Monday, June 21, 2010

Drinking from a fire hydrant - Haiti, Part 3

As I began to process the week that I spent in Haiti, I found that taking it all in is a bit like trying to drink from an open fire hydrant.  There's so much information, so many mental images, so many questions in my mind, that I'm challenged to organize my thoughts so I just start telling the story beginning with the images of the Poor House in parts 1 & 2.

Admittedly and intentionally, the first two parts of the story are dark.  Drilling down to the level of the Poor House and seeing some of the people that live there is how we put a face on poverty. I think it's important to realize on the front-end of the story that there was a great deal of pain and suffering in Haiti even before the earthquake in January of this year and even in a part of the country far from the epicenter and only marginally affected by the earthquake.  Haiti has long been the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and it's important for us to be able to put a face on that distinction.  Most Haitians live at a level of poverty that many of us Americans, myself included, would struggle to even imagine.

When one of our interpreters asked me, "What do you think of Haiti?", he was surprised by my answer.

"Haiti may be the most beautiful country I have ever seen", I told him.

From a purely natural perspective, Haiti is breathtaking!  The Caribbean transitions to lush valleys and then rises to the mountains in such a way that at some points, you can view all of that (mountains, valley and sea)  simultaneously.  Mango trees, banana trees and palms are everywhere.

The dark side of Haiti is a result of the impact of man.  The beach pictured here in Cape Haitian is beautiful at first glance but then you notice that the first 30 yards are covered with litter (click on the picture to enlarge). The river that flows into town is beautiful but it, too, is polluted with garbage and sewerage.  The negative impact of man, however, goes far beyond litter and pollution.

But there is hope.

The story continues tomorrow in part 4.