When we arrive in Port Au Prince, Janis and I are the last to deplane. Eddie waits for us at the entrance to customs and give us instructions on how to proceed. ¨Have $5 ready, but don't let anyone see you with your money. Wait for me right there. DO NOT go into the baggage area.¨ It will be like this for the next 5 days, Eddie leading us around like ducks.
After a short wait, we’re the last to enter the hot, crowded, chaotic hanger to claim our baggage. Immediately, a large, intimidating man greets Eddie with a friendly, rowdy bear hug. At Eddie’s cue, we hand the man our claim tickets and he turns and disappears into the dense crowd. Within minutes he emerges with our bags and we all head outside, where Eddie's business partner Ralph is waiting for us.
On the short walk along the crowded street outside the airport, men hustle to help with luggage, trying to make a buck. Others line the gated wall at the edge of the exits, looking worn and sullen, their hands loosely gripping the iron bars.
At the car, a handful of men and teenage boys greet Eddie and Ralph with much glad-handing and happy shouting. As I'll witness countless times on this trip, money changes hands discretely.
On cue, Janis and I hand our $5 bills to the man who carried our luggage and climb into Ralph's SUV. Ralph and Eddie are in front. Two other men, who we will come to know as Kents and Fatahl, pile in behind Janice and me and politely say hello. This will be our entourage for the next 5 days.