The streets of downtown Port-au-Prince seem unchanged from the images we remember from the February CNN coverage after the quake, with the exception that roads have been cleared of debris. Taxis drivers and men in general stand around the airport exit, looking to help anyone with anything to get some money. No cup holders in the cars here-our driver got us from the airport to the hotel in good time, with one hand on the horn, the other swerving in and out avoiding multiple stray dogs, people, cars, and potholes-which are numerous. We drove past the collapsed palace and then 2 more blocks to our hotel, Le Plaza. It is wondrous that this hotel was relatively unscathed, amidst the destruction all around. The park across the street is one of the tent cities. There is no privacy here, and I witness someone “showering” in a makeshift area, completely open to the street. The tents here are actually reinforced shacks made from scrap metal, real tents, plastic etc. and although there are rows of porta-johns, it smells like urine.
It’s Sunday, not as many cars on the streets. We see people actually dressed up, suit and tie, and occasionally a woman in a dress sporting a fancy hat. They seem so out of place. The streets are lined with people just sitting, trying to sell something. Flip flops, fruit, whatever-“it’s the mall” our driver jokes as we go past a weave through an intersection thick with vendors. A car is left in the middle of the road, using pieces of concrete as chocks, and a missing wheel tells the tale of a flat tire that the owner must be trying to get repaired somewhere. There are piles of debris and garbage mixed together along the streets. A mother pig and piglets were rooting in one of these dumps, and many skinny dogs are seen trying to find something to eat in other piles. Tomas didn’t seem to affect the city much, except things are a bit damp.
There are many people at this particular hotel, using it as a base to do good here. CNN is here doing a story on the aftermath. A group of American young people told us they just back from a tour of the hospital, which was “pretty bad”, and we meet a young man here from Utah that makes prosthetic limbs who has come to start up a center where he can teach them to manufacture them on site.
Even 10 months after the quake, the need is still here, more than ever.