Six months ago, Port-au-Price Haiti was rocked by a massive earthquake, causing one of the worst urban disasters ever. Today, a guest post from Port-au-Prince resident Ben Depp.
July 12 – Port-au-Prince. Weaving my way through traffic, I pass pancaked buildings and camps swollen with people displaced by the earthquake. Small groups of men and women with sledge hammers break apart rubble. I have to pay extra attention to the road to avoid the large piles of rubble edging their way into my lane.
In six months, a lot of rubble has been moved. Just after the quake, roads were blocked with rubble, landslides and wrecked cars. With a limited number of dump trucks and other heavy equipment, it will take years to clear the city. A lot of rubble will stay where it is until it breaks down on its own. Camps have grown since the earthquake with people coming into the city from the countryside in hopes of free food or a tent or a job.
My ride takes me through a market where thousands of people sell in the blazing sun all day with painfully thin profit margins. I was surprised when less than a week after the earthquake, the markets started filling back up with local food from the countryside. It was a reminder to me that the rest of the country was still functioning. The farmers and market women took a huge hit when their already struggling economy was flooded with free imported rice during planting season but they are still here scraping along.
The crappy part of riding in Port-au-Prince is traffic and diesel exhaust, both of which have gotten worse since the quake. A lot of cars were crushed in the earthquake, but to make up for that the relief organizations have imported thousands of diesel SUVs that are now choking up the city’s already congested streets. (I can’t complain too much because I work for these same organizations on a regular basis).
My commute home would force me to climb three miles back to my house. Instead, I break up the climb skitching on the back of tap-taps (pickup taxis) which never fails to entertain the driver and passengers. I haven’t tried skitching on any of those new diesel blowing SUVs yet.
Despite the U.S. embassy’s new travel warning asking U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Haiti, I feel safe riding my shiny Salsa 29er with $3,500 worth of camera dangling from my neck . There are a lot of poor people in Haiti, but contrary to sensational media reports only a few of those people are uncool.
Ben and his wife Alexis (who fixed the punctuation on this story) live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. They blog at www.blexi.blogspot.com. Ben is a freelance photographer available for assignments. He’s also the author of this instructable on building your own cargo bike.