(posted by Jarrod Goentzel, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
I arrived in Port au Prince today on a 2 hour flight using a large plane typically allocated to a lucrative international route. Maybe it is a way for the airline to utilize its fleet during the offseason for European travel. But I would like to think that it is due to the increased demand for people wanting to come help in the recovery effort. Perhaps the airport still has limited landing slots due to the single taxiway from the runway to the tarmac (one key bottleneck in supply for the initial response) and they need to use larger jets to accommodate all the passengers. Indeed, the plane was full of a wide variety of passengers, some wearing suits and some wearing matching T-Shirts to identify their service project.
After an afternoon of settling in to the tent and doing a little work, we went to dinner at the UN logistics base. The former MINUSTAH training facilities, located adjacent to the airport, have been supplemented by myriad prefabs each with a tiny air conditioner and several UN workers crammed inside. UNICEF set up several large tents with tables of PCs set up in rows. Other tents have a circle of chairs for coordination meetings. There is no central map to guide you and many of the prefabs are labeled simply with an 8.5×11 sheet of paper stating its functional but critical role like “WFP LOGISTICS” in Arial 32pt font.
A hub in this vast compound is an open air restaurant on the second floor of a building with a grill and deep fryer. They mix a few local specials with comfort food and fries. The place seems to be a respite of relaxation after a day laboring away at a computer screen in your prefab, yet short of a festive environment that I might have expected on a Saturday night. Then I realized that while I had traveled in on the first day of my weekend, there is no weeks end to the work here. The needs do not wait to conform to a five day workweek. The US set its clocks forward last night for Daylight Savings and Haiti stayed on Standard Time. But there is nothing “standard” about the time many people are laboring here.