Pre-elections: Day 1
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – I arrived today without incident. Stepping from the plane, I was greeted by the familiar smell of burning rubbish and the faint sound of rah-rah drifting on a swift ocean breeze.
Nearing the door of the Toussaint Louveture International Airport, a welcoming band started up and MINUSTAH dotted the tarmac. I was immediately taken to the diplomatic lounge and then shown to vehicle that would take me to the Norwich Mission House, where I am writing this blog. My escort consisted of one driver and two armed contractors based out of Virginia. Both were former Marines and had recently left Iraq wanting to return soon.
At the NMH, I met up with Matt Marek, another HII member and long time friend. He gave me the grand tour before I was whisked back to the embassy (the residence, not the chancellery).
The embassy was a little awkward, as most had already arrived (even though I was 30 min. early). It was good to see some familiar faces, John Robinson and Liz Dooghan from the State Dept. It would turn out that John was to be my team leader, which means it will be the two of us, three Diplomatic Security (DS) agents and drivers traveling through neighborhoods like Belaire, Carrefour, etc. in the coming days. Needless to say, it is great to have friends in country.
Embassy staff was very welcoming. Having spoken with many over the phone during the last year and a half, it was great to put faces and voices together. The security briefing, while somewhat macabre, was sobering and reassuring all the same. While, details you will not find, suffice it to say that the State Dept has us well taken care of here.
We were also briefed on our individual assignments during the pre-election, the election, and post election periods. Simply put, we are to add legitimacy through our observations and reporting back to the embassy.
The ex-pat community has arranged for an evening of cultural exchange, which is where I am off to now. I have meetings at the chancellery first thing tomorrow morning, and then head out to the community with my escort. I will report more then.
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