In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Friday, 9 May 2008

A Lesson Learnt... and now to Haiti

I developed a problem with procrastination over the past few years. Over the past few months, I vowed to deal with it. After all, I have enough in-built character flaws all ready, thank you very much!

In recent weeks I.... "forgot" about this vow, the promise I made to me. The issue was booking flights to Haiti. I had picked the dates, but then, wasn't quite sure, so tweaked them a bit (not just once, but several times, over a period of weeks).

I was entitled to a discount (a small one) with one of the airlines. I was determined to use it, even if it would mean an extra night in London: this would still be a financial saving overall, a small one, for a pretty big inconvenience. I slept on it.

The next day, the airline's prices shot up. There was no way of making a financial saving with them anymore, but their flight times out of London's Heathrow Airport and into Miami were good, so I wasn't quite ready to discount them.

This set off more hours of obsessive searching on Expedia, Opodo, the Airline Network, American Airlines, British Airways, Continental Airlines, Air France.... While I was surfing, I found Fly for Good, an agency that seeks discounts for humanitarian workers. I qualified. Yes!

Now my focus was finding the cheapest fare at all costs. After all, the less money I spent on me, the more I could donate to the charity I will be working with in Haiti. This thought was satisfying. Deeply satisfying. Surely it made me right.

But the timings of the cheapest flights would not have suited the NGO I will be working with in terms of the airport pick-up in Port-au-Prince. Never-the-less, I could make a few adjustments, and still save money, not much, but it would be a saving, none-the-less.

It would take me almost two days to get from Scotland to Haiti. The route would be convoluted. There would be loooong layovers in all the wrong places, connecting flights that I would have to check in for at unholy hours of the morning.

I had minimised 9 sites on my computer screen for comparison, and cross comparison. The rows of text were dancing. I rubbed my eyes, and something became clear; I would be going to a foreign country, a place I'd never been. I would arrive in Haiti, tired, and hungry, and jet-lagged to boot. I would have to get through the chaotic capital, and it would probably be a pot-holed ride, alongside smoggy, smelly slums, teeming with poverty.
I would (potentially) pass by bullet riddled buildings and flaming tires of discontent.

I would be buzzing with it all, long before I reached my destination, to meet people I d never met. Lots of them. I would be unshowered when we greeted one another, in the sticky heat, and they might be up close and personal enough to notice! Many of them would be speaking in a foreign language and my poor brain, busy with too much novelty would not be cope.

No, I know well enough that culture shock is difficult enough to deal with, without adding any more stress, brought on by single-minded martyrdom. I selected flights that suit me better, and a nice Miami Airport hotel for the overnight stay. It would cost only a fraction more than the crazy schedule I'd been planning. I decided to sleep on it before I booked: I woke yesterday to find the flight prices had increased by £150. Ouch!

I learnt my lesson (second time around) and was determined to reserve my flights if not right there then, at least that day. I took one last trip to Expedia, and was able to book my flights and hotel for less than it would have cost to book the flights alone. I am not out of pocket!

While everything has worked out in the end, I pity God in Heaven, because sometimes I Just Don't Take the Hint!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a tip. Be careful when booking online. Some online travel sites (especially EXPEDIA) are scamming people. Source: