A Return To Haiti: Project Medishare & Hospital Bernard Mevs

A Return To Haiti: Project Medishare & Hospital Bernard Mevs

 

I fondly remember 5 years ago when I came to Haiti with 4 other monsooners as we backpacked up from the capital city of Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haitien and gazed out from one of the most beautiful fortresses of colonial America.

 

 

I had a great crew to travel with back then.

 

 

And I have a great crew with me this week:

 

 

So I’ve returned to Haiti, this time with my fellow colleague and former nurse at Jacobi, Zach, to volunteer here for a week at Hospital Bernard Mevs, the only hospital with critical care capabilities for the capital city of Port-Au-Prince. We’re also joined by Vanora, a wound care expert who just recently graduated from medical school and is applying for a residency in Family Medicine. The efforts are through the non-profit and Florida-based Project Medishare, and one of the few organizations that promote sustainability in international disaster and critical care relief that I know of.

To work at their main hospital site, their resources allows them to accept only licensed medical professionals above a certain training level (so for residents, they take PGY-3 and above) who not only are capable of handling a critical medical situation during the first few golden minutes of resuscitation on their own, but also be able to teach — as well as have the humility to learn from — the local Haitian medical staff. And after speaking with my colleague and co-resident Dr. Shazia Rahman who volunteered here just last year, the only way I could know for sure if this would be a good fit for me was to try it out.

Either way, it’s good to be back.

 

A photo I took outside the airport 5 years ago
A photo outside the airport I took today

 

Upon arrival at Port-au-Prince (PAP) airport via a morning Jet Blue flight, we were picked up by our wonderful and superhuman Volunteer Coordinator Stacy, as well as our Haitian driver Philippe outside the airport and taken directly to the hospital and our living quarters inside the hospital compound.

 

 

Our dorm beds were more comfortable than I expected and we were informed beforehand to bring our own sheets and pillows (although they do offer fitted sheets if you need them and the group is small enough). I brought a sleeping bag liner with my inflatable travel pillows that did just fine — slept like a baby 9 hours every night!

 

 

Right outside our dorm room is the kitchen and dining area where we spent most of our time after work hours.

 

 

And on our rooftop, we got great views of Port-au-prince and our surrounding neighborhood.

 

 

Hospital Bernard Mevs itself is a gated compound facility (armed guards and all) that has an emergency room, 2 general inpatient units, a spinal/neuro inpatient unit, a medical intensive care unit, a pediatric intensive care unit, a neonatal intensive care unit, a pediatrics inpatient unit, and a separate Pediatrics ER.

For diagnostics, they have their own mobile CT Scanner which sends its images back to the United States via a PACS-like system for official readings. Unfortunately for us it was down the entire week we were here, which made for some interesting management decisions for our fair share of elderly head trauma, gunshot victims through the abdomen and pelvis, aortic dissection, pulmonary embolisms…

 

 

They have a single x-ray machine which can be made portable if absolutely necessary. All X-ray films are read by the doctor ordering them (which means it was me this week…); there are no radiologists on site to give you any official readings (eek!).

 

 

They can do all basic labs except blood gases (they have I-STATS but not cartridges for them):

 

 

And while I chose not to photograph areas with patients such as the inpatient units and the Adult ER, I was lucky enough to see and take photos of empty pediatric units that are currently being renovated.

