I learned a haitian word today: bloke. It means traffic jam. We have experienced anpil bloke--many traffic jams--since we arrived in Port-au-Prince, not the least of which has been in my own head.
As far as traffic goes, we had to wait a while for Jean-Claude, our host, to pick us up from the airport on Monday night because he was caught in a bloke. Then it took us over an hour to make what can be a twenty-minute drive to Petionville, where we are staying. Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti and a decently large city, so I would assume that the traffic was not spectacular even before the earthquake, but it sounds like it is significantly worse now. Part of this is that some roads that used to exist are impassable. Some is that the whole flow of the city has changed since then. There has been a huge influx of foreign organizations, all with their own SUVs driving around the streets. This has also affected the public transportation system considerably.
I say all of this not because it is surprising, but because it is an issue that has largely defined our first two days here. It is difficult and expensive to get around. It is complicated to know how much of the advice we receive about what we should and should not do (ie, walk places) is simply realistic, and how much is over-protective. And for two highly-independent women, it is, honestly, frustrating to feel restricted. As we make plans, the transportation challenge will surely continue to be a bloke, but hopefully not an insurrmountable one.
Today we did manage to get out and about, which was nice. We are spending this first week trying to make some connections and get our bearings so as to make a more specific plan for the rest of the time. One big connection that we made today was with a woman who runs an art gallery. Mom had met her when she was here in the spring, and she is very excited to have Mom work with some of her artists, sharing with them some of her gourd-art techniques. (Mom is a gourd artist and they have a similar plant in Haiti called the calabasse, a material which Haitian artists utilize to a certain extent.) Before we got here, Mom had made contact with someone who was able to procure some calabasses that Mom and the artists will be able to use. The callabasses are drying right now and we hope to pick them up this weekend. We are excited about this and other possibilities for our stay.
Here are a few pictures from our visit to the gallery and the rest of our day:
A gourd decorated by a Haitian artist.
A graffiti artist has painted many walls around the city in the time since the quake. The paintings tend to reflect the strong emotions after the quake and to present a message of hope.
Steetside walls are plastered with campaign ads for the elections that are coming up at the end of the month.