On My Way

Santo Domingo Travel Blog

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Dominican Sunrise

Well so far so good, but I tell you, today was one of the longest, never-ending days I've had in awhile.  I think its Tuesday, but I could be misinformed.  I left Denver after some delay due to the snow that was falling and needing to be de-iced, but got to Miami without too much hassle.  Miami decided not to broadcast that they had a flight leaving for San Juan, Puerto Rico and so we had to figure out where our flight was, but we made it on time.  Met the majority of our group in San Juan where we boarded a small bi-prop plane to take us from one island to the next. 

Arrived in Santo Domingo around 11pm local time (3 hours ahead of Denver) and made it through customs.

Changing buses at the border
  Some where in the shuffle at San Juan, they decided one of my bags wouldn't fit on the plane and so left it behind.  Luckily, it was the one with just donations in it and not my personal bag.  We waited around the airport for about 3 hours as the rest of our group slowly trickled in.

There's about 20 of us, from all over the US and even some from other parts of the world (Canada and the UK)  We seemed to hit it off immediately, being a very diverse group of people with different experiences and skill sets.  Not all of us are medical, there are quite a few nurses and doctors, but there are also maintence and support type people as well.  For some this was their first time out of the country, others had lived most of their life abroad.

Salt lake at the border
 

The Santo Domingo YWAM (Youth With A Mission) picked us up from the airport and took us to their base, where we could unwind for a couple hours.  It was very busy with different groups coming and going at all times.  YWAM is a very large organization, with bases all over the world.  They are further broken down into specific needs groups, such as Mercy Works.  As it was explained to me, YWAM is like your last name in a big family- Mercy Works is like your first name.  We didn't spend a lot of time at the base in Santo Domingo- just long enough to charge our ipods, brush our teeth and make sandwiches for lunch on the bus.  We were told it could be a 16 hour drive to Port-au-Prince, depending on the traffic. 

We were on the road by 4am and had enough room on the bus to stretch out to sleep, though I slept by the luggage and often woke up with some heavy suitcase hanging close to my face!  We made good time, arriving at the Dominican/Haitian border sometime around 1030.

First look at the distruction
  The area between the two countries is a barren rock pit- literally blasted out from the mountians.  You pass through the Dominican gate on one end, there's a mountian to your left and a large salt lake to your right.  The Haitian border is a couple hundred yards ahead of you.  There's nothing around but people and parked vehicles. 

We switched buses- ours was taking the group before us back to the DR and we had a couple minutes to talk to them about what to expect.  They seemed tired and very dirty.  We were about 2 hours away at this point and the scenery started changing.  Not so much the landscape- its still very tropical and pretty- but the farther in we go the more evidence we see of the earthquake. 

Haiti was never a rich country, even before the earthquake and like most third world countries, the people lived the best they could with what they had.

Tent Cities
  Shacks and cement houses, in different states of repair.  I've never been to Haiti before and so have nothing really to base my knowledge on how they lived before the quake, but I can tell there's been a big change.  Tent cities start popping up the closer we get, small ones at first and slowly get bigger.  We past through small towns and can see houses that have fallen down.  Traffic is slow at time, as big construction equipment is moved in.  The people are trying to go about their lives as normal, but you can see the weariness about them, the lost look in their eyes as they see yet another group of white people bused past them.  We're not even into Port-au-Prince and I'm already feeling overwhelmed.

YWAM in Haiti has set up a temporary base at a local orphanage in Port-au-Prince, called New Life Children's Home, right next to the airport- or more precise- the runway.

New Life Children's Home
  It was there before the earthquake and has a large compound, complete with a large guest house, playground, garden, small farm, and numerous bulidings and they are willing to share with us.  We have taken over a small house with a kitchen, bathrooms, "locker rooms" and a large room for donations.  We've also commendeered their soccor field for our tent city- I'm sleeping on the ground for the next 14 days- my back will LOVE me! We have also set up a post-op clinic in the chapel for children needing extra care after being discharged from the hospitals- but more on that later.

Arrived at base around lunch time and spent the majority of the afternoon lounging in camp chairs under a large tree in the yard.  As much as I wanted to lay down in my tent, the Haitian sun would have cooked me alive in minutes.

Our tent city
  Ugh, so tired.  Did talk to some of the other people who had been at the base for awhile, trying to get a feel of what to expect.  A group of us headed out late in the afternoon to one of the hospitals set up on the other side of the airfield to see if it was a place that we wanted to work.  Mercy Works had a lot of different missions spreading out- our choices were: working at the hospital, going on a mobile clinic, working at the post-op clinic or staying at the orphanage to play with the kids. 

More to come later

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Dominican Sunrise
Dominican Sunrise
Changing buses at the border
Changing buses at the border
Salt lake at the border
Salt lake at the border
First look at the distruction
First look at the distruction
Tent Cities
Tent Cities
New Life Childrens Home
New Life Children's Home
Our tent city
Our tent city
Orphans vs Dr. Jim
Orphans vs Dr. Jim
Santo Domingo
photo by: drsbabyface01