The first day in Haiti

Ah. Where do I start?

port-au-prince09I realized (and probably realized before I had even left the country for the first time) that I won’t be able to move anyone into astonishment, shock, or disbelief through any sort of words used in this record.  I’ve worked in the entertainment world long enough to know that people like myself who live in the United States know that those who travel to third world countries always have a story to tell and it’s the job of the American, upon hearing about it, to say things like, “Wow,” and “That’s unbelievable,” and that’s pretty much the extent of our reaction.  So, I’m not going to make it my main effort to vividly explain the scene here in Haiti.  I’ll try to generally paint the picture and you can fill in the rest with your imagination, and it’ll probably be accurate.  My goal will have to be to tell what this means to me and what conclusions I draw about life from this trip.

The American Airlines jumbo jet landed in Port-Au-Prince in the mid-afternoon. The first thing I noticed different about Haiti than the US was the fact that we were exiting the plane on a flight of stairs descending directly onto the tarmac.  The word for the long hallway connecting the airport to the airplane is escaping me at the moment, but anyway, this country’s airport doesn’t have one of those.  The next difference I noticed was the temperature.  It is HOT.  But windy, for the moment, since I was directly in the path of the engine of the jumbo jet.

Imagine a normal street block, even in a busy place like downtown Chicago.  You see storefronts, walkers going to and fro, crossing the street, going their way. At most, in a panoramic snapshot of the entire city block, how many people might there be in plain view? 75? Maybe 150? Well here, I would estimate something more like 750 to 1000.  People EVERYWHERE.  And they look poor, depressed, dirty, and hopeless. And yep, that’s the town we’re staying in.

This isn’t my video (I’ll have video for you soon) but here’s what it looks like (slums, kids begging, shacks, people carrying stuff on their heads, unbelievably uncontrolled traffic, etc.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACRiiY3CWmU

Lou is the guy who’s the head of the Haitian Support Ministries team that we’re here with.  He told us tonight that Haiti has, for the last 200 years, come to be a country of anything but accountability and good leadership.  The people here, while poverty stricken and destitute, have come to expect life to be that way.  The government is corrupt, and comes to expect mission organizations from “Elite” countries like America to come feed kids and do some of the dirty work that it refuses to do.  He said it comes from a French mindset to KEEP people uneducated so that they don’t get smart and think about doing things like overthrowing the government.

So, that’s the reason it’s like this…that kids run up to our car on the street begging for money and all the other things you’d expect this country to be like.

I’ll have some video for you soon.  Tomorrow we visit orphanages and try to feed some kids who live on the street.  I talked with an interesting guy on the plane who grew up in Haiti yesterday as well…I’ll fill you in on that soon.

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