To give you an idea of what the Adult ER is like (and where I’ll be working for the next week), it’s about the same size as the Pediatric ER you see here (fits about 3 beds and 3 chairs):

 

 

In addition to the Pediatrics ER, they’re renovating their Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit:

 

 

And their neonatal intensive care unit:

 

 

This is the world outside our hospital:

 

 

Every night we drove up somewhere for dinner, including upmarket Petionville:

 

 

On our day off (usually every Friday) we got a morning tour of central Port-Au-Prince, seeing where the earthquake dealt the most damage:

 

Remains of the former Palace

 

We drove to the famous tourist staple Hotel Oloffson for lunch and beer, where I did the same thing 5 years ago:

 

Today

 

Then it was a 40 minute drive up to Point De Vue (Observatoire), where we grabbed a beer and shisha overlooking all of Port-Au-Prince at The Lookout bar:

 

 

Afterwards we kicked back at Karibe Hotel for a spa massage and drinks by the pool. You can also head up to their rooftop bar Asu Rooftop Lounge for more upmarket drinks and dancing:

 

 

As for the actual medical volunteer work itself — I saved the best for last, but it’s also just in case some of you get queasy with the sight of blood and bodily fluids. You have been warned!

I started my week off putting in bilateral thoracentesis/pigtail chest tubes:

 

 

My second day took on 3 traumas: an electrocution, and 2 patients with gunshot wounds that arrived all at the same time. I had to make decisions on which patients I could send to the operating room based on our ultrasound findings since our CT Scanner was down:

 

 

My third involved an R/O thoracic aortic dissection with a widened mediastinum >8.5cm and a flap on my ultrasound of the thoracic and abdominal aorta — we had to send this guy out to an outside hospital for the CT (since ours was down all week). That was an ordeal to arrange.

  

 

I also got called in the middle of the night to work on multiple emergent cases in the Intensive Care Unit and the ER, so I would run down in nothing but my flip flops and pajamas (Shazia, you did warn me about this):

 

 

My fourth day involved intubating a SWAT police officer with a GCS of 7 that was found down at a crash site for an unknown amount of time at 2am in the morning. After intubating him I hopped in the ambulance to transport the patient to another hospital in Port-Au-Prince to get CT Scans, only to have a small argument with the technician to include the C-Spine after he initially refused to do any more than scan the head. We got both and transferred the patient back to our hospital for an ICU admission with neurosurgery.

And then my next and final day was ortho day where everyone came in with a significant OR-worthy fracture.

 

 

One had the largest “coffee bean” sign (aka volvulus) I’ve ever seen. I sent him straight to the OR.

 

 

Overall, this was a meaningful week where the most interesting cases weren’t necessarily the pathology, the clinical presentations or the acuity of our management, but rather the jiujitsu decision-making in more austere, resource-poor environments where I had to make calls regarding rationing care appropriately.

Although many of us think we’re all somewhat prepared for these kind of decisions after training at some of the rougher county programs in the United States, it’s very different when you’re actually put in the hot seat and making those decisions on your own. Yes, we may know what decisions to make, but do we know how and furthermore, are we comfortable with making them? Only actual experience such as this can give us the answers to those questions.

I truly am grateful for Project Medishare and Bernard Mevs Hospital for granting me the privilege to hit the ground running here and making these kind of decisions from minute one. You’ve instilled in me the humility of having to understand what goes on in the world of Emergency Medicine outside our bubbles and I cannot underestimate such an opportunity.

I also want to give a shout-out to Stacy, our coordinator, for going above and beyond to making sure all the volunteers were comfortable, safe, well-fed, well taken care of, loved, and entertained the entire time we were here. It was fitting we came during the middle of Mother’s Day celebrations in Haiti as you were like a mother to us all. Also big thanks to Jen, Sam, Raphael, Kency, Drs. Rivette (especially for the kind things you wrote!), Germain (for getting to hit the ground running on day 1), Gordon (for being the trauma magnet that you are!), Levequé (for letting me run the ER by myself for hours!), and Pontius (for being the best co-doctor to work with everyday!) for your kindness, professionalism, and warmth throughout this entire experience. There was never a bad moment and never an instance where I felt unsafe.

It has been a privilege to have worked with you all and I look forward to coming back soon. Much love.

Zach also had this to write:

Thank you so much to everyone that donated and made my trip to Haiti possible. I’m still processing all that I saw and experienced, but the trip was incredible, and I can honestly say that we made a difference.

