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I hold a strong belief that any bad situation can be turned into a good one. The thing about this belief is that it's only true if you believe it. It's easy to think this when everything's going swimmingly, but when plans get derailed and blow up in your face, it gets put to the test. Case in point, here's a situation I found myself in recently:
Imagine that. I'm stuck in Santo Domingo and my ride to England is sailing away without me, putting a serious body of water in between me and my British plans.
Step one: deep breath. Step two: examine options. There's the boring option of flying straight into Saint Maarten two days later. It's the ship's only stop before the five day transatlantic push, and a call to the cruise line confirms that I can meet them there and get on the ship. Almost as bad as being boring, it's expensive. Five hundred thirty seven dollars for a one way ticket.
I could book it and make it on the ship, but that's not turning a bad situation good; it's just turning a bad situation into a solved situation. I check a map of the Caribbean and notice that there are a few islands near Saint Maarten. Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla. I'd never even heard of Anguilla before, but a quick check online offers a $325 fare from Santo Domingo.
That's the kind of situation I like. Two hundred twelve dollars cheaper than my only other option means that if I can spend less than that and turn it into an adventure, I've come out ahead. The ferry between the two islands seems to cost only twenty dollars, which is all the US currency I have in my pocket. That's enough confirmation for me; I book the ticket to Anguilla, which should give me a full 19 hours from landing to boat departure to make my way to the cruise ship.
I'd never been to Haiti and I'd never tried couchsurfing, but since Haiti was just a $75 bus ride away ($67 if you have the foresight to pay in Pesos), I felt like I had no choice but to try it.
A search for couches in Port Au Prince yielded a few pages of results, with Natacha and Charlene showing up at the top. The site said that they both replied to almost all of the requests, and each offered a couch for up to two weeks. I e-mailed Charlene first because she has a son and I love kids.
Charlene wrote back the same day and said to let her know what dates I wanted to come. I replied back with a weekend and she said she'd be expecting me. It was so easy and painless that I wondered if it would actually work.
I had lingering worries in the back of my mind. Haiti was supposed to be a pretty dangerous place, so if she changed her mind at the last minute, I might be stranded. Besides, we all know that everyone on the internet is a demented weirdo (except for me). How much weirder do you have to be to invite strangers into your home for weeks at a time?
After a long scenic bus ride, I arrived in Haiti. I took a taxi through the unlit streets and arrived in front of a night club, where Charlene's sister was waiting for me.
"Charlene is at Toastmasters. Come with me."
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