Yesterday I finished up meeting with PSI about volunteering for them and called David, who was in the Central Plateau for work. He suggested I take a tap-tap there, as he did, and hang out. It seemed unlikely. But then I thought, why not?
I packed my stuff up and went with my trusty mototaxi driver to Bel Air, a poor area of Port-Au-Prince that seemed to me particularly hard-hit by the earthquake. Historical looking buildings had half shed their concrete, but women selling goods were everywhere. I saw one particularly damaged building where the corner was sagging down, with loose concrete blocks looking like they would tumble onto the merchants below with the slightest shake (writing this makes me wonder whether this actually happened the other week when we had a tremor).
The mototaxi asked around until we figured out where to find the tap-tap for Mirebalais (smack center of the map). Manno (our motorcycle chofer) pulled me right up next to the tap-tap, not a colorful one like around Port-au-Prince but a comfortable minibus (until you pack it 140% capacity). While the bus filled with passengers, merchants came around the windows trying to sell water, candy, etc. Manno called to make sure I was OK. I assured him I was. It was just like the DR, and I thought how funny it was that I would be out of my comfort zone to take public transportation. As we got going, the other passengers started talking to the weird blan who was traveling with them. Of course a couple guys knew some English, so between my beginning Creole and their English, we managed to answer some key questions. Yes, I am American. I have not dated a Haitian. Why? Because I’ve been with my (American) boyfriend for almost two years and have been in Haiti less than two months. What do I think of security? It’s fine, for me. The Haitian man asking me this then scoffed at my answer.
Leaving Port-au-Prince for the Central Plateau is an illustration of Haiti’s devastated landscape. The valley of Port-au-Prince is empty on the north side before the mountains begin. On the edge is the government camp, Corrail, and its sprawling add-ons, that has turned out to be a disaster. Tents and improved tents dot the hillside as the mountains ascend. The area is totally deforested, and there are white streaks where the stone is revealed under the topsoil, I assume from extreme erosion. The road winds up the mountain with an impressive view of Port-au-Prince and the two lakes in the valley toward the border with the Dominican Republic. Then, once you’re into the mountains, the trees and green of the mountains appear. I passed two UN peacekeeping camps, one of which I’m pretty sure was the now-confirmed source of cholera in Haiti.
We stayed in a cultural center/hotel. It reminded me of another place we stayed in Beladere, on the border with Elias Piña in the DR. A hotel, in the middle of Haiti, where there are no tourists and precious few domestic travelers. The small city is dark at night, with few lights, and gives the feel of a ghost town. At our hotel, there were dozens of empty chairs lined in the hallway and, miraculously and mysteriously, hot water in the shower.
It was a short trip, but a great one. It felt good just to get around on my own again, through the same efficient public transportation system the locals use. I hope to do more of it as my Creole and my geography improve.