Haiti in Realtime: What Defines ‘Non-Violent’?

haiti today Brandy Campbell, a Compassion writer, is accompanied in Haiti by photographer Chuck Bigger and videographer Allan Spiers, who are there to gather information for the 1-year anniversary of the earthquake.

Last night was much quieter than the night before. Every few minutes I would hear “phantom riots.”

Was that chanting? Was that shouting? Were those gunshots?

Each time, I would tiptoe to the door and slowly open it a few inches. And each time, I was met by deafening silence. The only sounds I actually heard last night were a pack of dogs, the rattling air conditioner and a demented rooster at 3 a.m.

This morning dawned muggy and gray. If Port-au-Prince was smoldering yesterday, it’s soggy today. I walked on the freshly mopped tiles to breakfast, past a deflated Santa and Rudolph playing golf in front of the hotel.

We ordered breakfast, and our eggs and pancakes came in waves. Some mornings there is syrup. Others there is not. These are the things that occupy our time. We chatted with some geologists who are here to make seismic maps to help with building codes. Talked to a few guys from a non-governmental organization (NGO) in England. Begged the waitress for more coffee. We are all bored and restless.

Phones began buzzing at 7:30. The news changed every five minutes. You can go. You have to stay. Maybe you’ll go. Maybe you’ll stay. By 9:30, the “official” word came in. Sit tight. Again. We all understand. The situation can change in a moment. Peaceful protesters this morning can turn violent by this afternoon. Political rallies are scheduled today, and nobody knows what they will bring. The presidential candidates are doing little to diffuse the situation.

“Non-violent protests are the people’s right,” one candidate says.

But how do you define “non-violent?”

The streets are still filled with debris, smoldering tires and overturned cars. Few cars can pass, so transportation is limited to motorcycles and feet. There are still pockets of violence throughout the city, but it’s so much quieter today. Quiet enough for me to think (which can sometimes be dangerous).

We’re hoping to get out tomorrow. The airport is closed today, but there’s no word on what tomorrow will bring. I think we’re all feeling frustrated. We came here for a task. But that task, that goal, was buried under the feet of protesters. If yesterday was boring, today already feels maddening.

The Internet is a lifesaver. It helps us to feel less isolated. Gives us some purpose during the long days.

So here we are. At the Coconut Villa in Port-au-Prince. With deflated Christmas decorations and swarms of flies. Raindrops form circles on the surface of the pool a few feet away. We’ve spent the morning chatting, telling funny travel stories and fighting over the two 3-pronged plugs for our laptops.

That is our day so far. We’ll see if things change. We’ll see what stays the same. And we’ll continue to pray for the peace of this broken, volatile nation.

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