10 February 2010
Sunday evening by high speed train from Arnhem to Frankfurt, I fell asleep even before the train pulled out of the station, then finding my way at massive Frankfurt Airport, check in with Condor – an airline for holiday makers, but the only one that flies overnight to Santo Domingo. Small shock at the counter, as I had only a one-way ticket, which requires that you have a visa or a contract. But once again, mentioning Haiti did wonders, suddenly there was no problem anymore, not even with my slightly overweight luggage. Boarding, and once again, asleep even before take-off, and I slept for most of the 10-hour journey to Santo Domingo.
The difference between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, at least from what I remember, is striking: for two countries sharing the same island, the DR is fairly well developed – my taxi to the hotel took a five-lane highway into town -, but the people are not nearly as friendly, not nearly as helpful, and also not very talkative. In contrast, Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere by far – and even worse so after the earthquake, no doubt -, has an incredibly friendly population, always smiling, helpful, hospitable. Of course there are many more differences, the DR being largely colonist-descendent, for a long time ruled by Spain, whilst the Haitians are more than 90% slave-descendent, and liberated themselves more than 200 years ago from the French, the one and only successful slave revolution. Both countries have been at each other’s neck many times in the past, but at least nowadays the Dominicans do feel for their Haitian neighbours, and actively support the relief efforts. Santo Domingo has become a second hub for flying in supplies and also has irregular commercial flights to Port-au-Prince.
I got on one of those flights, in a small plane that seats 18, Monday afternoon, and 45 minutes later I arrived in PaP.
next: the arrival