I wake up late at 6.10am, but stay in the tent as the other rotation of volunteers is moving out. Jade apologises in case she has woken me and Georgia. I dismiss this, saying “don’t be silly, not a problem.” Nobody will admit it, but there is a bit of animosity between the 2 groups. There are 18 of them and only 6 of us and I understand how protective they are of the camp and the hard work that they have put in over the last few weeks. We are the new kids and they no doubt feel resent handing it over. I am sure that we will feel similar when it is time to leave. The sheer size of their group gives their actions a pack-like appearance; we are still hesitant of our surroundings and the fact that we are outnumbered tends to make it feel a little unwelcoming. Sally is wearing a CFDA t-shirt of which I am very envious, and I explain how much I wanted one and that I had been trying to get hold of one for the past 3 months. I had tried an abundance of avenues to source one, without success. Eventually the other gang leave the premises but the only person to say goodbye is Sally.
The ants are eating me!!!! I have experienced troublesome ants before, but never have I been besieged by them continually. There is no escape and resistance is futile. I am crawling with them and for the first time can genuinely say I have ants in my pants, and pretty much everywhere else too.
After a hell of a lot of faffing (bloody birds) we are all ready and hop on the bus to take us to PAP. I literally ‘hop’ on as (after falling down some crumbled stairs earlier) my cut and bruised leg is now bandaged up rather tightly. It is painful, but despite being ridiculously swollen and quite mauve in hue, doesn’t warrant any attention or consideration while we are here in Haiti. If one more person moans about the food, living conditions or say that they “ need some shade” I swear I am going to knock them out…
As ridiculous as it sounds, my worry about our PAP trip is that my phone is about to die, preventing me from taking any video footage or photos. My intention is not only to document the sorrow and devastation but primarily to highlight the beautiful and positive aspects of Haiti, where possible. The vibrant colours of the ‘Tap-Taps’, the vivaciousness of the city and its people and the spectacular serenity of the hillside backdrop. I want to show those who could not experience Haiti first hand all that makes this a place to rejoice and celebrate. Not the piles of rubble, faces of sorrow or the cacophony of noises from man, motor or beast. Anger and frustration envelopes me in a way that I have no control over. I knew I would be emotional and I knew I would feel helpless, but I wasn’t prepared for the broken dam of waterworks and resentment that suddenly hit me. It didn’t build up in a way that gave me enough time to give myself a harsh talking to. There is only one other time when I have felt this emotion, this sense of hatred and helplessness. Although on that occasion the cause was a cruel and disturbed human being, rather than a cruel act from Mother Nature. Although I was surprised by my reaction, it seemed not inappropriate considering what the Haitian community has gone through. Their struggle has been visible for centuries and has been unfairly amplified and brought to the world stage by the recent earthquake.
When I arrived in Haiti, the destruction and devastation simply took my breath away. It seemed that the colour grey was everywhere and the dust in the air was thick and constant. The cinderblocks that were the structure of so many homes and buildings were now just crumbled stone. I remember thinking to myself that BBC Worldwide was doing a great job of the coverage, but this is a thousand times worse than anything I have seen on the news. I can hear children crying, I can see the eyes of the surviving parents as they try to care for their children underneath a tent made of sheets. I can smell the odour that is unexplainable. And even though I have never smelled that odour before in my life, I knew what it was. My heart was breaking every second. I was in sensory over load and I could feel my body trying to protect itself from the images and sounds that were in front of me. My words and thoughts cannot begin to do justice to Haiti and the people of Haiti – so I will not even try. Hopefully the photos I managed to take convey the state of affairs in PAP.
I learn that we are now heading to a ‘swanky’ hotel for lunch, for a treat. A TREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How could we possibly justify that?! Hypocritically, whilst I may have refused to eat any lunch, on principle, when across the rubble road people were barely staying alive, but I did manage 3 vodkas and diet coke. I justified this on the basis that it was the only way to stop to me shaking and to calm my nerves. A different reality lives just across the street. It couldn’t be any closer, but yet it seems a world far removed.
On leaving the hotel Plaza we peruse the goods on show at the myriad of vendor stalls positioned by the side of the road.
Our group of ‘Blancos’ attract the usual attention but we were protected by our 4 gallant translators: Babby, Justeland, Samuel and Zacko. Each merchant does their best to encourage us to part with our cash at their stall, but I knew exactly what I was looking for. On the way into the hotel, I had spied one stall which had Haitian necklaces on display and I promptly apologised (“je suis desole”) to the other sellers and purchased my Haitian flag necklace. Just as we were leaving, I spied a Haitian flag bandana and handed over 50 Gourds for this other item to remember my trip by .