So, what price progress?
The change in the island is shocking since we first came here four years ago, and it’s not the good kind of change. When we came first, there was only one motorbike on Île a Vache, which was the local policeman’s. Now there are 220, I’m told. I also counted four huge, earth-moving lorries, a bulldozer, three pickup trucks and two police cars. They are in the process of building an airport here, which will have a longer runway than the airport in Port-au-Prince; there is a 500 room hotel planned and, some good news, a new hospital.
Anyway, rant over. A very pleasant journey from Dublin to New York, where I met up with my son and my niece for dinner and drinks. The following morning, a very early start, meet at 6am and off to JFK for a 9:30 flight. I have to say that American Airlines have the most useless check-in process in the western world, and we spent a very frustrating hour queuing for boarding tickets. Nice flight down to Port-au-Prince, and the wonderful wild world of confusion, mayhem and chaos that is Haiti’s airport.
After sweating gallons in the airport, we are led, gasping in the heat, to our bus. It’s pink!! VERY pink! Anyway, the air conditioning was on so we didn’t really care. A very long journey of about five hours is broken only by a quick stop in a truck stop to stock up on provisions (mainly rum), and I have to say that several people opened theirs to make sure it was ok.
30 minutes on, a boat gets us finally to our base for the next week. Couple of drinks and an early night for me. Zzzzzzzz.
Sunday, and another beautiful morning in Haiti. There’s a buzz at breakfast as people start to discuss the various projects that we have to complete in the week. 30 minutes on a boat, and we arrive to the village of Madame Bernard, and we walk up the hill to the orphanage which is our base during the day. We are broken into several teams and I end up on the roof; yes, the roof!!!
The orphanage roof leaks so it’s got to be fixed, and I know about these things, not!!
The heat on the roof is incredible; the sun is hot, but it’s also being reflected off the galvanised sheeting, and we can only work for a short time before ducking into the shade. We did the cleaning and prep work and left the fixing until tomorrow.
Some of us went for a walk at lunch time, and we walked up the new road that’s being built. It seems like overkill, the width of a two lane road cut through the countryside. Some houses have been left with a 15 foot drop to the road from their front door; it’s actually dangerous.
The Haitians don’t like us working on a Sunday, so today is more about having a look and understanding what needs to be done.
One of the teams, however, is very busy: they have been given the task of planting 3,000 cherry trees in the local people’s houses. Apparently cherries are very good for you!! They planted 300 today; that’s great.
Our first day finished up with a concert in our honour from the local women in the school. It was a great opportunity to bring the wheelchair-bound orphans out for a treat, and they were very excited. It was fantastic. The Haitian music and dance, in my opinion, is much more African than Caribbean, and it’s full of humour. The local people loved every moment, and it was obvious that there were a lot of “in” jokes in the performances.
A pleasant trip back to base a with everyone tired from their first day working; it’s always the hardest as you try to get used to the heat and, boy, was it hot today.
Everyone chilling out tonight and making plans for tomorrow. Only one major problem: our air conditioning isn’t working, so sleeping is tough. I now understand how a turkey feels at Christmas, in the oven, basting in its own juices!!!