Tired and uncreative last night.
We visited Barbara Macleod’s School Wednesday morning. She now serves 100 kids in 4 grades. The accommodation is spartan, concrete floors and walls a recess area no more than 400 square feet and a single bathroom, actually a pit toilet, I don’t want to think about. But the kids are happy and engaged and learning their basics. We gave her about 30 pairs of shoes donated by our friends and colleagues in Vancouver WA for which she was very grateful. Parents are reluctant to send their kids to school here if they have no shoes. Other kids and adults make fun of the shoeless children.
This photograph shows two aspects of Haitian life. Most people do not pay for electricity here. They simply tap into the main line at the power pole. The result, in a poor crowded area where Barb lives is this – dozens of illegal hookups. The hookups are often poorly executed so power is reduced or cut off to other users. The second thing is the number of vacant houses and unfinished construction. All house are built with rebar sticking up from the flat roof of the finished house to allow for another story.
This lady is selling charcoal. You can just make out that these are not briquettes. They are small branches, scarcely more than twigs, brought down from the mountains to the main highway to sell for cooking. The major consequence of this is that Haiti is largely deforested, is more mountainous than Switzerland and has pretty well lost its topsoil to the Caribbean.
A word about the filters. The following photo shows the three parts of the mold. The square box is placed inside the U shaped piece and the plate bolted to the two ends of the U. Concrete is poured into the gap between the box and the outside and mechanically shaken to get rid of air pockets. When it is dry the three parts are unbolted and the filter removed.
Haiti gets the first world’s rejects. Chicken from the US is fine and healthy but comes in the oddest sizes. School and Greyhound buses, light trucks, heavy trucks and police cars. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a school bus doing 55 mph, on your side of the road with all it’s hazard lights on. Anyway the best use for worn out light trucks is to be used as Tap Taps. At any time to get to where you want to go in Haiti you simply walk up to the Highway and wait. When the Tap Tap arrives you load yourself, your produce or other goods and your livestock onto it – it’s most often a small Toyota or Nissan – and off you go. They usually have a steel frame welded to the back so more people can hang on. I was on one in 2004 when they tied a goat upside down by it’s feet on the outside of the vehicle. When you arrive at your destination you take a coin and “Tap Tap” on the steel frame to stop the vehicle, disembark and pay. It’s actually a very efficient system – scary by North American standards but it works. You can imagine how hard this overloading is on the vehicles but they go on for years. Haiti, where Toyota trucks go to die.
This morning we went on a filter delivery. We had to take the 2.25 ton truck as the road was too narrow to take the 3.5 ton. Road is a gross exaggeration. Off the main highway we travelled perhaps 4 miles up the side of a mountain, no blacktop, small irrigation ditches running across the “road”, no guardrails, no gas stations, no electrical power in that part of Haiti. White people rarely visit this region – witness the welcome from these kids at recess. One two year old girl was so frightened of us she ran off. We delivered 15 filters which means 150 people with clean healthy water.
One incongruity you will love. We’re half way up this mountain and turn a corner into a hamlet with 4 or 5 houses. In a clear space next to the road is a table 6 men and a table full of cell phones. Why are they selling cell phones where there isn’t even one vehicle a day coming through here? Nearly everyone here has a cell phone even if the kids are going hungry. We asked the Haitian work crew and it turns out they were charging the cell phones. No electricity so there are mobile businesses charging cell phones from car batteries.
Tune in tomorrow for more news. Taking Olivia for a swim now.