It’s wonderful that food binds people in someway or the other, no matter what Country you belong to or visit. I am an amatuer photographer and often travel to different countries to explore and enjoy their cultures. I never go by how the media portrays a particular country. As in my opinion good hospitality is something every culture and religion has by default.
Cutting the chatter and hitting the platter, Originally from Mumbai, I was in Miami for a week to attend a company sponsored cloud seminar. Our connecting flight from London reached at 4:00 AM. My return tickets from Miami was already booked for the next week. There were 12 of us and apparently I was the only Indian in the seminar.We checked in to the hotel, got freshened up and dressed up for the seminar which was to be held at 11:30 AM. The exhibition hall was just next to our hotel. We got our ID cards and finally entered the hall. We waited for the seminar to begin and somewhere at 12:20, we heard an announcement “Due to some genuine difficulties,the seminar would be cancelled and rescheduled in the other quarter of the financial year, Sorry for the inconvenience caused. Meanwhile attendees from Non-American countries can stay here for a week before taking a leave.” with that being said, here I was stuck for a week. Everyone were excited as they started making plans to travel across to different places like LA, Vegas, DC etc. Some decided to stay in Miami and chill. Me being the only Indian felt left out. Then I saw a few fellow Indians in a corner. I tried to strike conversation with them and they left the place when they saw me moving towards them. I laughed at the situation “An Indian is more than enough to show lack of humanity and etiquettes.” I had my headphones connected and ironically the song “Julien Jabre – Lost Again” started playing from my playlist. I was sitting there in the hall as crowd slowly started dispersing. A pretty African-American woman came towards me and smiled. I quickly took my headphones off and reciprocated with a “Hello”. She started “You seem to be lonely, shall I join you if you don’t mind ?” I was like “With pleasure.” We started introducing each others. Her name was Darline Pierre and sh was from Haiti. She got very excited knowing that I am from India and she was keen to know more about me. Now this was moving in my favor, as I love exploring cultures and meeting different people. Not to mention she was a very pretty “Miss Independent” kind of woman. She came all the way from Les Cayes in Haiti. We started conversing and the staff asked us to vacate the hall as everyone had left and we were busy with each other talking. It was almost 2:00 PM and we both were hungry. Coincidentally we both were allocated rooms in the same Hotel. I asked her to join me for lunch and she agreed. Though I appreciate food of any kind, but I am most comfortable with Indian food, that too in India. My body is more used to that. But out of no choice I had some chicken and mashed potatoes with some lime and pepper gravy along with friend shrimp on sides. It was good, but not upto the mark of my taste buds. Not to mention i broke a major protocol of eating meat and fishes, which I had apparently stopped for religious reasons. I asked Darline, “I have the whole week with me now, what is your plans ?” She was like “I am heading home tonight. Gotta get the tickets booked after the lunch. Oh, well, Would you like to come alone to Haiti for a vacay if you don’t mind ?” I was happy and surprised, without even thinking for once I agreed as its visa-free for Indians to enter Haiti for a short period, plus its another culture I cover out of nowhere, so I was like “Since you have invited me the flight tickets are my treat !” She laughed off “No Keep it I already have my flight money, you can keep that for a surprise.” I did not understand what she actually meant by that so I simply nodded. We were done with our lunch and we both were sitting in the lobby area, while she booked 3 tickets (including my return ticket.) She asked me to stay in Haiti for 6 days to which I promptly agreed. Now my return journey was going to be real hectic. We quickly shared numbers and I came back.
Les Cayes -> Port Au Prince -> Miami -> London -> Mumbai
Tickets were confirmed and I was excited. We said goodbyes and went off to our rooms to take some good rest. I was already jet-lagged. Since the flight was at in the morning 5:00 AM and it was a 2.5 hours flight plus another 30 mins flight to Les Cays, I decided to get myself some good sleep. But I wasn’t getting that sleep. So I called the room service and got myself some VSOP Cognac to prepare “sidecar” cocktail which would really smooth me off. The recipe went like this
My Sidecar Recipe :-
90 ml VSOP Cognac + 30 ml Grand Marnier Orange Liqueur + 50 ml lemon juice + 10 ml corn syrup + crushed ice – All mixed in shaker and served with the side of cracker and cheese.
