Nouvelles Article: Changes in Haiti
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Voici des informations qui seront utiles peut-être pour l'ancien missionnaire étranger qui n'est pas retourné en Haiti depuis son relève mais qui contemple un retour.
With the announcement of the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple, lots of people who haven’t been back since their missions are thinking about planning a visit. I was in Haiti earlier this month and made a list of things that have changed and things that you might find helpful to know.
- There were well-marked Automated Teller / Banking Machines that accepted my Visa credit card and dispensed thousand-gourde notes in multiples of five quickly and easily (for a fee of about 150 gourdes).
- The exchange rate was 46-47 gourdes to the U.S. dollar.
- Congestion at the intersection of Airport Road / Martin Luther King (Nazon) and Delmas had decreased immensely. Even better, an elevated roadway was half-built which will eventually carry east-west traffic on Delmas over the north-south traffic.
- The fee to enter Haiti (by plane, at least) was ten dollars (American or Canadian). Cash.
- American Airlines flew from Miami to Cap-Haïtien daily.
- The road from Bon Repos through St-Marc to Gonaïves was remarkably good. In my rental car, I approached 100 kph / 60 mph many times. The road from Gonaïves to Cap-Haïtien wasn't wonderful, but it didn't require a 4x4 either. Port-au-Prince to Jacmel was about like it was in the late '80s, which was pretty good.
- The new chapel on Rue des Frères was more like one that you'd find in Utah than one that you'd find elsewhere in Haiti. Red brick exterior, frosted glass windows, sound-absorbing tiles, whiteboards, and cushioned chairs and pews. Air-conditioned. It sits right alongside the street, but the exterior noise didn’t bleed into the building.
- The network of tap-tap routes had expanded. Local routes cost 15-20 gourdes.
- Traffic lights were hit-and-miss. But when one was working, it was generally obeyed.
- There weren’t many taxis, but moto-taxis were ubiquitous. They cost five times or more what you'd pay for a tap-tap to go to the same destination, but you got there much faster. And yeah, my son and I were invited to pile onto a single bike with both of our back-packs at no extra charge, but the back-packs were a bridge too far for us.
- Gasoline cost 200 gourdes per gallon. The service stations did not run out of gas.
- There were a handful of new fancy hotels, which I found quite jarring. Everyone spoke English. Five to twelve storeys. Parkades. At the new Kinam, I rode in my first Haitian elevator and felt very underdressed in my jean shorts, T-shirt, and hiking shoes.
- I saw fire stations with fire trucks in both Cap-Haïtien and Port-au-Prince. One day, our descending tap-tap navigated around some burning tires and wood high on Delmas. Within just a few minutes, two fire trucks -- manned, equipped, and loaded with water (judging from the trickle of water leaking out of them both) -- with sirens and flashing lights rushed past us up Delmas toward the fire.
- There were 139 missionaries serving in the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission. Two Haitian missionaries were serving in Ivory Coast, and two from there were serving in Haiti. I guess that that makes it wrong to say that Haiti is closed to foreign missionaries, eh?
- The second storey of the mission office building on Delmas 54 (which was paved) housed offices of other Church organizations, as did much of the mission president's house in Peguyville. And the pool has been filled in and covered.
- Particularly among the leaders and older members, we are treated and spoken about like war veterans. Mèsi pou tout sa ou te fè pou nou. They remember us, and they are gratified when we remember them.
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