Haiti was an interesting experience. Upon arrival, I asked a guy standing near us at baggage claim how much we should expect to pay for a taxi to our hotel. He informed us that “taxis” basically don’t exist, and you need to just find someone with a car and pay that person to drive you. He was visiting as a missionary helping build a church, and this was his 3rd visit to Haiti. Our luggage didn’t arrive and was still in Miami, so he and his local pastor friend insisted on giving us a ride to our hotel as a welcome/help us get out of the crazy airport where people are very insistent on carrying your stuff for you in exchange for a tip.
Imagine Forrest Gump. That’s how this guy talked. It was a lot of fun being crammed in their SUV for a bit to our hotel.
We arrived at the Marriott, checked in, and were quite surprised by how crazy the traffic had been to get there. Dinner at the hotel of rice & beans + vegetables, and then we passed out. We were exhausted, since we’d traveled all day.
The next day, we had to get a ride out to the airport to pick up our suitcases, and then we got that same driver to give us a city tour later in the afternoon.
We drove through some main neighborhoods, which took FOOOOREEEEVER because it was time for all the schools to get out, and then wound up near the national congress before heading over toward the Iron Market (main market).
You can literally buy anything at any time on any street corner in Port-au-Prince. It really feels like people are selling anything they have, ESPECIALLY anything they’ve received as a donation. Nice shoes, good shirts with US brands, household items…if it seems valuable, they’re selling it.
From here, we head through more selling/market areas to get to the famous cathedral of Notre Dame. It used to be huge and beautiful. Now, it’s just a shell after the earthquake of 2010.
People living on the street near the cathedral ruins went and found someone who had a key to the gate and got us access to the courtyard between there and the archdiocese building, and we gave them $1 that our driver suggested, and they were absolutely pumped. The poverty in Port-au-Prince is endemic and quite overwhelming.
From here, we drove back to our hotel and tried to figure out what to do the next day, since we had seen our fill of the city.
We looked into a whale watching activity a few hours away for the next day, but it was quite expensive. We had thought that Port-au-Prince, being near the sea, would have beaches, but they’ve all been taken over by the port, so you have to travel to a beach. This takes over an hour, and it’s obviously cost-prohibitive for locals. We wound up going to Wahoo Bay Beach, recommended by the hotel. You have to pay $15 each to get in–also cost-prohibitive to most locals.
The beach definitely was nice. The drive out there took us past the Haiti Olympics training center, which had beautiful, perfectly-green grass inside it but tons of poverty and bare earth on the outside of the fence.
The beach is private, belonging to a hotel, and it had tons of things to do. We were snorkeling around and encountered a guy with a boat who spoke some Portuguese he learned from when the Brazilian army sent a bunch of soldiers to help after the earthquake, so we paid him $10 to take us to a good snorkeling spot.
The first spot we jumped in had about 20 jellyfish, so we freaked out and got back into the boat to move to another spot. We didn’t see much. All areas near shore have been completely over-fished, due to the poverty of the locals. Anything, no matter how small, that can be eaten is being caught. We saw 4 or 5 fish total in about 30 minutes of snorkeling around the reef. It’s really sad.
We had fun laying around at the beach, swimming in the waters, and jumping on the trampoline. It was a good trip for our last day in the country. For people who come to Haiti and just spend the whole trip in a place like this, they probably think it’s an amazing country. The capital, though, has numerous problems. The hotel constantly told us not to go out and walk around on our own. Poverty is everywhere, and street crime is apparently high.
It was also really depressing to see that people had tried to create some street art and slogans promoting homosexual equality, and every single one of these had been crossed out or attacked in some way.
I’m glad I went to Haiti, but it would take a lot for me to go back to Port-au-Prince.