Tuesday, September 21, 2010

City Street, Ayiti

Driving back down the plateau into Port au Prince was a trip. The lush vegetation dried up. The temperature jumped at least fifteen degrees. And the building and people became more and more congested. And the trash piled higher.

The barber shops really are the best places to see street art. Each hand painted face rocks a slick do that you could get too for the right price. I love the style of these paintings. Some are not what you would consider well done, while others are just amazing.

Gotta love the vibes of the Tap Taps. Hustle and bustle in Port au Prince.

The first afternoon in PaP, I was watching some guys play soccer. Actually, I had planned on joining them but they were excellent and I was intimidated out of playing. But, shortly after their game began, Bryn and his crew rolled up in a truck filled to beyond tipping point with boxes. I hopped on top and away we went.
No sooner had we started driving that I noticed we were leaning more than we should have been. Around a corner and the angle became even more pronounced. Each of the four of us on the top of the boxes held on to the edges of our stack in hopes of keeping it from toppling over and us with it. The plan was, if it started to go, kick as many boxes off as possible and try to land on top of the pile.

When we got there, it was instantly swarming with people trying to get food. Many of them knew Bryn, my friend working with Artists for Peace and Justice and NPH and St. Damiene's Hospital, so they formed a line and the boxes were quickly transferred into the holding area.

Reflecting on another day's work. Bryn and Wynn, both of whom work together with Father Rick Frechette at St. Damiene's Hospital in Port au Prince, are soldiers for aid and justice. They work hard helping the poor. They work hard helping children.
Below is the new temporary school that is being built by Artists for Peace and Justice to house the kids that will eventually attend their brand new free school. These guys are digging the footers by hand. Instead of insisting on using a backhoe and getting it done in a tenth of the time, they allow them to do this work, because the diggers may not be able to find any other work around.

Now, this is one of the most impressive characteristics of these organizations that are located within the walls of St. Damien's. How long would you expect the construction process to take of a school in the states? Well, this one will be done in a month. Temporary school finished and in use by November. Big, beautiful school done in less than a year.

Big lizard.

Cite Soleil gets lots of press because of how deadly is has become. Above is one of the many movie theaters that Haiti used to have. This one's bullet holes are fresh, but the popcorn is not.

If you want to see something very cool, check out the trailer for Bryn's upcoming documentary. I had a chance to get a sneak peek at the nearly finished movie and it is amazing!


Cite Soleil neighborhood. Complete with stream of garbage and sewage and plastic bottles.

The pigs sleeping in the shade in the photo above, is sorrowfully symbolic of the conditions our brothers and sisters have to live in here. Many of the slums here are pig stys, plain and simple. There is nowhere for the garbage or sewage to go. The shanties are in such disrepair, and the people are so congested, that disease is rampant, abuse is expected, and hopes are dwindling. No wonder this is the most dangerous area in the western hemisphere. Take away hope and crime skyrockets. Take away the ability to survive and the value of life plummets.

And yet, the people persist. The markets are filled. The tap taps are packed. And the streets are ever busy with hustle.

Tent cities may sound nice. Camping, right?

I met some remarkable people down here. One of them is an Airforce superhero, Brian. He is enormous and intimidating looking, but is a very kind and charismatic fella. He calls Bryn up on the cell to inform him that if he gets over here in the next hour he could take the _____ that the Airforce is getting rid of. He has given them all kinds of great supplies that would otherwise be thrown away. Today, he called with news of a perfectly good 1000 gallon cistern they had to get rid of. Instead of selling it for extra beer money, Brian called Bryn to see who could use it most. He picked us up in his awesome truck, and we headed down to the port. There we loaded this giant thing up and delivered it to Operation Blessing, who would use it in the school they were building.

It was very cool to see how this military guy who had been stationed there at the airport right after the airport, and had reached the end of his duties there in Haiti, was now working every weekend to accomplish his personal goals of helping out Haiti in whatever way he could. And his generosity has made quite a difference.

The views from the port are indelible. You see the broken and submerged dock, once a new and functional tool of commerce, now lying beneath the polluted waters. You see the temporary pier made from barges. You see containers filled with medicines, food, supplies, red flagged and going to waste because the fees are too expensive or because the NGO folded and went back to their condos in the US. You see the potential for a thriving Haiti, importing AND exporting, but in reality you see containers arrive full and go back empty.

Sadly, this seems a very appropriate sign for Port au Prince. I am hopeful better days are ahead, but as Steven Mooser, president of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators said about his experiences here, "When you look at Haiti, some people say it is 50 years in the past. They are wrong. This is the future. This is the future for all of us if we are not careful."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting these pics JJ. Such an intense reality. So much seems so hopeless, and yet you've shown us small glints of hope. And the power of love.