Thursday, 15 August 2013

Rebeca In Haiti Volume II: the state of affairs

I think it’s hard, if not impossible, to paint a fair picture of Haiti to someone who has never been here. You could perhaps say that about every place but I feel like I have to be more cautions with Haiti. I am always afraid that by sharing pictures of beaches, my life here may seem unrealistically idyllic. I am equally afraid to make the situation here seem more precarious than how it actually is (note: it's pretty precarious). I'm going to take the risk and give you my three-week, very brief, superficial and possibly biased account of the Haitian context.

Life as an NGO worker

It is not bad at all. Having a M-F, 9-5 work routine makes life here seem similar to one I could have in Toronto or San Salvador or Buenos Aires. Except it's not similar. There are a lot of security concerns, which make it difficult to get around and socialize. It’s not impossible, but going out does require more planning than what I am used to since we have a curfew, we can't take tap-taps (public transportation), we are not allowed to drive (not that I could anyways), and we generally can’t walk by ourselves. We can use world vision cars or get a ride with someone but it's not the most convenient or reliable system. There are worst things in the world though so as long as I don't get mugged, burgled, or cholera... life is good. Realistically, I am not in any imminent danger of either.

What I do find very disappointing is how hard it is to get out of the expat bubble, at least in Port-au-Prince. It's not that I don't like expats, I am one, but it wouldn't hurt to also befriend Haitians. I am after all in Haiti! When Louisa and I were in Cap Haitian, it was the first time we hung out with (probably wealthy) Haitians, without that many expats in sight, and without talking about work. It felt like a normal night out, finally.

Another thing is the unshakable guilt that I'm living in a cleaner and prettier flat than my previous address while a lot of Haitians are still homeless and/or living under USAID tarps. That's not going away anytime soon.

A world vision car we used while in Cap Haitien

Working at World Vision Haiti

I work in HEA (Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs), along with one other person, my manager. I am here to support the adoption of risk reduction strategies in HEA as well as in the other development sectors (Education, Child Protection, Water and Sanitation, etc.)...and learn stuff in the process! In NGO lingo, I'm here to support DRR mainstreaming.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the office is downsizing in transition from earthquake-related immediate response to resuming normal operations. We are also at the end of the 2013 fiscal year, which is a complicated time for any organization or company. A lot of people are moving on to new roles or leaving the organization due to the finalization of certain projects. I'm not really in the know of what's going to happen. It's challenging but at least I've had the chance to go to the field a lot and I'm focusing on figuring out what the communities need from us.

I have a lot of work to do on a daily basis! It's stimulating, challenging, frustrating, rewarding, exciting, fun. Complex. It's also my first time working in an office so everything is very new.

Right now I'm working on some presentations about risk reduction and researching funding opportunities. I am also really excited to be coordinating an ArcGIS training, part of a larger GIS project HEA has in mind. We are also working with the field to try to focus more on disaster prevention activities and mitigation than response.

The "technical team" office at the end of the day

Community event:
learning about disaster and prevention through games

Community activity:
learning how to transport the injured during emergencies

World Vision was an observer at a disaster simulation at the National Centre for Emergency Operations ~Getting ready for 2013 hurricane season!~


Very complicated my friends. Also known as the "pearl of the Antilles", Haiti had a booming tourism industry in the 1970s and early 1980s but it has been struggling since. After the coup and the earthquake, I reckon tourism is recovering slowly. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of beautiful sights and beaches but it is such a struggle to do anything - financially and logistically. In the end, every trip has been worth it but to think of all the obstacles we had to overcome makes me want to stay home watching netflix.

Cocoyer in Petit Goave - definitely worth it and definitely an odyssey

La Citadelle in Cap Haitian - another worth-doing odyssey


FOOD IS SO GOOD! I initially experienced some gastrointestinal challenges (aka diarrhea) for like a week but I think it was just my body adjusting. No big deal. I still really like it but I make sure to stay away from the salad ('cuz bacteria) and avoid anything too greasy. Bellow are my favourite dishes from Creole cuisine so far:

1. Lambis (google that shit) is soo delicious, especially when it's just cooked with a bit of garlic. The simpler the better. We had really delicious Lambis at Petit Goave, Cocoyer.

2. Tasso de Cabrit. It's basically just a goat stew often served with rice and plantain. The photo below is definitely a fancier version of what I had. It was probably equally delicious though.

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