Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 3 The rubble of progress

June 3 The rubble of progress

I feel like I'm at the epicentre of progress and reconstruction in Haiti. 

8 Mackandal St., in the Delmas 19 district, is situated exactly at the juncture of two Y intersections placed end-to-end. I can't think of any better way to describe this intersection, right outside Wall's International Guesthouse. Facing the street at diagonals to each other are a bougainvillea, plantaine and coconut tree, blossoming and fruit-filled. I am under the coconuts looking down over the compound wall onto a striking scene: Haitians at work with heavy equipment and tools MAKING rubble in the process of reconstructing a network of roads in the area.

The cacophony is orchestral and plays for days at full volume.

It's not so much the construction noise as the traffic. I'm told that this route is a popular short cut but no one is aware that this week it is completely blocked and bottle necked by road demolition at the narrow juncture of the intersections. The 'under construction' sign a half block away makes it official only to the lengthening line-up looking to get through to the other Y.

Today, the horn section is the loudest:  motorcycle and backhoe backup beeps; honks and air horn BLASTS you can feel from enormous dump trucks and cement trucks; burp-burp-burps from lumbering water trucks; toots from shiny, dusty American cars and rusty tap taps; the quick, authoritative squeals of NGO jeeps.

Everyone wants progress to move forward, FASTER, and says so.

Followed by the mechanical section: low gear grinding and muscled revs of diesels and whines of gas engines; squealing, scraping brakes and rumbling of strained chassis and bottoming shocks. Somehow, in the brief spaces in between you can pick out two guys swinging pick axes singing (I think in harmony) and a rooster crowing on some unknown cue, above it all. Culture and nature, human or animal, will not be pushed out. 

Commerce is in slow but steady motion. And the conductor is doing his best to thread the traffic merging from every direction, motioning vigorously to guide the continuous parade of new Haitian reconstruction artillery around the crew manning jack hammers, cement saws and power shovel, who are fearless and never flinch. A tall, bent man pushing a wheel barrow stacked high with old wicker furniture took almost20 minutes to pick his way through the scene, but made it. He stops to pick a plantaine from a low hanging branch, and continues. 

Every order on delivery will be a little late: sand for cement, rebar and wire mesh for strength and resilience, and cement block - to rebuild; empty cola bottles to refill, fresh Coke, Haitian cola and clean water - to slake the thirsty city; plastic plumbing pipe for better sanitation, workers on the new $5US/day minimum wage being trucked to job sites. Jobs.

There are highly visible improvements everywhere in Haiti: street lighting, road and highway building, garbage collection and cleanup, two big new hotels – best Western and Royal Oasis, free schooling for grades one and two in many schools, laws for the rights of persons with disabilities. There are still plenty of problems, old and new, but there is a momentum now that feels like its unstoppable. 

The most striking sign of all, the old earthquake created rubble with it's crushing sorrow and pain,  has been removed, the new reconstruction rubble is being carted off to bury it.  

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