On the streets of the capital of the poorest country in the western hemisphere
03.11.2016 - 03.11.2016 34 °C
Today is set aside for some street photography; again to compensate for the fact that last time we came many of the streets in Port au Prince were out of bounds for security issues surrounding the political demonstrations taking place at the time.
We start the day at the bus station, to see some of the many painted buses that are unique to Haiti. The chassis is imported (mostly from the US), whereas the body work and decorations are added here to create the ubiquitous Haitian style; with popular themes featuring religion, history, politics and local celebrities.
The bus station also houses one of numerous street markets found in and around Port au Prince. With jobs being scarce, selling what little they can helps to supplement family income. There always seem to be way more stall holders than customers though, and most vendors sell very similar stuff.
I love this guy's T-shirt slogan:
Eat a little pig
Take a little swig
Do a little jig
Marché de la Croix des Bossales – the Slave Market
Situated in the place where the slaves arrived in Haiti, the Marché de la Croix des Bossales is the biggest market in Haiti and one of the largest in the Caribbean.
Today parts of the market are a chaotic mess, a huge jumble of second-hand clothes imported from the US for resale.
The import of second-hand clothes has all but killed the once-thriving tailor businesses in Haiti, as it is much cheaper to buy used clothing than to have items made for you by a craftsman. The few remaining tailors now specialise in uniforms and alterations.
After commenting on how we seem to be as much of attraction to the locals as they are to us, Serge replies: “They don't see many foreigners, I never bring tourists here, only you!” I take that as a compliment.
Pouchard drives slowly past the market stalls for me to carry out my 'trademark' drive-by-shootings (photographically speaking only, of course). Given the almost-stationary traffic, this is not a difficult task.
Since the earthquake, cattle is rarely seen at the markets in Haiti, these days it is mainly goats and chickens for sale.
Never sleep under a defecating goat
A somewhat deranged woman gets most upset about me taking pictures, thinking I am photographing her. She does not calm down despite Serge's reassurance that I am only interested in pictures of the animals, and continues to shout obscenities even after the other workers try to calm her down.
We make a swift exit before she gets over-exited, photographing the pigs on the way out. They don't seem to object to having their photo taken.
How to transport your live goats
Leaving the port area, we travel through some serious slums.
The area may be a ramshackle shanty-town, but their immediate surroundings are mostly tidy and I am impressed at how the residents have made the most of their situation and tried to brighten up their surroundings with a few plants.
Serge takes us up in the hills for a better view of the sprawling market below. The Bel Air area is said to be a notorious hot spot of crime and poverty.
According to Wikipedia, Bel Air is a “slum area of the city... Crime is widespread, and kidnappings and killings have created panic among the local population.... the murder rate in Bel Air reached 50 murders per 100,000 residents ”
The British Government doesn't have a much better view of the place either:
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the ... Bel Air neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince due to the risk of criminal activity”.
That's OK then.
Raram No Limit
We meet a local celebrity: the main man behind the band Raram No Limit.
He shows us some of the street art he and others have painted to brighten up the neighbourhood.
We head for one of the many other markets in town, to look for a belt for David. The market is crowded, with mud and debris everywhere and some interesting stalls.
The beauty of shopping in a place like this is that you don't have to go to the vendors, they come to you.
More Street Art
David gets his belt, and we return to the down-town area of Port au Prince for some more street art, this time on the walls of the fence surrounding the University.
After taking a lot of ribbing over the last week from my Facebook friends about always posing with a drink in my hand, I decide to prove that I don't normally have alcohol at lunchtime.
Look, no drink!
Only fresh lemon juice
It doesn't seem to convince my friends much though.
Time to get ready for the return to the UK. Packing shouldn't take long, although we need to ensure the new mask goes in the case first and everything else can be wrapped around it. There is only one 'slight' problem – the sculpture – who we have named Ram Ram – is way too big for the bag. Oops. It didn't look that big when I bought it....
The guys on the hotel reception kindly let us have some newspapers and cellotape to wrap him in, but it soon becomes apparent that he needs more, especially if he is to travel in the cargo hold of the plane.
I send a text to Jackie, our local agent Voyages Lumiere, asking her where I can get some bubble wrap, and less than an hour later her driver Pouchon turns up at our hotel with a huge roll of the stuff! Now that is what I call great customer service!
I think Ram Ram is now ready for his journey of a life-time to his forever home in England.
Drinks and Dinner
Just to keep my Facebook friends happy (believe that and you believe anything), we order some 'proper' pre-dinner drinks: Plaza punch (with plenty of rum) and some white wine.
Everyone makes sure their cocktails match their outfit for the night, right?
After an interesting dish of chicken in red wine and vanilla sauce, it is time to say goodnight as we are getting up very early tomorrow morning for our flight home.
Thank you to Voyage Lumiere for yet another fantastic holiday in Haiti. You guys are the best!