Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A day in the life: Traveling the Haitian highway

Haiti is fairly well-known for poverty. But poverty isn't just malnourished children and a non-existent public education system. The poverty can also be seen in the lack of infrastructure. Addressing the poor infrastructure was one of the reasons I decided to come here. I knew that I'd be involved in house construction and last Saturday I made a visit to about ten houses in an area called Fond Rouge Dayere.

A funny thing happened on the way to the houses though. I realized I was traveling the Haitian highway system. And I also noticed how beautiful it is as I followed my fantastic guide, Luc Anel. He's a health agent for us and he's also a community leader. I never would've been able to go where we went without his help.

We started off at the end of the road near the top of a mountain where it was relatively flat:As we began the obvious descent, Luc Anel broke the news to me. He pointed to the bottom of the valley and told me that's where we were headed. Ugh! You can see here how narrow the Haitian highway got. It was only one lane:Eventually we found a passing lane. Too bad it also doubled as a perfect example of poverty begatting poverty. The lack of money and infrastructure requires people to use wood for cooking. And so we see here a classic example of deforestation:And here's a better look at the piled wood before it gets turned into charcoal... which is the Haitian staple for cooking:It was around this point on our journey that I really started to get tired. Then I remembered that there was no elevator to bring me back up the mountain. Ummm... I think little Timmy has a problem! Haha... I knew I was in for a looonnnggg day!

Soon enough we reached the valley. And wouldn't ya know it? There was a whole community here! I guess running water does that... attracts people. :)

This was our destination... the homestead of our most recently finished house in Mauvette. It was filled with earthquake migrants who had been displaced from Port-au-Prince. This is the "caye ancien" or old house:And here's the new house, including the wee ones:And no, this isn't four girls. That's what I originally thought. Then I noticed one was a boy:But that's what economic poverty does. You take whatever clothes you can get. As for running around with no pants, he's a little kid. But at several houses where I took photos, while the kids were running around bare-bottom when I arrived... as soon as the camera came out, the kids were shuffled inside and dressed. It was actually really nice to see the great pride they take in themselves and their new homes. And no, their homes aren't McMansions. But they are home. And that means everything to all the people I met on this short journey. It felt good to see so much good come of the earthquake donations.

After seeing the one house in the river valley, we started our return journey. And nope... I didn't take many photos. I was too busy telling Luc Anel that he was supposed to carry me back up the mountain! But for some reason, he said that wasn't true. Not fair! Haha...Eventually we finished our road trip on the Haitian highway. It took about five or six hours. And yes, it's winter. But it's the Caribbean. It's still hot here. haha... I asked for it!

As we got back to the car we passed someone standing by the side of the road. It kind of puzzled me that someone would be standing there by himself. Then I got the explanation. He was the Mayor of Fond Rouge Dayere! Love it! We chatted for a few minutes. He was nice and he was doing his job. He took the Saturday for "office hours" and to make himself available. And that's important here because my understanding is the local "casaks" have a vast amount of authority. So it's that much more important to be aware of what's happening.

Tim White

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