We learned from the staff of Hospital Bernard Mevs and we shared with them our knowledge and experience as well. We worked on patients with spinal injuries, gunshot wounds, electrocutions, and congenital illnesses. We treated babies that were so malnourished, they required intensive care. We gave our blood, sweat and tears, and will be sure to return one day and do it all again.

Thank you again to Calvin D. Sun for organizing the trip, to the staff of Bernard Mevs . . . thank you so much.

 

- At time of posting in Port Au Prince, Haiti, it was 28 °C - Humidity: 69% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

You’re Going To Miss…Ukraine & Poland

You’re Going To Miss…Ukraine & Poland

 

Pictures courtesy of Mandy Cheuk, Simon Lu, Kai Tan, Cynthia Koo, and yours truly.

With contributions by Cynthia Koo.

 

If it’s not already playing, press play. And then start reading.

 

 

“…Because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Jack Kerouac

 

You’re going to miss…

 

You’re going to miss that first meal together, the seemingly unending introductions to the 16 other people you will spend the next 6 days with, the mental scramble to match faces to names and pictures from a blog.

You’re going to miss the butterflies before waiting to board airplanes going halfway around the world, those moments leading up to a trip promised to be filled with first-times and new experiences and unknowns.

 

You’re going to miss those first moments of dawning realization that barely a day into the trip you are already lost, navigating signs and subways in a language you can’t read, trying not to lose anyone in a city you know of only from the first scene of “Mission Impossible.”

 

And you’re going to miss the comforts of your first overnight bus into Odessa, being bored to death by what seems like your 5th walk around the city’s pocket-sized city center, your 2-hour wait for the group that was flying in later, and the subsequent joyous, movie-like reunion of 15 strangers amid the backdrop of one of the world’s most famous stairways on the other side of the world.

 

You’re going to miss breaking bread over a belated Christmas dinner with new friends, followed by standing on random street corners trying to find a way to the supposed “spectacular” nightlife of Arcadia beach.

 

You’re going to miss arriving at a deserted carnival that is Arcadia in the dead of winter, suspecting that zombies might be lurking in the fog, but heading in anyway only to stand on a forsaken beach, staring off into an uncertain abyss over the Black Sea.

 

Arcadia Beach, Odessa

You’re gonna miss taking photos of yoga poses next to crashing waves before crashing a dance party for old people, and then passing out in an empty restaurant before assumingly missing the last tram back to the city and, to the chagrin of several curious Ukrainian locals, subsequently haggling down 4 taxis that could help you make it onto your overnight train to Kiev.

 

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You’re going to miss waking up on a moving vehicle to a snowed-in Eastern European city and trying not to slip on ice-covered streets to get to your hostel before catching a 10:30am bus.

 

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And you’re going to miss the 4 hour bus ride passing through barren Ukrainian landscapes during which you finally found time to write in your journal, stopped by a roadside gas station to pick up cup ramen for lunch and a supply of cookies, meat chips, and candy that would last you for days. You’re going to miss eating the aforementioned ramen with coffee stirrers, and you’re going to miss belting out the lyrics of “Drops of Jupiter” before drifting off to sleep to the lyrics of “Just Breathe.”

 

You’re going to miss the feeling of knowing you are in the middle of nowhere, being unable to pinpoint where you are on a map, and juxtaposing the thought of being in universally-unknown Pervomaysky, Ukraine (did any of you know that was where we were?) with the thought of having just 2 days ago been in universally-known NYC.

 

You’re going to miss being shown what the end of the world might have looked like, and climbing down to the “safest place on Earth.”

 

You’re going to wish you could once again celebrate your birthday in an underground bar in Ukraine.

 

And you’re going to miss the $12 steak dinner, the endless orders of beers, and the anticipation of participating in the next random Ukrainian drinking “tradition.”

