Haiti is a country of contrasts, deep contrasts. After almost a week here, they jump out more each day. As I write this, I am on a terrace overlooking Port-Au-Prince, beside the pool of the hotel where I am staying. It is quite a lovely hotel that would probably qualify as a resort, other than it was almost completely destroyed in the earthquake and is still rebuiding. Many of the foreign NGO's working in Haiti have their visitors stay here. The parking lot is usually full of SUV's with stickers on them from the different organizations from the UN to the Red Cross. Drivers linger in the shade as people come and go for meetings at the Hotel. It is beautiful and lush. The pool is surrounded by palm trees, the hillside around the hotel is full of trees and flowers and birds. There are a few foreign embassies in the area. In other words, rich, beautiful, tropical!
I leave that to go to my room, and look off the balcony on the other side. There, right across the street, is a home that was destroyed and has not been rebuilt. I overlook the hillside opposite that chaotic rebuilding on it, with no streets, ramshackle houses built on top of each other going up the slope. (the french word for this type of development is anarchaic, which is more apt!). At the bottom of the hill, and closest to me, are the displaced. They live in tarped huts made of sheet metal roofing, don't have running water or electricity and I have no idea where they go to the bathroom. There are few trees as most have been cut down for firewood or charcoal. There is dust and garbage everywhere. In other words, unsanitary, desolate, a slum.
Tonight, a few of us from Quebec went out to dinner. It was our first time venturing out in the evening, as we are advised against it for security reasons. We were told of a great restaurant fairly close to our hotel.To get there, we drove past the people on the side of the road, selling their little bit of firewood, or trinkets. We passed the mounds of garbage. We drove past the slums. Almost directly across the street from the restaurant is a public square that is teeming with people who's only place to relax, to get away is this one sad, abused worn down square. Hanging out in that squae is their night out. We arrived at the restaurant and stepped through a gate, that was guarded, into a magical world. A lovely, a tented environment with lanterns and lots of hanging drapery in a garden setting. They served delicious food. It was otherworldly.
I step between those two contrasting worlds several times each day, and it is devastating.
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