A few shots of sidecar and there I slept like a baby. By the time I woke up it was 8:12 PM. I Checked my phone and There was a message from Darline that we have our cab to airport was scheduled at 12:00 AM, so she told me to catch up at the Hotel lobby at 11:50 PM, to which I replied okie dokie. I quickly took a shower got myself packed and ready, spoke to mom dad back in Mumbai on call and had my dinner. It was 11:00 already. Then I went to the lobby area and waited for Darline. in a while there she came in a shiney velvet top and denim jacket and shorts. I promptly stood and appreciated her beauty and kissed her palms. Unlike normal sophisticated ones, she gave me that beautiful laughter in response. I was already blown. The circuits in my head had apparently fused from the time she came. We quickly headed to the cab, loaded our bags and headed to Miami International Airport.
After checking-in to the North terminal of the Airport, I checked the time and it was around 1:20 AM and we still had time to board. My return flight and flight to Heathrow was all scheduled with American Airlines so I quickly called my dad’s friend Uncle Trevor and somehow got entry to the D-30 Admirals club Lounge. Darline was purely impressed with the choice of my class. Although the lounge closes at 10:30 PM, we got special treatment as my Uncle Trevor was a Military veteran and an elite member of the lounge. We were guided to a special room where we were served with some of the finest dry fruits and champagne. I wanted to cut the alcohol as I was already hung over with Cognac. Darline had a glass of Champagne and we snacked on some premium roasted cashew nuts, Macedonia nuts, Almonds. We started talking about lifestyles and countries. Then we rested for a while and it was almost time to board. It was a pleasant and elite experience in the lounge. Our plane was taxied on Gate 1A, We quickly entered the AA 949 and got seated.I dozed off as soon as the plane took off and woke up 2 mins before landing. Since its EDT / EST in both Florida and Haiti, time switch wasn’t an issue. I was thinking, it’s been almost 19 hours that I know Darline and not once I asked her what was the plan. I blindly followed her to a new country. But then again I thought, let things happen as it happen. Why question and make it boring. The plane came to a halt and we both got down the plane. Darline looked and me and said “Welcome to my Homeland Haiti” I reciprocated, “The pleasure is all mine.” We quickly finished our checkout procedures and she called someone on the phone and spoke for almost 20 mins. It was 8:00 AM already. Once she hung up, I asked her “Aren’t we supposed to have another flight to Les Cayes?” She said “There are no flight available now, so we will go by a transport that is the heart of Haiti, the TapTap.” I was like “Oh Wow, interesting, I am excited. ” She said “Its a 4-5 hour journey from here to my hometown. Mostly we shall catch a Taptap at 12:00 PM from just outside the terminal, until then let’s get into a cafe and have some nice Haitian breakfast.” I was like “Sounds like a plan.” We headed to a soul cafe named Mama’s close to the Airport to have our breakfast. We both had coffee with some plantains and eggs. we started talking about our countries and culture again. I was very excited to know alot about Haitian Culture. She was so excited talking to me, for a moment I completely went off track and constantly kept gazing into her eyes. Her eyes were mesmerising and she looked alot like the Liberian Vlogger Royda Urey with the Insta ID named Philmena.We both vibed very much same and you know how time flies when you are with someone whom you have a sudden crush on. Same was my situation. It was almost 11:45 and we had a Taptap to catch. We quickly left the cafe and she took me to a bus stand 10 mins walk from the cafe. The moment I entered the bus stand, I was both surprised and flabbergasted. Such beautiful old modified buses and jeeps. She said “These are the taptaps and we are going in one of these.” I was like “Whoa !!!! I am excited.” I took my DSLR from the carry bag and snapped a few pictures of these beauty. How can I describe a Taptap? They looked more like the Vengabus. There was no front door to the bus and everyone entered from the rear and the seats were positioned like how convicts sit inside the gypsy or eicher vans back here in India. But the artwork was surely a beauty. There was Tom & Jerry, Beyonce, Hulk Hogan and Jesus Christ all in the same bus art. Check the featured image to get an Idea how it looked…
Let’s keep the rest of the story for part 2 (Stay Tuned)