These are notes I took during my recent trip to Haiti:
Flying into Port-au-Prince after flying into Miami is an experience in contrast for sure.
The airport was destroyed during the earthquake. The current terminal is makeshift, and from the outside as we taxied to it, looked like a giant hut with a tin roof. It was much nicer on the inside and you actually felt like you were in an airport .
As we leave the airport we are immediately greeted by taxi cab drivers and hustlers desperate to serve you. Red shirts are on a wave of chattering, shouting and desperate entrepreneurs clamoring to aid people just off the plane laden with cash.
Good news- Elade said that the tent village right outside the airport is shrinking. It means that people are going home, but it’s still amazing how many tents are still out there.
People openly urinate out in public and Port au Prince is still a mess of a city. Elade says that no one from Haiti would dare blame the earthquake for their problems. Haiti was a disaster before the quake. The quake just magnified the many problems already there.
It’s certainly a hustle and bustle place. Road rules are what you make them and none of the stop lights have worked since the quake. One cool thing is the absence of road rage. Everyone realizes they’re in the soup together so they might as well cooperate. What seems to be a constant beeping and dog eat dog driving race is really a very nuanced dance of cooperation. I’m coming up on your right and need to get over, so I beep at you. You beep back to let me know you see me. Its quite remarkable actually. The margin of error is slim, however and accidents are common. When accidents occur, police don’t arrive and make a report. Negotiations take place on the spot and they work out who is at fault and who is going to pay. If you are not from around here and you have “blancs” (white people) with you, it’s gonna cost you more.
Most secondary roads are really just very rocky paths. Animals occupy the margins of the road everywhere right alongside the people. The amount of trash and rotting produce on the side of the roads is astonishing. It’s easy to see why there is so much disease in the city. Elade says the countryside is beautiful. It’s hard to imagine from the bowels of this city built for a population of 50,000. 3 million people live there now.
For a couple of hours we scampered around Port au Prince trying to find a fuse for the generator that Mark Martak gave Hope for Haiti Foundation (HFHF) through his company PowerSecure. The generator backs up HFHF’s main solar power supply system and has become a valuable part to their system of operations. We went to 3 places with no luck. At our last stop, Wilner, Elade’s HFHF’s accountant and everything man, finds a fuse and buys 10 of them. We found out a few hours out of town that the fuses are not the right ones. C’est la vie in Port au Prince.
HFHF has plans to one day provide at least 3 hours of power for the people of Zorange each night. They will charge an agreed upon amount, say $1 or so. This is real community development in action that doesn’t enable people to depend on a helping organization. It enables people to stand on their own and take responsibility for their lives. It gives dignity. This impresses me and gives me hope for what can be accomplished in Raleigh.
More to follow…..