Tuesday, June 11, 2013


The capital of Haiti merits its own blog post, especially because we are often in the city to run errands like bringing a four year-old boy for a heart scan, buying imported swiss cheese, finding visitors at the airport, buying pillows for the guest house, picking up a car part, and getting insulin at the Propholab (we have one of the only refrigerators in Gros-Morne, so we keep insulin for the diabetic in town).

Port-au-Prince is where you will see groups of blan missionaries in matching shirts about to spend a "transformative" experience at a (probably) fake orphanage. If you have seen the travel warnings for Haiti about gang violence, kidnappings, and shootings - that is all in Port-au-Prince. The city is crowded, dirty, noisy, and unfortunately where most government and health services are - a centralization that completely debilitated the entire country after the 2010 earthquake struck.

So here is what a normal trip to Port-au-Prince looks like:

First, we pack our truck with people who need medical tests, to develop photos, visit family, buy merchandise in bulk to sell at our local market, get surgery, or catch a plane. It is a 4-hour car ride.
Gros-Morne is located in the Artibonite Valley - the agricultural breadbasket of the country. So we drive through rice fields and pass through towns - this one has a market on a bridge that always slows down traffic.

One time we got stuck behind a log (yes. A log - read more about it here.)- a symbol of unity that a group was carrying from the south to the north of Haiti. Our normal 4 hour trip turned into 8 hours as we crawled along with the partying crowds.

We often pass by UN trucks as they are heading back to Port-au-Prince, where their headquarters are. The UN has a long presence in Haiti and has renewed their contract for one more year, sparking protests in Port-au-Prince that carry the general message of most Haitians: They do not want the UN in their country. The nickname for the UN peacekeepers is "Drivers Without Borders" as that seems to be the main activity they engage in.

When we hit the city, these are the sites:

Public transportation: Tap Taps

Main street scene
                                                                  The Iron Market

Most people live in houses on the mountainsides, seemingly stacked ontop of one another

My favorite statue: Neg Mawon. The "mawons" or "marroons" were the escaped colonial slaves living in the mountains. When the slaves won their revolution against the French, these marroons blew a conch shell to sound their freedom.

My entire family has been to the Neg Mawon!
Haiti's "White House" was damaged during the Earthquake - this year, almost 3 years after the disaster, they demolished it.
There are still remnants of the large tent cities from the earthquake

And then we try to pack as many errands into the day as possible

Aileen organized hearing-impaired people from Gros-Morne to get fitted for hearing aid

Every 2 months we go to Food for the Poor, a donation organization based in Miami where we organize truckloads of rice, beans, shoes, cereal, and any misc. things they have for our local schools and groups

We recently spent a day at the Saint Joseph Prosthesis Clinic where Sr. Isa, another RJM, works:

"Together we walk better"

Sr. Isa and Leide, who run the clinic
Aileen helping the staff

The clinic is staffed by Haitians and El Salvadorians, talented and dedicated workers who custom-make prosthetic legs (they recently did their first arm!) for people, many of whom lost their limbs in the earthquake.

And after we navigate the city, finish our errands, avoid a roadblock or finally make it around a log of mahogany, and are headed back to Gros-Morne, we usually look like this:

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