Dr. Alez Dauphin and I spent the afternoon visiting our colleagues at Medecins Sans Frontieres in Petion-Ville, a mountainous suburb of Port-au-Prince. MSF has been in Haiti almost as long as we have and we spent the afternoon discussing ways we could collaborate in the provision of emergency and complex obstetrics in the Delmas district of the city.
It was my first time out and about without the full team and I found riding through the city in a pick-up, windows rolled down, intoxicating. One of the surgeons last night referred to the “Haiti bug” and I definitely have it. In fact, I think we all do – despite the challenges and frustrations of this place, there is something about it that is hard to describe. Whatever it is, it has me. I think it has all of us.
Earlier in the day, I Googled the distance between our hospital in Delmas and the MSF offices in Petion-Ville. It told me it was a mere 12 km’s and should take 8-9 minutes. My Haitian friends found this hysterical. “Maybe by helicopter,” they said.
It took us an hour and twenty minutes.
Throughout our journey, we passed what seemed like thousands of people, tonnes of rubble, and and hundreds of vehicles cramming the street. “Haiti,” Alez said, “is full of two things – concrete and engines.”
“And young people,” I replied. I venture more than 90% of the people we passed on our journey were under the age of 25. Haiti has one of the youngest populations in the world I’m told. But the life expectancy is only 46 years.
Along the way, I invariably drew some stares. Mine was the only white face in the crowd. Everyone, again mostly young people, who made eye contact smiled broadly at me and I did the same. The young Haitians are beautiful, patient, hospitable and resourceful people. I can only hope that instead of concrete and engines, Haiti becomes a land of opportunity for them.