 

 

“No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep.” – Anonymous

 

You’re going to miss the 4 hour dance marathon…

 

…and you’re going to miss waking up to the sight of one of your group leaders passed out on the floor next to a freshly opened beer bottle, that WTF moment when your hostel was raided by Kalashnikov-wielding cops looking for a massage because they mistook the place for an Asian brothel. And you’re going to miss realizing that you spent that 1 night when you had a proper bed by partying in Kiev instead, heading to bed a mere 3 hours before you headed out the door again.

 

You’re going to miss getting on the wrong train during your adrenaline-fueled rush from your hostel to catch buses that would take you to Chernobyl — the feeling of searching for a needle in a haystack in Kiev’s sprawling Independence Square, the uncertain dread of whether you’ve missed the opportunity to visit the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history. And you’re going to miss that sigh of relief and a renewed belief in miracles when a stranger approaches you to ask if you’re looking for the Chernobyl buses, 35 minutes after you were supposed to be there.

 

You’re going to miss the moment when you arrived at a destination that until then, had only existed for you in Wikipedia articles, video games, and bad horror movies.

 

You’re going to miss witnessing landscapes of a nuclear wasteland, the awkward reluctance and willingness of eating a “radioactive-free” lunch, the eerieness of naked abandonment as you navigate a ghost town that’s been stuck in a time warp for 26 years.

 

And then you’re going to miss that second adrenaline-fueled dash to the bus station that night, that momentary panic when you count up your group and realize you’d left one of your compatriots behind, the relief at having him make his way to the bus station in time anyway (leading to jokes afterwards that never got old). And you’re going to miss biting into one of the 100 last-minute orders of shawarma sandwiches made at the bus station to hold you over on your 7 hour overnight ride, and you’re going to miss those late-night conversations about politics, race, sex, and civil rights.

 

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You’re going to miss standing for an hour in the shivering cold while making crude jokes and waiting for the morning bus, telling horror stories on the way to Lviv’s train station, and spending the 3 hours before shops opened at one of the sexiest cafes you’ve ever stumbled upon.

 

You’re going to miss dancing in the streets to music blasting over speakers and you’re going to miss that awkward moment when a passerby gives you a 50 cent Ukrainian coin for your efforts.

 

And you’re going to miss wandering through Lviv with a local, warm from honey vodka shots required of you before you entered that password-protected underground bar, and buzzed from champagne popped at the top of a viewing tower overlooking the city to celebrate having just climbed a million flights of stairs (…and being in Ukraine!).

 

You’re going to miss taking photos in a random car at the top of a restaurant…

 

…and you’ll miss popping another bottle of champagne just in time for a fiery red sunset on High Castle Hill…

 

L'viv Opera Bar

…and you’ll miss that last-minute costume party under a legendary opera house.

 

You’re going to miss trying to figure out the ‘Ukranian Bear’ as he cargoes you across the Ukrainian-Polish border at 1am in the morning, debating conspiracy theories as you’re told to wait in an interrogation room while your vehicle is searched in a sketchy garage.

 

You’re going to miss waking up in a new country after driving for hours, dumb to the awe of Wawel Castle at dawn as you get out of the van, taking over a nearby Sheraton bathroom – the nicest you’ve used in days – walking through atmospherically serene Krakow before anyone else is awake, and getting a rushed breakfast before scrambling for seats on a standing-room packed bus to Auschwitz.

 

You’re going to miss contemplating the range of emotions that overtakes you when walking through one of the worst tragedies in modern human history, learning about the horrors of a place where horrible things happened to good people — a place you had only heard of from high school history class.

 

And you’re going to miss the bitter aftertaste of anger and disappointment when your group leader tramples upon his own schedule and totally lets everyone down (okay, you might not miss that).

But you’ll definitely miss the group dinner afterwards (at least this humbled writer hopes you do), courtesy of a jerkface who learned his lesson.

