Saturday, January 30, 2010

Life in Port-Au-Prince These Days

  • As much as is possible, life has returned to normal. Ti machann (street vendors) are everywhere, tap taps and buses are running and the grocery stores that weren’t irreparably damaged are open with limited hours and heavy security.
  • As much as is possible, our own lives are returning to normal. We’ve cut down from 12-15 to approximately 10-hour work days. We are shopping in the market again, taking public transportation and wondering why the news is reporting a "security situation."
  • Speaking of which, Haiti is now host to 34,000 troops: 20,000 American, 12,000 UN Peacekeeping, 2,000 Canadian (more on that later).
  • We thought traffic would get better because so many cars were smashed under rubble. Unfortunately, traffic is as bad as ever - the problem of too many cars on too few streets being compounded by military trucks, earth- (or in this case, rubble) moving machinery and a superabundance of aid vehicles.
  • Port-Au-Prince is experiencing a massive influx of aid and development workers. They’re everywhere and, as in the past, are doing a lot of good and a lot of harm.
  • This increase of development workers post-earthquake makes me sad on several levels: In the days following the earthquake, many organizations evacuated their personnel that live in Haiti, speak Creole and understand Haitian culture and are now shipping in hundreds of personnel that don't speak the language but can “manage an emergency situation.” It also makes me sad that the thousands of people coming to Haiti for the first time in the context of this earthquake (not only development workers but journalists, too) will only ever know and see Haiti in this context. It feels like Haiti is finally getting tourists, but that they’re here for the body count and rubble. The public parks (Place St. Pierre, Place Canape Vert, Place Boyer and others) have become IDP camps. Port-Au-Prince lost a number of iconic churches and monuments - including the Iron Market and the Saint Trinite and National Cathedrals (see photos below) and I mourn that newcomers to Haiti will never get to see these. Lastly, the services that serve these people and their generally exorbitant salaries (hotels, restaurants, international schools, elite clinics, gyms) will almost certainly be the first ones to be rebuilt; while it will probably be years before the population as a whole has access to many basic services.

More on us:
  • We’re still sleeping outside. Although our house has been officially okay’d by structural engineers (we’re even told that it will withstand a second earthquake), we’re still getting daily tremors that freak us out.
  • Bryan and Sharon have come in from Desarmes to help out and are staying with us, usually along with another friend or two.
  • We are eating enough.
  • We’ve had city water twice since the 12th, but it seems that our main water cistern cracked in the quake so for the time being we’re using our rainwater cistern for water to bathe, do dishes etc.
  • During the earthquake the wall came down between our house and our neighbor’s house. This has facilitated lots of neighborliness and we’re drawing power from their generator every night via an extremely long extension cord. We suspect that it will be months before EDH (Electricite d’Haiti) is functioning again.
  • Luna is doing well and has been an unexpected source of comfort for many of us over the past few weeks. For a viewing, look at her cute, tiny self peering into an empty flowerpot in the photo below.
  • I have lost not one, but TWO phones since the earthquake.
  • We know that we can’t sustain the pace at which we’re working without processing our experience during and following the earthquake. We’re planning to take a two-week stress leave in February to see our families and work through some things.


Kaloa said...

I've made a translation of your note to bring news on other platform
and give the link of your blog

I put this translation in my blog, you can read it if you want

I've removed some particular details as for example: see photos below or For a viewing, look at her cute, tiny self peering into an empty flowerpot in the photo below.

if you desagree I put that on other platforms (with your blog kink) say me on my blog in a comment and I'll don't do it

thanks for all you have written here, for all that you can learn to us we are not in Port-au-Prince, but our heart, yes!♥

Kaloa said...

you have that here:
Translation of a note on blogspot: la vie à Port-a...

Joanne said...

Thanks so much for this update... it's nice knowing what your day-to-day activity has been. Really looking forward to giving you both hugs in person soon.

Mwende said...
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Lexi said...
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Lexi said...

If we were to help, we would need more information. What zone is the house in and what neighborhood? How many other people are staying there? Is there a phone number where we can reach Mondesire?

I would like to say, too, that millions of people that have been affected by this earthquake, many of whom don't have family members in Canada with available resources. Banks and wiring services are functioning. As opposed to receiving food aid from strangers, would it be more appropriate and empowering for Mirlande Auguste to receive money from you and your husband (as markets are fully functional now and this would give her the option to choose what she will feed her children)? It seems to me that if you want to help with the situation here, your own family would be a good place to start.

Savannah Strickland Photography said...

Hey Ben- So glad to hear you and your wife are safe. If you remember me I went to RCC the year after you.

I was in Haiti doing some work back in September bringing water filters to Cerca Carvajal. We stayed briefly at an orphanage in Bon Repo outside of PAP. They are all safe and seem to have enough supplies for now.

As of now, we are taking donations and supplies to bring down. We don't know when we will be going (hopefully late spring or summer for me) but let us know if you need anything- would love to help you guys.
Stay safe
Your photos definitely tell the story.

Rosanna said...

I was in Haiti 25 years ago with Goshen's SST program, and reading your blog has been a gift to me. The news had almost convinced me that it really is different and dangerous than it was when I left (and no doubt there are many changes), but knowing you are riding public transportation cheers me. All blessings to you.


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