First day in :Port au Prince: some surprises, and some non-surprises.
No surprise; OOOH, still hot! humid! Break into a sweat immediately and get used to it. I peeled off my one pair of socks in the airport ladies room and will not wear any again until my return flight next week.
Lots of people, shouting, and shall we say, "different level of organization" (aka, near chaos, but not quite) at the airport and in city traffic.
Unchanged potholes, mud, dust, and random random urban livestock, including chickens, donkeys, and a cow that I noticed not far from the Us Embassy
But surprises! The ramps around the airport are re-paved and roofed, the baggage handlers more civil and less aggressive! It may have helped that our Haitian driver, Moliare, was waiting right at the door, but it was the most orderly exit of the airport I've ever made, even with 25 bags and 7 people.
The best surprise was also a great inconvenience, but still pretty cool. We went to the nicest, biggest furniture store in Port au Prince, where we need to buy furnishings for our new little maternity center.. A big, glassy, airconditioned, 2-level showroom, with escalators...extremely American looking (except the escalators don't work but come on, you can't have it all.)...we head upstairs for the desks and cabinets area ...but no,it's blocked....by a formal meeting set up, with about 120 people, a conference table, lights and camera. It turned out to be a "tv studio" setup, and they were conducting all-day public forums on planification of what the next steps are for Haitian civic recovery and planning. Individuals had about 5 minutes at the mic, with several apparent Haitian leaders ( political candidates? I'm not sure...). Formal business attire all around, silence while the cameras rolled, and polite applause when good points were made in the discussion., The amazing part is this is a furniture store!. The lady at the desk downstairs said she'd been unable to sell anything all day, due to this meeting. For me, it's just such an example of Haitians making it work..."we need a big place that is nice and cool and has power...gee, how about the furniture store? Let's ask them!" And plenty of people showed up, in nice suits, to address and thoughtfully discuss the needs (the huge, desperate, overwhelming) needs of the Haitian people.
So Fritz, my Haitian-born, Amercian translator, and I, silently snuck around in the furniture sections that we could get to while the cameras were off...we found things we needed. Lovely equipment for the birth center; beds, cabinet, chair, fans. But the most important work was being done at the conference, table, and on film, I hope and pray...the Haitians are still making it work, folks. ..."pa bliye Ayiti"---don't forget Haiti. They DO NOT give up. And the lights are still on.