Along the National Highway to Genoives
We headed for the National Highway through the heart of Port-au-Prince. The road was quite rugged and bumpy, and the buildings were all quite poor – except the occasional mansion behind a high wall.
We drove along the coast for quite some time passing through a variety of villages lined with small market stalls – mostly food stuff but also wood, sugar cane, and two liter bottles of gasoline. There were an enormous number of motorcycles as well as tap taps – the local equivalent of a taxi. They were almost always just brightly painted pickup trucks with benches in the back, a colorful top, and no tail gate – and usually filled to overflowing. Several converted school buses served as transportation, again usually brightly painted and frequently with several people on top.
The houses were all quite small and mostly made of salvaged material. Some use of woven reeds and many what looked like quite new, small places made from concrete blocks. There were piles of rubble in many places left over from the earthquake. In one spot we passed an armed group of UN troops inspecting cars and trucks.
In one town there was recent rioting – streets still partially blocked by rubble and what looked like burned tires. There was even quite a heavy police presence, all heavily armed. For the most part though, other than really crazy drivers, we had no problems.
One impression I got from the travel was that most people that I saw – both adults and kids – seemed to be doing OK. They are desperately poor by US standards but they have adapted to conditions and seem to be making the best of things. I would guess that they are pretty healthy and happy most of the time. I wonder how folks in the US would adapt to these conditions.
Another impression was that missions to Haiti are a very popular industry! We passed several compounds with “mission” in the name – mostly walled and all in much better shape than the surrounding community. It seemed that they were more to provide an experience and good feeling for folks rather than trying to solve problems that people were facing. It may be the sociologist in me but I think if the money spent on the missions were spent on trying to empower people, Haiti would be in much better shape.
About 6:00 we arrived at the Family Hotel in Genoives and offloaded all our bags to find some specific medicines for a local orphanage, then packed everything back up. We were shown our rooms – Adam and I shared one room (the only two men of 11 people) which was OK – but filled with mosquitoes and hot – though there was an air conditioner. We strung up our mosquito nets then went to help everyone else do the same. All rooms had AC but were pretty basic after that.
Dinner was buffet style – Cajun chicken (I think roster actually), rice with beans, a vegetable stew (with crab and goat) and fried plantains along with a bottle of water. We also split a Prestige Beer – the local brew. After I went to take a (cold) shower and the bathroom floor was covered with water – the AC water vent was supposed to drain into the bathtub but fell out. Since it was still in the upper 80s (only the bedroom had AC) it wasn’t so bad. There was also a gecko in the room – and all over the hotel for that matter.
Most of the group joined up in the patio for a last beer and a little internet. A couple times groups with music paraded by the hotel – the leftovers from carnival – singing and carrying bright lights. Then we all headed off to bed – most having gotten up about 3:30 AM. As I type this in the room I can hear music and drums all around. Clearly the local people are having quite the time!