06 Feb 2010 Safely back to the Dominican
We said our goodbyes this morning, gave away most of our supplies (blankets, sleeping pads, spare clothing, water bottles, etc) to the families still sleeping outdoors in the neighborhood near the clinic, and made our way to the border with the Dominican.
We drove the FHM vans all the way through to the Dominican Republic, stopped only once by an armed guard. He banged on the window and demanded to know what we thought we were doing just driving 17 people across an international border. “Medicos,” we replied. “Andele con Dios,” he said as he waved us through.
Of course, it wasn’t really that simple. We guessed that we needed to get our passports stamped to get past customs at the airport tomorrow. Hardy and I collected all 15 passports and took them to the Dominican authorities. There was a $10 per passport fee to get the entry visa into the Dominican. They took that (cash, no receipt) and demanded some sort of “medical identification.” He showed them his military ID, which seemed to suffice.
They then revealed that we would need to get an exit visa from Haiti before they could stamp the passport. So we walked back across the border (ignoring a couple of offers to hire a moped for the 200 yard trip), around the exhausted looking guards who waved us through, and to the Haitian authorities. We set a stack of 15 passports on the counter, explained ourselves, and watched them get stamped through.
Back to the Dominican side (hello again to the exhausted guards), received 15 more passport stamps, and returned to the group.
At no point did anyone seem to think that it would be important to see these 15 individuals who were notionally crossing the border. It’s also worth noting that the border crossing is a geographically stunning place, a high mountain lake with chalk cliffs plunging directly into greenish blue water. It was a surreal experience.
This was substantially different than the trip into Haiti, since we bothered to stop at immigration at all. We have neither exit nor entry visas from that trip.
Summary: We’re safely back at the Marriott in Santo Domingo – substantially lighter – and planning to get on a plane home tomorrow.