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#121: Improvements in Haiti : Wharram reports

From: Bruce Wharram <bruce.wharram@sylvania.sev.org>

    While in Port-au-Prince and  Carrefour from June 15 through June 23,
with a short term mission team, we observed many improvements over what
was observed last August while there.  On the way  to the Oasis Guest
House, 159 Brochette #97 in Carrefour, the first think we noticed was
that portable concrete dividers had been installed from Harry Truman
Blvd. along the center of
J.J. Dessalines to the Coast Guard Station in Carrefour - a tremendous
improvement in maintaining a separation of east-west traffic.
    We rode from the airport to the guest house in an air-conditioned
Hyundai "Bon Bagay", many of which were seen in and around
Port-au-Prince.  It would appear that free enterprise is coming to Haiti
- the driver told us that he charges 5 gds. vs 3 gds. that the other Tap
Tap drivers charge.
    Driving west from Carrefour on Rte Nationale #2 we noticed that the
road was torn up in preparation for repaving.  Concrete storm gutters
had been poured and new bridges were being built, putting quite a few
people to work.  Survey crews were also at work in several locations
along the road as well as at bridge sites.  The majority of the road was
newly paved from a few miles west of Carrefour to someplace between
Dufort and Grand Goave - a great improvement over the pot-holed road
that we drove over last August when we made the same trip.
    Although there was this improvement in the infrastructure, there was
an area of the highway between Vialet and Miragoane that prevented us
from getting to what was to be our ultimate destination - Dariol on the
south coast near Cotes de Fer.  The hurricane last year wiped out a
large culvert which has not been replaced; it's just filled in with dirt
and when it rains this section of road
becomes next to impassible for a while.  When we arrived at about 10:00
AM it was completely jammed with trucks, basically trying to go in both
directions over what in reality was only a one-way road - the impatient
Haitian truck drivers couldn't wait on each other to get through one at
a time.  After waiting for a couple of hours to see if the jam would
break, two people got out of our truck and walked through the pile of
stopped trucks, counting a total of 40 vehicles, so we decided to turn
around and go back.  We had hoped to possibly take the Jacmel road from
Dufort and ford the river near Jacmel, as we did in August when
returning from Dariol, however, after talking to numerous drivers coming
from Jacmel we decided to return to Carrefour when they all said the
river was too high.
    The next day three of us, the field missionary and I along with our
Haitian driver/interpreter, went to the American Airlines air freight
terminal and customs to retrieve a 7,500 KW generator that had been
shipped from Miami for the guest house.  After four hours of negotiating
and $600 H, the generator was loaded into our truck.  While sitting in
the truck waiting, I counted at least six garbage trucks heading into
downtown PaP.
    During other travels in and around PaP we noticed several garbage
trucks picking up garbage, as well as several crews of men cleaning the
gutters and putting garbage in piles, I suppose to be later picked up.
We also came across four or five intersections that had police officers
actually directing traffic, not just standing in or on the side of the
road watching, as was the case previously.
    For the first time since 1987 when we first started going to Haiti,
electricity was on during the entire night for a whole week - at least
from dusk to dawn, thus we had ceiling fans running all night long.
That in itself is a big plus.
    In our opinion, all of this was a great improvement over our trip in
August 1998.  Maybe some good things are happening in Haiti.  This is
the only way it's going to happen - one small step at a time.

Bruce Wharram