Something to give a little taste of details in the city (sorry about the poor quality, these were mainly taken from the car):
Traffic jam in Pétionville
Bastien (the driver) and I are stuck in traffic between one and three hours a day. I’ve arrived a half hour early to appointments because there had unexpectedly been no traffic. Getting a bump from another car as everyone is trying to squeeze through is also relatively common (4 times in 3 weeks). It’s like ‘bumper cars’ meets ‘the game of chicken’, the whole generously seasoned with honking of course. Luckily the rented Chinese ‘Chery QQ’ car already had a fair amount of little bumps and scratches.
Ten months after: one of countless buildings destroyed by the earthquake
A house after the earthquake which struck 10 months ago. This one looks like it was new, and was then probably empty at the time of the earthquake – it may have been built with the savings of Haitians living abroad, who don’t have the funds to clear it up and build a new one.
Green and yellow bottles for Brasil
The bottles are painted in green and yellow – most Haitians were fervent Brazil supporters during the World Cup, with a minority group also rooting for Argentina. Their flags and colours are everywhere. In fact, Inité, the political party of presidential candidate Jean Auguste Célestin (supported by current president Préval) has chosen green and yellow as its poster colours.
Election posters on monument celebrating 200 years of independence
I also took this picture while we were stuck in traffic. This little monument commemorates 200 years of independence – that’s right, Haiti is older than Belgium. It is covered with election posters. The elections, for both Senate and President, will be held on November 28th. There have been musical radio advertisements enticing the population to vote since I arrived 4 weeks ago, but the official campaign only started on the 27th of September. Prior to this, there were only tags on every other wall in the city, as well as nameless green and yellow posters (which then turned into Inité party green and yellow posters). Once the official campaign started, the city was covered in posters in one day (and apparently the entire country too). The current campaign phase is a ‘silent’ one – public speeches and gatherings are only allowed from the 15th of October on, and until then only posters, stickers, brochures, and messages written on the Internet are allowed.
There are 19 candidates for the Presidential post. It includes a Michel ‘Sweet Micky’ Martelly, a popular musician, as well as a white man, Charles Henri Baker (I was surprised when I saw the posters, but there are white Haitians and he is one of the richest men in the country). Wyclef Jean was not allowed to participate, lacking prerequisites like having lived in the country for the last 5 years.
Jude Célestin of the Inité party is supported by the current president, René Préval, as well as by ‘The 15 Families’ of Haiti. These are, from what I understood, the 15 wealthiest families in the country, and along with Presidential support this makes him a kind of favourite. However there are other favourites, opinions differ as to who will really win.
It seems that the poor, i.e. the majority of Haitians, are not very interested in the elections, as they do not feel any candidate really represents them. I have also heard that many will support the candidate which ex-president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, currently in exile in South Africa, and whose Lavalas party was not allowed to take part in the current elections, chooses to voice support to. It is so far unknown whether he will at all.
However, seeing as I don’t really know the country and that the opinions I have heard are much too few to be representative, you should really not take my political observations too seriously.
A real hero in Haiti
A paiting of Maradona at the back of a decorated minibus (taken, again, during a traffic jam). Along with such minibuses, the local public transport is the ‘tap-tap’, something between a minibus and a pick-up truck, open at the back for people to hop in – or hang from when it gets full – with two benches opposite each other under a little roof. They are often colourfully decorated, with paitings of celebrities, Haitian sentences of wisdom, or quotes from the Bible.
After photos from the city, countryside coming up this week!