I landed in Haiti this morning at 9:00. The first thing that hits you is the humidity, and coming from Calgary, it packs quite a wallop. The second thing that hits is the sound. From stepping off the plane, this place is loud. People everywhere, loudly bustling amongst each other. There was a band on the exit ramp playing music as we walked towards customs and immigration. Then walking out of the airport to a wall of people; offering rides, selling wares or just hanging around.
And then you hit the streets. What can I say about driving in Port-Au-Prince? There are no traffic lights, there are cars and people everywhere on the roads and they go whichever direction, and on whichever side of the road seems to make the most sense to them. And it strangely seems to work. People sort themselves out at intersections, two lane streets suddenly have four lanes of traffic, it all moves and flows at its own pace and it works. It is terrifying to someone used to a bit more order in their traffic, but it works.
In Port-Au-Prince there are people everywhere. The drive from the airport to the offices of the Program de Cooperation Municipale (PCM) was along main roads and smaller streets, and along the entire way there were people on both sides of the streets. People were selling clothing, food, household items, all lined up along sidewalks or, more often, just the shoulder of the road. People were meeting and having chats along the road. The entire stretch was alive with people!
And that is what struck me the most for my first day: how vibrant a place this is. Yes, there is desperate poverty and a total lack of infrastructure, but people are alive. They seem to be living fully and in many cases joyously. The tap-taps (small trucks and vans converted to taxis and buses) are colourful and full of people animatedly talking to each other. There is activity and music on the street that would be the envy of any western city. And there is no mistaking that people are alive.
It is completely unexpected that my first impression is of this place’s amazing vibrancy. As I write this about 12 hours later, exhausted, I am still struck by it and experienced it everywhere I went throughout my first day. I hope it lasts.
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.