Haiti earthquake fallout...Tightened Canadian security...More Turks/Caicos
The situation is obviously terrible in Haiti. It's not bad enough these poor people are plagued by one of the worst governments in the world and live in abject poverty; now they have an earthquake that appears to have killed thousands.
I'll leave it to the news wires to keep you up to date on Haiti itself, but suffice to say aid is coming from Canada and other places. The Caribbean Tourism Organization says it, too, will offer financial and other aid.
The earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince, the capital ofHaiti. It was felt in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and there were reports of people fleeing Santo Domingo buildings in panic. But there were no reports of damage in the DR, and it doesn't look like tourism will be affected in one of Canada's favourite getaways.
That's no consolation to Haiti, which has been making attempts to nurture its own tourism brand despite desperate conditions. There was a great story in the September issue of Conde Nast Traveler by writer Amy Wilentz, who painted a lovely portrait, with beautiful swimming holes, incredible landscapes and tons of interesting locals.
At some point the country will return to whatever it's normal situation is and tourists will be welcome. You want to do some good? Make a donation now, but also make Haiti a destination once the country is back on its feet.
I got a note from my boss on my way to the airport in Turks and Caicos to say Canada is already getting its first shipments of the new “naked scanners,” although there appears to be no set date to have them installed just yet. There also was news of heightened security at airports in Canada, which made it an interesting day to fly home.
It was a pretty normal check in in Providenciales, but my check-in bag was singled out for a random search. No problem, although I felt sorry for the girl going through my boxers and sweaty sandals. To be honest, she didn’t do a very thorough search; opening some zippers but leaving others alone. Maybe she knew what she was doing, but it seemed awfully cursory to me.
Next stop was the x-ray machine with my knapsack, which was pretty standard. But then, after grabbing a ham and cheese sandwich at the bar (not much to write home about, just for future reference) next to the American Airlines gate, all carry-on bags were looked into. Again, not very thoroughly. The worker checked out my bag – a bit. She even thumbed through my hardcover book on Mark Twain. She took apart my “rocket stick” for checking the Internet, but didn’t ask what it was and didn’t pay attention to the power cords in my bag. She opened the zipper that has my sunglasses case in it but didn’t open the case to see what was in it.
Mind you, it would’ve taken hours to go through everybody’s stuff in detail, and the point likely was simply to let people know they’re being looked at. Finally, I got the pat-down before being allowed to get on board the flight to Miami.
There wasn’t much of a sign of anything serious in Miami; just the normal “shoes off, keys out of our pocket” stuff at the x-ray machine. And there was no sign of anything unusual at Pearson upon our arrival at 1 a.m., except I got my bag in a reasonable amount of time, which is surely the sign of something strange.
Actually, I'm forgetting something. They didn't give me a U.S. customs form in Turks/Caicos, and I forgot to ask owing to the fact I was blushing about the girl going through my Hawaiian-flower and hula girl boxers. The only customs form they had on my American Airlines flight was in Spanish. The steward said I could probably figure it out but I said I'd wait til I got to Miami. So I get to Miami and go to the customs guy and say, "Do you have any arrival forms."
He looks at me and says, "Do you speak German?" "No," I said. He grinned. "Neither do I," he said, and handed me an English form.
You think Canadian customs agents ever have that kind of fun with folks? Not too often, I think.
DAMN, ANYONE GOT SOME McNUGGETS?
I was getting a ride to the airport in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos on Tuesday from a lovely girl who was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
“I remember when I first came here (Providenciales), somebody said we were going to drive through downtown. We drove for a minute and I said, ‘Where’s the downtown?’ And they said, ‘You just missed it.’”
There’s not much of a town, to tell the truth; just a few scattered buildings and a gas station or two and what looked like a nondescript municipal government structure; all of it taking up a couple square blocks or so.
“When I first got here, somebody told me to look for the KFC,” my driver told me. “So I found the big red KFC sign, but underneath it in big, black letters it said “No Chicken.” I couldn’t believe it. They had everything but chicken.”
As it turns out, folks down that way aren’t into North American fast food. Apparently they’ll line up for grits and peas and boiled fish and they love to go out, especially on weekend mornings, but they prefer tried and true places where they’re served by local “grannies” rather than sitting down at the Golden Arches or Buger King. Good for them, I say.