Went to the city today

Posted: December 31, 2010 in Haiti, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

The site where we are working is not in a city, so today I made the trip to Port au Prince to retrieve supplies. It is not a pretty place. I went with a driver named Jean-Guardie and a translator, Vanya. Whenever we make the trip we have to leave at 6:00 AM, else we’ll be stuck in traffic for most of the day- getting nothing done.

It had been four days since my last trip, and I feel that I am adjusting to the culture in the village pretty well. The people here are really friendly and eager to communicate. They are hard workers and have ingenious methods for getting things done when resources are low.

Here is a photo of the “earth bag” building method that is being implemented by the crew.

The first two rows of earth bags are placed below ground level to make a sturdy foundation. Barbed wire is laid on each row to get a grip on the bag above it, then the mixture of earth and cement is compacted and allowed to set. Row by row these bags rise into a dome.

It’s an inexpensive method for building, but some things must still come from the city. My trip today was less stressful than the ones last week, mostly because of my guides. Jean-Guardie taught me how to say “you are my friend” in Kreyole, and having Vanya in our posse lightened my spirits. We laughed a lot about communication barriers as we trapsed around the crumbling city looking for hardware in various stores.

Still (and I think the following images will explain), Port au Prince is exemplary if you ever wonder how bad things are in Haiti. There is one highway leading into the city from the south. It is narrow and in poor shape, at one point devolving into a pitted gravel mud pit for half a mile before retching out into the outer reaches of the town. Everything has been crumbled, and there isn’t much economy to speak of. The roads are few and really bad, and vendors crowd the edges with commerce. These factors lend themselves to really slow traffic which, when combined with burning piles of trash, create a volatile air quality. I remind myself constantly that people live in this mess every day.

Despite the bad of Port au Prince, it’s not everywhere here. The surrounding country is equally poor, but not so crammed together in a serviceless maze. Here is one more image to show how wonderful the people here are. Next post I will have better things to say.

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