Thursday, December 30, 2010

Port-au-Prince - 12/29/10

I had a somewhat rude awakening when Tassy kicked my mattress at 6:30 and asked me what I was doing to earn my keep. He mentioned all of the things James and Hadas had done to help around the house and asked what I had done. Since all I had done was eat and sleep, I really didn’t have much to say for myself. I quickly got dressed and found out that we were leaving that very moment to meet someone for a shoot. I hurriedly got my stuff together, stumbled into my shoes and jumped into the car with Tassy and James and so began my day’s adventure. Tassy is an excellent driver in Haiti which really and truly is a high compliment. The way most of us are familiar with driving in the States would most certainly cause an accident within 5 minutes here in Haiti. Haitians aren’t used to driving with the same rules and regulations that we have in the States. There aren’t speed limits and traffic “lanes” are more guidelines, not strict designations for travel. (I’m reminded of a traffic ticket I got soon after my mission where the traffic violation was “Driving Left of Center”. I can’t imagine trying to explain what that means to a Haitian. They wouldn’t know what is wrong with it!) Everyone is very quick to react to whatever obstacle is introduced in their path. Whether it be a pedestrian, dog, gigantic sewer opening, or another vehicle, they are always quick to avoid it. At first glance it looks like complete chaos but after surviving so many close calls on all fronts, I soon realized that it’s a survival of the fittest. If you want to pass someone or cross traffic then the champion is whoever proves most daring and assertive with their vehicle position. Drivers communicate with a beep of the horn which can mean “I’m passing you,” or “Go Ahead,” or “Get out of my way!” and it all just works. Tassy says that if you can drive in Haiti and Manhattan, New York, you can drive anywhere in the world. He’s probably right.

We actually saw the guy we were planning on seeing on our way across town and found that he wouldn’t be home for another 2 hours. We changed our plans and decided to go to a small tent city next to a hospital in Carrefour. We arrived and found some pretty sad stuff. Lots of people are really mad and frustrated that they hear about the millions of dollars being promised to Haiti to help after the earthquake but they haven’t seen one cent of it. We had difficulty at first trying to find people who would stand in front of our cameras to tell us about what was going on. They talked about the several other journalists who come, take their pictures, and leave. They profit from the poverty and sad situation and don’t change anything. I can completely understand their situation, but that doesn’t really help the fact that the whole reason I had come was to show what Haitians are doing to help one another. If we can’t document what’s going on then what’s the point of us being here? Anyways, we finally got some guys to warm up to us and finally talked on camera for us. Then a bunch more people showed up and we decided to pack up before more people started to gather and draw attention to us.

We headed over to see Francois who is a local political leader and director of a school for the handicapped. He himself has lost both of his hands but he seems to get along just fine. Unfortunately, he had come and gone again before we got there. Hopefully we can make another appointment with him. I know he has a great organization and a great story that is definitely in line with our project. After trying to find some clean food (the risk of Cholera is very real so our Haitian friends take every precaution to make sure we avoid any potential contact with the horrible disease) we ended up making our way back across town so we could meet our next team member Tiana at the airport. We had almost reached our base camp when we drove past a traffic accident that had just happened. A pedestrian had been hit by a passing car and about 35 people had gathered to make quite a commotion. The unfortunate pedestrian had been struck below his calf and was bleeding and yelling in the back of car that hit him. The crowd of people gathered to ensure that the driver wouldn’t run away while the police were coming. James and I got some video of the situation and left when more and more people started gathering. The police did arrive and the driver was being questioned. Tassy drove us back to the house where we got our first meal of the day (it was now noon) and he and James left to pick up Tiana who had been delayed in New York for 3 days due to the blizzard. I stayed back and worked on researching some organizations in Haiti that we’d like include in our project.

They returned almost 2 hours later and we ate again and got to know Tiana better. After dinner Tassy, Tiana, and I went to grab a drink and talk about the project and what we would like to accomplish while we are here. We had a good discussion talking about our goals and how we can accomplish them.

We went back to the house and soon after were met by two guys who direct a small grassroots organization in the area. They pool their own money and resources to arrange food and water distribution and several other things to help many of the tent communities. They had formed before the earthquake but especially after the earthquake their work was needed that much more. They are really great at organizing efforts to put people in the community to work. They feel that there is high value in the work that people can do in their own community. When I asked them what things they needed they talked about the basic needs that we enjoy in the States. Things like patching potholes in the road, or public restrooms where people can use the bathroom while traveling between cities, or even having reliable electricity at night to allow more work to be done after the sun goes down, all are specific things they mentioned that would really help their work improve. It was great to hear such organized and motivated people really making a difference in their own communities. This group is one of many that we are going to feature in the Nap Kenbe Project.

James, Tiana, and some of our other Haitian friends went out to drink but I stayed home to catch up on this blog, take a shower, and get to bed early. Which is what I am doing right now. Until tomorrow!

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