Today was an exhausting day. Meetings all day and a lot of running around Port-Au-Prince getting from one to the next.
One of the things I was warned about prior to coming, and repeatedly since arriving, is that meetings in Haiti don't happen when they are scheduled. You should always allow a couple of hours after a meeting is scheduled to start for people to arrive. It just is one of the ways here: Haiti Time. Well, I had five meetings yesterday and all started pretty much on time! Others here are astounded at my luck.
Most of my meetings were in the heart of Port-Au-Prince. The national government buildings, what is left of them, are all in the heart of town, around where the National Palace used to be.
Today, I saw destruction and misery and waste like I have never seen before. I honestly need time to digest it before I can begin to relate what it is like. I knew that it existed, I knew it was there, but to see it and experience it directly, well, let's just say you can never be prepared for it. It was overwhelming and I will have to find a way to share some of it later.
Another thing that is completely exhausting is that everything is in French. Yes, I am completely fluent in French, can read, write and speak it fluently, but nonetheless it is not my mother tongue. It is quite wonderful to be immersed not only in a different culture but a different language as well. All of the other people from Canada with me are from Quebec. Most of the locals do speak French, with the government workers and our consultants being fluent in French. (The native language here is Creole.. a fascinating language of which I can understand about 25%).
All of the documentation is in French and my final report will also have to be written in French. Today I noticed that as I was taking notes in a meeting I am writing in a mix of English and French, though virtually indecipherable in either language.
French is a language I love. I grew up in French, and there are so many words and ways of expressing yourself in French that are unique and don't translate. While it is exhilirating to be immersed in another language and work completely in French, it is tiring. My brain is no longer translating into English, but I need the break away from it. Being able to write this in English is one of those breaks.
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