Initial Impressions of Haiti


This morning I am waking up to roosters in Hôpital Albert Schweitzer’s lovely guest house on its campus about two hours north of Port-au-Prince. The others who are here are medical volunteers. I’m the only writer.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) is a 24/7 nonprofit hospital serving 350,000 people in central Haiti. This morning I will visit the hospital as well as vaccine programs, then it’s back to Port-au-Prince I go!

Since there is no way for me to upload photos right now I will describe what I saw yesterday. Haiti, for all intents and purposes reminds me greatly of Africa — hot and sunny! The sun-baked, beautiful faces are the same. The way enterprising people set up stalls of foods and goods along the roads is the same. The splashing of Haiti’s primary cell provider is everywhere on road signs, stalls, and painted on concrete. It is the same. Here it is called Digicel. It’s like seeing Airtel everywhere in Africa. Everyone has a mobile phone just like Africa, maybe two!

There are also the ways that the children play in the streets and come up to your SUV looking for something, anything as soon as you stop. Some people were moving fast on the go and others were laying under mango trees with seemingly nowhere to go and nothing to do. And boys sell water to buses of people as they stop in between towns.

As we drove north I saw too much trash everywhere! Too much! But, where are people going to put it but down the mountain or outside of their home or in the trenches? The amount of standing water and sewage you can see in the alleyways where people live is the same, and, of course, all of the motorbikes with two and three people on them…it’s the same.

There are many similarities between Haiti and say, Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia. Many! But, of course, I have been here less than 24 hours and I have only seen the surface of Haiti. I have spoken to a few people in the little bit of French I know. I definitely don’t know Creole.

I cannot describe Haiti without sharing how beautiful the scenery was coming up the mountain. Around certain bends of the highways the sun shimmered on the ocean just so. It made me feel like I was on vacation in Jamaica, not coming for work in Haiti. The banana tree groves are thick, the mountains very steep, and mango trees are everywhere!

Last night when I went to bed the heat was sweltering. But just like Africa it gets cool at night and everything seems right in the world again.

More when I get to Port-au-Prince! I also will be tweeting today at @jenniferjames.

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