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6281: Haiti Now (fwd)

From: Phil Knowles <Phildk@prodigy.net>

A few observations from my recent week in Haiti:

State Department Warning:

    I discussed situation with someone at "the Haiti desk" there before
deciding about going. He was most helpful, although he couldn't wander off
from the policy material. He explained the meaning of employee dependents
"authorized to return home" :  if dependents etc. chose to go home, State
would pay their fare.  He urged me (anyone) to register with the Embassy,
which I meant to do, but never managed.  As we've seen from someone else's
post, there are quite a few countries on the warning list, including Israel.
Israel would like to get off the list because it's hurting their tourism
business, but State has its eye on US citizen safety, not tourism business.
I think the Haiti warning was entirely appropriate, because of the rash of
random pipebomb tossings in PAP Wed, Thurs and Fri before election, as well
as the specific murders over past 6 months.  I postponed my trip one week,
so went a week after the election, and  American Airlines nicely waived the
$75 change-of-reservatrion fee in view of the warning.  Actually, the
violence stopped after that Friday before election  -  until the broadcaster
murder this week.

    RAM still plays Thursday night at Oloffson  - had never been there or
heard them, and enjoyed it much.  Fairly good crowd, lots of fun.
    Boukman was in town so heard them as well!  They were not at (I'm told)
their usual club, and the attendence was, for them, (I'm told) fairly small.
No matter, they put on a heck of performance, preceded by a stunning group
of dancers -  something like "Dance Troupe of Haiti"!

    Work on the pier and port seems to be proceding, not finished.   For
those who know St. Joseph's Home for Boys in PAP, it's very inspiring to
learn two 'graduates' are running another orphanage in Jacmel.  This is a
rented property, but they expect or hope to build a new place.  We came
unannounced and were immediately welcomed and taken on tour.
Spent one night in Jacmel, in someone's home (ala B&B) - and a bunch of us
had Prestige beer by the ocean under a big moon  -  not too shabby!

    Electricity is still unpredictable in PAP, but 24 hours in Jacmel. We
saw some line crews at work in PAP, so maybe there's improvement ahead.
Telephone mostly works. Airport seems a bit spruced up since early 1999, and
the staff as you enter Customs is very professional. Visited a new
cyber-cafe on Delmas - very sharp. Quite a bit of construction going on -
not a frenzy, but somewhat encouraging. Roads in PAP are pretty terrible.
Road to Jacmel is excellent.  Talked with a few people, did not encounter
enthusiasm for Aristede's presidency, but still some are hopeful. People are
pretty discouraged, overall, I think.

Susan Krabacher's Foundation:
    Visited three facilities, all running smoothly, and met their general
manager,a very experienced Haitian businessman.  Not only were conditions
spotless and attentive care-givers in evidence, but I learned they have
major plans underway for a large consolidated facility, and training in
various trades for the kids as they grow older.  List members will remember
many months ago when a German TV producer opined the whole thing was a
yth  -  they were just plain wrong  (the lawsuits between German TV and
German "Das Stern" may still be raging, I guess!).

    Saw both Haitian students we befriended here at local community
college during their 2 years ending last June on a US State Dept program -
the hope of Haiti. Neither has found a job, both are discouraged. One blames
the US
because he feels it's crazy for the USA to spend money sending him to
college and then not find him a job. I totally disagree, but I see how his
high hopes are frustrated and he takes it out on - of course - us. These
bright young people are, really, the hope of Haiti. They want to live and
work in Haiti, not run away to another country.

Feel free to send any questions you think I can answer.

Phil Knowles  phildk@prodigy.net