Sunday, April 25, 2010

Haiti - Part 1 (revised)

Hopelessness, Desperation, Powerlessness, Starvation

Can you imagine a country where this is the reality?

Day 1~ 12 hour car ride to Port-au-Prince

What I thought would have been one of the longest days of my life turned out to be so fun! I was in the van with Lowell, Cheryl, Josh, and Chastity. (The rest of the van was full of our luggage and our supplies.) We had SO much fun joking around and teasing each other that the time passed by quickly. Our fun and games came to a sudden halt when we reached the border and had to sit in the most chaotic mess I've ever seen in my entire life. It took us about 2 hours to get through because of the disorganization. This border crossing is nothing like one could imagine without experiencing it for themselves. When you arrive to the crossing you would never know that you had actually approached it because of the heap of semi trucks lining the road as they wait to cross over. The many people walking around and selling things in the mud and heat is also a distraction to what awaits. When we finally reached what could be mistaken as a traffic jam, turns out to be a building and a few security guards deciding who to let through without trouble and who to hassle - we were hasseled... I think I actually saw money signs in their eyes when they saw us. After about 3 different stops - all within 70 yards - we were finally through! Once we were in Haiti our van was silent as we watched. Every now and then someone would comment on similiarities or differences to the D.R. but we all just watched.

We made it into the city of Port-au-Prince about an hour before dark. At one time in my life I thought 5:00pm traffic in Kirkland was bad, but this was worse! Because the city is without power, everyone tries to get home before dark. We hardly moved, just inched our way through the streets trying to find our way with the written directions we had. Luckily we brought along a Haitian lady with us who was able to guide us to our destination for the night, but not before Nate tried to do it himself... we had to turn 3 vehicles around in the middle of the street where traffic wasn't moving, and our van was hauling a trailer! INSANE!!!

Once we made it to the hospitality house we all just crashed. It was 7:30pm and it was hot! We ate dinner, took showers (BTW 23 people, 2 single-person bathrooms), a few of us sang worship music and then tried to sleep in the heat with ridiculous humidity. The entire city is without electricity so after 11pm the generator was turned off which meant no fans... we were all sleeping and sweating... gross.

Poor photo quality, I know, but it was through the car window. I really wanted to show you this one because this happened to several buildings we saw... they completely crumbled, one floor on the next.

In this community you can see houses that stood and houses that fell. Lowell was telling us a lot of the buildings that crumbled did so because of poor construction or really old constuction. On the side of the street we could see people making the "block" that is used for the walls. Lowell said that they are not using the chemicles in them that make them strong and durable.

This is the same community, just a different view

Same community, different view

There were 2 men knocking down the walls in the upper level. You can see a pile of rubble in front of the house from what had been the roof, other walls, and balcony.

This photo was taken right in front of the Presidential Palace. A huge tent community living right on the street. There is a line of Honey Buckets out in front, which is a huge advantage, many communities have no place to go to the bathroom.

Presidential Palace - Left side. You can see a UN vehicle sitting on the lawn in front of the building. There were a few UN members standing at the entrances keeping guard.

Presidential Palace - Middle

Presidential Palace - Right Side
There were people sitting all around the palace just looking at it. It's a constant reminder of their failed government. No one knows what the President is doing besides sitting in his mountain home over looking the destruction from his air conditioned, comfortable, well stocked home.

This was the legal building holding all the records of the country and its people in it. Most of the legal records were destroyed in this building when it collapsed.

Another view of the legal buiding with documents all over the road.

Tent community in the middle of the city.

Driving through the city with difficulty as we had to watch for large pieces of rubble in the road.

We rarely saw restaurants or stores, everything was just sold on the street. Here this women is preparing her little road-side restaurant.

Another tent community

Another tent community

The UN kind of left a bad taste in mouths while we were there. We never, not once, saw them doing anything but driving around in their vehicles holding their guns. I'm sure their job is be a presence to keep some kind of order, but we never saw them helping out... that was dissappointing.

The streets were lined with people all the time. Everywhere we went looked like this, packed with people.

Below are some short videos I took from the van we were driving in, they will give you a little glimpse into what we saw.

This short video offers a breif look of the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Many people are walking, headed toward the city. The paintings on the walls are advertizements for local buisnesses or brands. You can see that people have set up things to sell on the street, this is their market. We rarely saw any shops, everything is sold on the street by vendors. Once we got into the city, the streets were just packed with people, there was little room to walk on the side walks because everyone is selling their goods there.

This video is just outside the heart of the capitol. (In the capitol the traffic is too crazy that I couldn't get a good video.) There is rubble all over the sides of all the streets. As we would drive around we would have to dodge huge piles of block and rebar. 13 seconds into the video you can see a truck with people on it pull out in front of us; this truck is called a tap-tap and it is a taxi. All the taxis look like that.

You can see in the beginning the market on the side of the road... this is what it looks like everywhere in the heart of town. On the right you can see a building that came down. As we went on our tour around the capitol we would see buildings that were completely unharmed by the earthquake standing next to buildings that were completely destroyed.

More to come tomorrow... thanks for being patient!


Russell (Cindy and Cole) said...

I have read a lot on the crisis, but this was the first time I really grasped the extent. Well shared!

Mary Joy F. said...

It crashed my heart reading this blog. I was saddened how the people were suffering of the present crisis, but I know, very soon everything will be alright. Thanks for posting!