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Life in Haiti After the Earthquake: A Changed Perspective

life in Haiti Received from Ken Laura, a member of our Haiti Relief Team working in Port-au-Prince.

Sunday, April 25 — I moved last week and it has changed my situation and my perspective. Instead of sleeping in a tent beside the main road of Delmas listening to trucks roar up and down the street all night, I go to sleep seeing stars, and awaken to bird calls. Some of the birds are roosters, which start crowing at about 4:30, but other than that it is amazingly quiet here.

Whenever the power is out, usually from the morning until 10 p.m. there are very few lights in the area. Although the houses are a million dollars in size, they are only about $100,000 complete.

People do have mortgages here, but many build with the cash that they save from year to year and pay as they go. They don’t owe the bank interest, but they also have to wait a really long time to move into the house.

My new home is at the top of a steep hill in a very nice subdivision with a guard and pavement, mostly maintained. Some friends I’ve met are letting me stay as a courtesy.

The situation at the top of the hill makes the views incredible, I can see out to the bay to the northwest and out to the border to the east. The most amazing contrast is the 3,000-to 4,000-square-foot mansions in my neighborhood staring into the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps where people are sleeping in makeshift homes with U.S. AID tarpaulin sheets draped over flimsy wooden supports.

A new, “well designed” camp with terraced tent sites has just sprung up over the last week and already it is 25 percent full. The U.N. and other non-governmental organizations are trying to make life more tolerable for the hundreds of thousands who have lost everything.

Now that the rains fall three or four times a week, the misery level is increasing. The news that the international community has not forgotten them is comforting, but there is not much hope for the future when all you own is now in an 8-by-15-foot shelter perched on a hillside next to 10,000 of your closest friends.

The main road into our subdivision is paved and connects to one of three roads up to the area called Petionville. Named after the second president of the country, Alexander Petion, it is even higher up and has trees and cooler temperatures in the day and night. The lack of refrigeration makes the big marketplace in Petionville quite pungent during the day and even worse at night.

The traffic through Petionville is horrendous, and after a 90-minute commute home from the office I decided it was time to find an alternative route. There are many footpaths around and I found out that a four-wheel-drive vehicle can make it up and down them.

As I went down one trail yesterday, thinking that I’m the only one crazy enough to do it, a man in another 4×4 honked, telling me to pick up the pace. Apparently everyone wants to bypass the traffic on the main road. I made it to work in 30 minutes, but the new route does place a lot of wear and tear on the car.

During my first year of marriage, my Bible study group went on a four-wheel-drive camping trip over a mining road into Leadville, Colo. That road was built during the heyday of silver mining in the 1880s and is only used by off-road junkies now. My residential shortcut is used every day by very wealthy people, and it is in worse shape than that Colorado road.

I am getting so good at driving “off road” here in the city that I might just have to repeat the trip back home.

After the rain last night cleared the dust and smog out of the air, the sun is dawning over the city with fresh air and a bit lower temperature. As of 7:30, it’s 81 degrees. I’m sure the humidity is at least that high as well. It might be time for a quick nap before church, as earlier in the day I tried to run over to the new U.N. camp to chat with some of the early risers.

A’ bientot.