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Adventures with John & Nina – How Many Countries?

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

by Nina Sabin - Travel

Well we are off again – this time for our second repat. At this point, John has become a master at creating itineraries. He has each detail worked out – flights, hotels, transportation, activities, exchange rates, and weather for each day of our vacation. Most of the time we make it through a trip with little or no surprises. However, if you ever traveled there is always a surprise lurking around the corner - usually in forms of delays, transportation not showing up, accidental cancellation of a hotel booking, or missing luggage.

However, on this vacation, we were blessed not to have any of those surprises happen.

As in the past, this repat we were gone for over a month - about 36 days. Instead of traveling to another country first, we followed what the word repatriate means and went back to our home country first. If you remember in our Infamous Asian Tour, we visited six countries in the month. This time we only visited four countries on – US, Haiti, Spain, and UK. We didn’t title this repat, but if we did we could call it the Wondrous Western World Journey.

Seeing family during our repat was always important. Therefore, we started our travels in Georgia where John’s parents have a beautiful country home in the mountains. If you have ever been to GA, you know how green and lush the land is. There are so many wonderful outdoor adventurous you can experience while in GA. Our favorites are tubing down the Tocca River in Helen, GA. The ride takes you through the quaint Bavarian town of Helen. Something definitely worth seeing. In fact, 15 years later, we just tubed down the Tocca River with our daughters again and rubber duckie. See our vlog -What’s Next with John & Nina – Unbelievable Helen, GA and more! Not only did we tube, but we also did some hiking in the Smokey Mountains, picking blueberries, and horseback riding. We love the outdoors and any type of outdoor exploring. Over 15 years later and Brooke, our youngest daughter, can still remember the name of her horse, Therman.

After 10 days in Georgia, we were on a plane and heading to Florida. Also, part of living overseas, is when you come back for your repat, you have things to do, like updating your driver’s license, seeing specialty doctors, visiting friends and family, and of course shopping for items you can’t find in Saudi.

We try not to take it for granted, but going back to FL often gives us opportunities to take our children to Disney World. It is a dream for many children and over the last 16 plus years of living overseas and repating to FL we have been to Disney about dozen times. This trip, however, was our daughters’ first Disney visit. They loved everything about the experience, and it really lives up to its name – The MAGIC KINGDOM!

Most children love time with grandparents. That is why it is nice to visit yearly from Saudi. The girls treasured their time with my parents. We were blessed that they could have quality time with their grandparents while we headed off to our next place on our Wondrous Western World Journey – Haiti. We didn’t feel comfortable bringing a five and seven-year-old to Haiti.

We chose to go to Haiti because the church we attended sponsored a mission program in Haiti called – Baptist Haiti Mission. We wanted to see if there was a way we could help with this program and the country.

There was important information that was shared to us before we arrived in Haiti. We are grateful to have that information. One is we were told not to check luggage but do hand-carry only. This was due to the chaos at the airport. The concerns are you might lose your luggage, have it stolen, or customs decides to take it. The airport was even more hectic than Egypt and we thought that was crazy.

We got through the airport without incident – yea!!, 50% of the way to safety. We went outside of the airport, we were hit with high temperatures and even higher humidity…and a sea of people. It was not too different than Vietnam as far as how tight the crowd was packed, but in Haiti they did not budge to make room for the exiting passengers to exit. Upon watching the locals, John decided to do as they did – push, shove and bounce off people as we made our way through the crowd…no one seemed to mind, it was just the normal way there.

We were quite happy to see our driver – a nice Haitian from the Mission. He did not speak English (or French) but did get safely up to the Mission.

We knew Haiti was poor. However, we were not ready for how poor it was or how widespread the issues are. Many cities of the world all have poor, but there are nicer areas and, at least in theory, the rich can support the poor. In Haiti, even the wealthy were very poor compared to American standards.

Shantytowns like Cité Soleil, where over two million people live in five square kilometer of reclaimed swampland are an example of the issues facing Haiti. An almost total lack of civilian infrastructure is as obvious as the open sewage ditches. As you drive through town, you have to ask yourself if there is a government and if there is, what are they governing?

The streets of Port-au-Prince are full of wet, decaying garage. Not just a little garbage, but something like 3 feet high, 7 feet wide and as long as the road type of garbage. Think compost pile with some extra ingredients.

Going through the markets we needed a guide, just so we could have someone make a path through the sea of people and also avoid any thefts. Praise God we made it through safely and even was able to pick up a souvenir on our way.

There were streetlights in some places. However, we did not see any that actually worked. If they did, we don’t think they would stop for them anyway. Many intersections looked like they had the wiring but the light fixture had fallen down or been stolen.

Watch out for the potholes! Some of them are big enough to swallow cars….

The place we were staying was up the mountain passed Pétionville, to the southeast of Port-au-Prince. It is as close as the country comes to wealth.

Baptist Haiti Mission was out of the city grime but into the country grime. Beautiful views, but still very dirty. Still people (men and women) going to the bathroom on the streets and up-hill from their produce for sale on the ground. It was such a normal thing for them to go to the bathroom on the streets, but very surprising to us.

The missionaries were very gracious to us. We enjoyed the experience of learning about how they work with the natives. Our guess is that they have done more for the country than anyone or any group has ever done. Their main mission is to convert the country via church and school planting, but their reach is so much greater. It was amazing to see how they have helped this country in the areas of health, education, agriculture and churches. They even have the only zoo in the country – nothing compared to what we see in America but it is nice place for the locals to visit.

There are two main things I remember about Haiti. The whistling frog who kept up us every night croaking the word “cook-e, cook-e”. The other is seeing sheep alive, upside down on a truck going up the mountain as they moaned “maaa”. These are not normal sites for us, but definitely experiences we won’t forget.

On my next blog, I will continue with our Wonderful Western World Journey to Spain and United Kingdom. Stay Tuned!

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