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Live From Jacmel, Haiti (Part 3)

1/15/2010

I hear a plane overhead just now. We have heard that they cleared the airstrip and moved the people to a nearby park. Gerard was out until after midnight digging a latrine at the new site, to try to keep the health risks down. He is one of the many international aide workers who has been part of our lives these last few days. Part of the core crew, and now when he is not here, we wait for his return. We have our regulars who come and go. Last night, a group from UNICEF came and ate with us and stayed the night. We were treated to fresh salad and Camembert by a French woman who lives here and runs the Aliance Francaise. I'm not sure a cucumber has ever tasted so good. The building of the AF is still standing but is not inhabitable. It will need to be razed and rebuilt. I have spent the morning speaking with Danielle, discussing her organization Femmes en Democratie and their work here, empowering women, working with them to run their own businesses, be self sufficient and to be a part of the political process. Their work will continue. As well as the work of Kompay, which does sustainable agricultural programs.

Rumors of who is coming in and who is going out abound. My family thinks that they have found a plane or a helicopter to come in to get me. But then we learn that the airspace is closed to private transportation. They are working on a boat. They are pulling out every contact they can find. I have never felt so loved in my life. The tireless work of my sister and so many friends is incredible to follow on FaceBook. And thank goodness for FaceBook! It is amazing that I am still in touch with people. Just watching the ideas and connections flying is unbelievable! The people who don't even know me—friends of friends of friends—who are giving their all, making phone calls, sending emails, making introductions. I don't know how I will ever thank them all for their efforts.

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Live From Jacmel, Haiti (Part 2)

I awake to another blue sky, and two UN vehicles in our drive. Is there news? No, nothing. No updates on aid coming in, or anyone going out.

Pistare, Pistare is a phrase that keeps going through my mind. If you have trekked in Nepal, you will know what I am talking about. Slowly, Slowly. Everything happens slowly here, and it will continue to move that way. It is both a cultural norm and the current physical reality. Life works differently here. And infrastructure, or lack thereof, predicates the slow pace of building, rebuilding, responding.

I have taken to keeping a bottle of water nearby. But not for drinking. Every time I think the ground is shaking, my eyes jump to the bottle to see if the water is sloshing. Each time, it seems, it is in my imagination. There have been some ongoing aftershocks. A few big ones during the night, but I slept through them. A couple during the day as well, but not nearly as many as there are in my imagination.

We get more and more news. None of it good. An American who got safely out of their hotel, only to run back in after a computer, and not return. A family member of one of our crew, buried in rubble in PaP. They are trying to dig her out, using cars and ropes to pull the concrete blocks off of her. Without the proper rescue equipment they are now risking their own lives.

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REPORT: Live From Jacmel, Haiti

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We recently learned—via Facebook—that an intrepid friend of Travel + Leisure’s is trapped in Haiti. Never having been, Ruth Bender, who works for the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, decided to stop in Haiti en route to a wedding at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. She, nor anyone else, could have imagined what disaster awaited. Below is Ruth’s first-person, on-the-ground report from 40 miles outside the capital city. She tells a different, slightly more hopeful story than those coming out of earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince. Read on. And watch Ruth on CNN here.

JACMEL, HAITI—Mid-way through our third bottle of wine, I pull out my camera and we look through the photos I took of downtown Jacmel. I have an obsession with photographing architecture; doors in particular. My friends know about this, and often skim my photos when I post them. This time, they may take note.

These may be the last photos taken of many of these buildings. Between early yesterday when I took those photos, and today as I write this, Haiti experienced the largest earthquake they have recorded here in 200 years. The town of Jacmel has been decimated. Lovely, historic structures are piles of rubble. The paper-mache creatures the men had spent days and weeks carefully building and painting for the upcoming Carnevale are crushed. But more devastating is the loss of life, and livelihood, and the lack of emergency services available to the region. While Port au Prince has been decimated, they are also receiving all of the news coverage and are able to receive international aid.

Jacmel has up to 10,000 people without homes. Telephones are not working and there is no electricity. The road from Port au Prince to Jacmel is not passable. The airport in Jacmel is being used as a refugee camp for the townspeople, rendering the landing strip useless. No supplies, no aid has come to Jacmel. The townspeople are dependent on the limited supplies at the UN station here. Schools have fallen. The hospital is badly damaged and of limited use.

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