En Haiti! / by Rob Petit

The place is like a pressure cooker. Jungle music rhythm to everything: the traffic, the way people move, the way they talk - en Haiti! en Haiti!! en Haiti!!! blares out of every available speaker on repeat. Touching down on the tarmac the Haitian man behind me bursts into tears: I’m home! he punches the air. 

The streets. Wow the streets. Haven’t seen a single traffic light. Old New York school buses (shipped over here after having outlived their use in the States) have been pimped to the max. Every car has a cracked window, and those that don’t have a cracked window sticker, presumably because if someone had a car that wasn’t beaten up it would be a target. I’ve never seen such colour. Everywhere. On the people, the cars, the buildings. The streets are packed with wall-to-wall businesses selling the same kind of stuff… mostly second hand clothes. There’s a double economy here: Digicel calling cards (the telecoms company set up by the Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien) are used as trade just like dollars. In fact it’s Digicel who seem to be building this place… they’re the ones who have made the street signs, and subsidise the roads and the schools. They’re stronger than the government: more active and more respected. 

There’s some sign of devastation from the Earthquake four years before, that killed nearly a quarter of a million people. But the whole place feels like a construction site - ‘When a Haitian falls, they pick themselves up again’ - This is a place where everyone is very noisily just getting on with it.