Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 2: Port-au-Prince

Tuesday started out frustrating. I wasn’t able to connect with some of the non-profits I had scheduled to meet with and ended up at St. Joseph’s for most of the day frantically searching the web for contact information while the demolition team banged away next door. It also gave me some time to chill with the kids. We played the piano, I was able to teach them heart and soul solo, and they blew me away with their musical skills.

St. Joseph’s takes in boys that are orphans or restaveks  - child slaves. When parents don’t have enough money to afford their kids, sometimes they give them to a relative or other person in exchange for their housing and schooling. The good intentions for their children often result badly and many children end up abused, working for hours, with no schooling and with scraps as food. St. Joseph’s takes them in and has created a family for them. Their goal is to make the kids feel loved, special and cared for, and as part of  a family. They do not do adoptions and the boys live there until they are 21. The boys are amazing, full of typical teen and pre-teen personality.  They are currently sleeping in a tent on the open air patio on the second floor of the house. Like many Haitians, they are scared to sleep indoors for fear of another quake. Understandable - I admit to sleeping uneasily, especially since feeling the 4.4 tremor on Monday firsthand.

Later on Tuesday we got a tour of the downtown which was the hardest hit area of Port-au-Prince. It felt like a scene from the movie Independence Day - especially the devastated Presidential Palace – like an alien battleship had just blasted it away. The area is as crowded as any part of the world I’ve ever seen. It feels as though everyone is coming out at once from a packed concert, everyone with business to do and people to see.  

When we arrived at our destination, The Oloffson Hotel, it felt like an oasis. Our room ended up being a gorgeous suite with a large balcony with a four-posted bed covered with sheets of elegantly draped netting for sleeping outside.  The hotel has an air of grandeur. It feels like you are transported back in time to the mid 20th century when famous artists, actors and writers regularly jet-setted (boat-setted?) to Haiti. We had the pleasure of sitting and talking with the owner, Richard Morse for almost 4 hours over dinner and drinks. A fascinating time during which we were enchanted by Richards stories of 25 years in an ever-changing Haiti.

They say Haiti is the land of contradictions, and we experienced that entirely. From St. Joseph’s hope, to the downtown’s destruction to the Oloffson’s history and grandeur, Haiti is nothing if not a lesson in contrast.

1 comment:

sukeyknits said...

Thanks for the glimpse of life over in haiti - even pre-earthquake with the work done by St. Js. Take care of yourself and can't wait to hear more stories!