Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Haiti Happenings, part 7 - CHANGE IS GOOD!

Colorful Haitian public transportation vehicles
called TapTaps bustling through the city
Take a quick look at the progress we observed in Port-au-Prince in April 2013. Change may not be at the rate we are accustomed to, but it was wonderful to finally see some notable progress.

Setting foot on the ground at the Toussaint Louverture Airport was a pleasant surprise:
  • After deplaning, we were guided into an air conditioned (!!!) walkway on the 2nd level that is now complete with well-lit immigration stations, a big step up from the dark, dingy wooden booths of previous trips 
  • The bathroom facilities were modern, a refreshing change from years past when we warned every Red Thread traveler to use the bathroom on the plane BEFORE deplaning (amusingly enough, a red-eyed Sonya walked right into the men’s room!)
  • The baggage area held the most profound changes, now boasting not 1... not 2... but 3 fully-functioning baggage carousels in a clean air conditioned space
Old immigration stations
(and irritated-looking immigration officers!)
Previously, baggage was tossed in a heap on the concrete
in a dark warehouse area where everyone sifted through the pile
 in sweaty pursuit of their personal belongings
The new and much improved baggage claim area
Three carousels! 
The crisp clean duty free shop

Outside the airport were other significant changes:
  • There were open spaces that were previously filled with 1,000s of tents and 10s of 1,000s of people and lines of port-a-johns; there wasn’t a tent to be found
  • Fences have been erected to keep people from creating new encampments
  • We saw sculptures and artwork that had previously been hidden behind temporary structures, tent cities and scores of displaced people
  • There were more open shops 
  • Less people asked for handouts on the streets
  • Two recognizable landmarks—the Presidential Palace and Ministry of Finance—have been leveled and cleared, preparing for rebuilding
Tall cranes and other large equipment dotted the downtown area,
showing signs of rebuilding efforts
Life in Port-au-Prince
Cleaner streets with fewer piles of burning trash
and fewer animals sifting through the rubbish
The road to St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children

The once stunning Catholic Cathedral still stands behind tall fences;
all of the stained glass has been removed and we assume
they are preparing to demolish what remains of the structure
(photo reposted from BBC News) 
We are encouraged by these signs of progress in the city. We are hopeful that the Haitian people will renew themselves as well.

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