she would take care of it for us and to wait for her to call him back to the counter before the flight. The time we were supposed to board came and went and we were never called back up. Then they made an announcement in French or maybe Creole that we could not understand but we could sure understand that it was not good. Nearly everyone jumped out of their seats yelling and some people even yelling out obscenities and people started running and pushing towards the counters. Never seen anything like it! It was absolutely insane.

Jim and our friend Jim jumped right in the middle of the chaos and headed to the counter waving our tickets under the noses of the employee. The woman recognized Jim and took his tickets to get us seats. Jim was pointing at friend Jim and telling her "He's with us". She gave us our seats and sent Jim on his way but said that our friend Jim (and wife Debbie) would have to wait to be assigned seats. Meanwhile, Debbie, myself, and the kids had no idea of what was going on and what we were supposed to do. We managed to drag all our stuff towards the line to board the plane and desperately looking for our husbands and some answers. Jim came back with tickets and we got in line to board the plane but were stopped as they took our tickets for the attendants to check out our immigration paperwork and passports/visas again. They insisted we head towards the plane and with the crowds we were nearly pushed outside the building (where the plane is boarded). We stood there so unsure of what to do. The employee had told Jim that Jim and Debbie would get seats but she would not give them to them until later. It occurred to me that if they were denied seats they did not have anywhere to go, any phone numbers to call for help, and spoke little of the language (not that we could speak much more either). We could not reenter the airport to help and we didn't want to board the plane. We just stood there in fear wondering what we should do. We let out a huge cheer when we finally saw our friends leave the building and head towards us!!!

We were given seats in the very last row of the huge plane and by the time we boarded the aisles were packed with people. It took a really long time to get to our seats. This whole time I was carrying Lovenie and we had our carry ons to deal with. By the time we got to our seats I was physically shaking from stress and exhaustion. Fortunately it was not a seizure type shaking but just a totally drained in every way kind of shaking. It was horrible. So... We wait 3 years and 3 months for this moment and instead of great joy and fun it was so very difficult. The kids all did great on the flight though and we were so proud of them!

For anyone in the process of adoption from Haiti that would like to read details specifically about the process of dealing with the airport and immigration when bringing your children home please see my other blog at

Here are a few pictures:

While waiting to board (and before all the chaos) dear Friend Debbie gives us the "thumbs up" to share in our joy of bringing the kids home.
Our moment is here at last
Waiting for their first flight
For years I had wondered what Jude and Stephanie would think of things like escalators and elevators. Their reactions were so fun to watch! Here they are on their first escalator. They have been on a few since being home and it is still fun watching them try and figure out the timing of jumping on and off.
Jude flashes us a smile after we land and welcome him to America.

These next pictures are out of order but were taken when we were on the airplane and about to fly out of Haiti:


brosana said...

It's so funny to read about your experience at the airport. My one experience (while in the Army) at the airport in Haiti was completely different. When we landed, there was not a single person on the airfield or in building. Can you imagine??!! We had to search everywhere to try to find someone to show us where a bathroom was! Thanks for sharing your story. Congratulations on surviving your first month with the kids. Say "hi" to Jim.

Amanda said...

Fun, fun pictures. What chaos! I wonder what they announced to get everyone in a tizzy!

Check out my blog! They sent an update of Joshua in the outfit you delivered! How sweet was that?

Mr Nice Guy said...

But wait... there's more!

Back in the terminal we may not have understood what the announcer had said, but judging by the reaction it was clear what had happened – they overbooked the flight.

When Debbie and I finally got to the plane, there was someone sitting in her seat. It wasn't a mistake – they assigned the same seat to two passengers. So I gave Debbie my seat and took the empty seat next to her. Considering the commotion in the airport and the steady trickle of passengers still boarding the plane, in spite of all hopes I knew they wouldn't let the plane go without filling every seat. And the seat I was in wasn't mine.

When the last passenger boarded she walked past our isle, but I saw her boarding pass and knew she'd be back. Seeing someone in her seat, she called for a flight attendant. I relayed the story, she took our boarding passes, and walked away. A few minutes later one of the ladies from the counter in the airport showed up. I gave her my story – that they gave Debbie's seat away twice. She walked away, talked with some people and left. Minutes later, the lady from the airport returned, this time with a security guard. Just as I thought this could get a little interesting, they looked up, noticed an empty seat in the next isle over, and asked the unseated passenger if she would mind taking the other seat. She took the seat – problem solved. I was thankful we were on our way, but wow, I wish someone had noticed the empty seat earlier so Angela, Jim, Stephanie, Jude and Lovenie could have dinner 20 minutes earlier.

Preassigned seating flying out of Port Au Prince – a good thing if you can get it. The guy in Debbie's seat may have had that seat preassigned to him (I only briefly saw his boarding pass). But if came down him or Debbie, he probably would have won that one, and we'd be spending the night in the airport. Thankfully, the lord had it all covered.


Mr Nice Guy said...

BTW: When we got the word from Angela that we were going to Haiti, it was Sunday and we were just finishing a 4 day Cub Scout campout at Lake Isabella. It was eventually decided that we’d leave in 8 days. Deb and I had a 4 hour drive home ahead of us, so chances were slim that we’d be able to coordinate our travel plans if we waited until we got home to book our flights and hotel rooms. But Angela took care of everything, booking everything for us and keeping us informed as we drove home.

So I just wanted to say, for the record, Angela Rocks! Jim… you ‘da Man!