First days in PAP

Monday Feb 15
Today we rode around the city, getting a better feel for the degree of destruction.  It is hard to understand – one building down, completely crushed, while its neighbor stands appearing unscathed.  But even the buildings that look whole are largely empty, as people are afraid of aftershocks and further buildings falling.
There are many people on the street, and businesses functioning, although it seems a bit less crowded than in the past. Traffic has returned to its usual bumper to bumper state.
Scattered in every corner, in every neighborhood, are tent camps – from 5 or 10 tents to hundreds.  Many are made from green or blue tarp distributed by USAID, however many more are from sheets and other materials people could find.  Inside each one, each family has established themselves somehow, trying to reestablish a pattern to their life.

We went to the US embassy to meet Major Matt Bray, the brother of my friend in Milwaukee.  He has been stationed here for almost one month, coming straight from Iraq.  He says the destruction and chaos is worse than anything he saw there.  He has found the Haiitian people open and receptive, not at all threatening, as sometimes portrayed on the news.  He helped us make a connection with USAID, but now we wait for a call back.

Then we went down to visit MABO, the orphanage run by the Lisius family.  We found the children in the yard, their usual exuberant selves, playing and giving thousands of hugs and kisses.  The house itself looks good, a few minor fissures but does not have any apparent structural damage.  But again, they are fearful of staying inside, not knowing what might happen again.  We will try to get an engineer out to inspect it as soon as possible.  They are sleeping in a small tent encampment with about 20 other families.  Everyone has tied their tarps and sheets together and staked out a place underneath.  We brought several large tents, and they will be able to give their tarps to someone else.  But truthfully, we hope they will be able to move back into the house soon.
Joe Wilson, who is travelling with me, has already got a plan for providing electricity and water.  He’s a man who doesn’t stay still!

We returned via the airport and saw my friend Gonzales who is a Haitian American in the US Army.  He is discouraged by the lack of distribution of much of the aid that sits at the airport.  Truly, given the fact that their are so many camps scattered throughout the city, the logistics must be a nightmare.
They are working on re-opening the airport to commercial flights, and if we have any luck, we will not have to repeat our trip to Santo Domingo to get home.

Back to the refuge at the Edme compound in Petionville, an island of complete calm in the midst of a city struggling to find its way back to normality.

gigi