The following morning, we accompanied the unit to a World Food Programme distribution site, where a thousand people, mostly women, gathered in an empty field to receive their rations of two weeks’ worth of rice. Watching the women drag the heavy sacks to the roadside, where motorbike taxis waited, I thought about the enormous challenge travel had presented for me an able-bodied American with some cash to spend. I thought, too, about the legions of new amputees I had seen at the hospital, and the loved ones who didn’t know how they would get them back to what was left of their homes, and about something Tyler Marshall, a communications director for International Medical Corps, had told me over a meal ready-to-eat at his makeshift office. “Mobility in a third world country is everything,” Marshall had said. “Without it, you’re screwed.”

Transportation into and around Port-au-Prince had become the central narrative of my two reporting trips to Haiti. Getting out proved far easier. I had learned from a colleague that the UN was running two flights a day from its peacekeeping compound in Port-au-Prince to Santo Domingo. On Feb. 3, I miraculously secured the last seat on a morning flight. “You are lucky. The last is always lucky,” someone from the Korean armed forces said to me as I boarded. I spent a day in a Santo Domingo hotel, sleeping and watching American TV. The next day in Mexico City, as I rode from the airport in a taxi to my apartment on the north side of the city, the streets never seemed finer, the city never cleaner, normalcy and health and life prevailing.

Emily Schmall is a freelance journalist living in Mexico City. Her reporting about the earthquake in Haiti can be found here.