Published On: Thu, Dec 14th, 2017

Nos kultura or Welcome at Hato International Airport

AirportOn Sunday, 29 October 2017, we were on our way from Toronto to Hato. On the first West Jet flight of the season one usually can get a good priced ticket. So the airplane was packed with sun seekers who had booked an off-season deal. There wasn't one single empty seat. The flight was plagued by heavy winds but the captain assured us that he will manage and so he did. We landed safely with some fifteen minutes delay. Quite nothing for a five-hour flight. And absolutely nothing for an island where almost everyone schedules his appointments by saying: “Tomorrow...”

The crew was very pleasant. But still, as the engine came to a standstill we all just had the one thing in mind to get off the airplane. We all grabbed our hand luggage waiting for the very moment of descending. But nothing happened nothing moved not after five minutes and also not after ten. The captain's voice was also getting a bit uncertain. He has phone contact with the building but seemingly nobody knows anything. He apologizes for not knowing more but guarantees us his best efforts to get us off the airplane. Of course, we can trust him, after all, he got us safely here! He fought the tremendous winds but does he have enough experience for the uncertain rules of this island, I wonder? The crew knows how to handle an increasingly nervous crowd by starting to teach some Papiamento. Danki... What does it mean? Some of us know and say it loudly. Very good, repeat it all. Some did some not. Dushi.. What does it mean? By now I don't remember. But one hears it very often. I believe it's a universal word one can use for simply anything.

I considered it a good sign that the baggage handlers had arrived and started unloading our luggage. Next to every worker, two others were standing controlling his doings. After each suitcase, a discussion ensued seemingly all I see offers a picture of reluctance. As I complained once to the local telephone company about their rotten service I was told: “We do our best with the people we find!” A truck came starting to refill the airplane. I don't know with what, perhaps with fuel, but I was hoping with water as we all were still in there. Seemingly we were forgotten, but the captain assured us, that all is okay. He would be still in contact with the airport's building and got the message just now that there is no one there to connect the landing bridge to the airplane. But got the assurance that someone will come. Do you still remember those airplanes which threw out their own escalators after opening their door? How much of an advantage that was!

Tragically and very unfortunately, there is a very high unemployment rate on the island especially under men between 35 and 45 years of age I read just a few days ago. I don't want to sound too wise but I believe I would know for which job one could train one of those! Or even better let's say three or ten of them!

It took about three-quarters of an hour until we got free. Of course, the captain apologized. But there wasn't a single airport employee who said sorry to us. It seems to be rather disgusting for all of them when an airplane is flying in on a Sunday! As usually, an uncomfortably long line was building up in front of the immigration booths. I was lucky this year and used for the first time the local line. Only two others ahead of me. The uniformed older lady grabbed my passport than my husband's one studied whatever and handed it back after a while. Standing already at the luggage belt looking out for our luggage I hear someone saying behind me: “I need your passport again!” Turning around I see the old uniformed lady. I look straight into her eyes as she now asks somehow uncertain: “Wasn't it you whom I just served..?” The more she looks at me the more uncertain she becomes. She had controlled altogether four people. I was the third one and the only woman and the onliest one who wore a hat. “No”, I said instantly as firm as I can, “it was not me. I have enough now, I go home, that's for sure!” Upon my reply, she looks once more at me and becomes really uncertain. She turns around and starts walking up and down around the luggage area looking for the traveler she just had served.

I just can say “Dushi” and “Danki” to West Jet that they still keep on flying to this island which offers an interesting and rare culture, namely, being totally free of any standard.

By Marry Simpson

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