 

You’re going to miss those first few goodbye hugs as flights started to leave, the serendipity of arriving at the airport a few hours earlier than scheduled, that impromptu 2 hours spelunking through Warsaw in the middle of the night on the vodka, and the gratefulness for a last night of being so far away from routine.

 

And you’re going to miss the impromptu 2 hour tour of Frankfurt on another layover, the unexpected cherry on top to end the trip.

 

And you’re going to miss the feeling of arriving back home, just in time to ring in 2013, just in time to reflect on 2012 and realize you ended the year with a series of 6 days that you’ll never forget.

 

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But most of all, you’re going to miss the first time when it’ll hit you: that nobody else for the rest of your life will be able to understand what 17 strangers went through together in only 6 days.

 

 And yes, most of all, we’ll miss each other.

     “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

 

From Haiti Into The Dominican Republic

From Haiti Into The Dominican Republic

Today we crossed over from Haiti into the Dominican Republic; we took an 8am Caribe Bus from Cap-Haitien to the Jabon border, and then continue onwards towards Santiago and into the capital of Santo Domingo.

The simplest and most time-saving method is taking the direct 8am Caribe Bus from Cap-Haitien, located on Street 29 and Avenue A. The ride is about $30 USD per person, one way, which also includes a meal and a bottle of water.

 

 

2 hours in you’ll hit the less popular northern border crossing at Ouanaminthe (second in popularity to the southern border crossing between Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo) as you head towards the Dominican Republic border town of Dajabón.

 

The northern border

Heading towards Haiti Immigration Control

Getting stamped out of Haiti

We then drove across the river from Ouanaminthe to Dajabon by the border, the very site where 20,000 Haitian migrant workers were massacred by the DR government in 1937 as a result of intense competition for jobs:

 

Then we realized we were crossing on a Friday, which is “Market Day.”

“Market Day” is when the Jabon border opens up a little bit between the two countries to exchange goods and trade; essentially it really means when thousands of Haitians cross over into Jabon carrying only cash and they return back into Haiti with bags, baskets, crates, carts, and jeep-loads of food, fruits, supplies, and the kitchen sink.

Take a look at the pictures…Haitians heading to the right into the DR aren’t carrying anything, while Haitians heading to the left into Haiti are carrying almost everything under the sun.

 

Haitians doing market day trading are not allowed past a certain point into the DR

 

It was interesting to see what I’ve read about in the news come to life before my eyes.

The overland border crossing is simple: pay $10 for the tourist card into the DR (DR citizens don’t have to pay this) and $10 for leaving Haiti. For us, Caribe Bus made us pay $20 ahead of time when we bought our tickets in Cap-Haitien. Then Haiti stamps you out, and we got back on the bus, gave our passports to the Dominicans, drove a bit to a warehouse and got our bags searched:

 

We noticed in the warehouse that if you’re not Haitian, the Dominicans don’t even bother looking through your stuff other than a quick look and patdown. If you are Haitian, however, they go all out on your luggage looking for smuggled items/contraband/drugs.

We then got back on the bus and picked up our stamped passports from the Dominicans. Then you’ll see things you never saw once ever in Haiti: paved highways, road dividers, traffic decals. Now you know you’re in the Dominican Republic.

Thanks for the warmth, the hospitality, the views and the memories, Haiti.

We arrived into Santo Domingo around 9 hours later since boarding in Cap Haitien, at around 5pm.

 

Arriving into the DR

 

- At time of posting in Santiago, it was 21 °C - Humidity: 100% | Wind Speed: 4km/hr | Cloud Cover: scattered clouds

 

Haiti’s 8th Wonder Of The World

Haiti’s 8th Wonder Of The World

 

Citadelle La Ferriere just got served

Sans Souci Palace just got served

 

We woke up early at 7am to grab breakfast at Croissant d’Or, Cap-Haitien’s best bakery (that much Lonely Planet gets right!). There we loaded up on some carbs before heading down to catch a taptap to Milot. 

Lonely Planet says there’s a bridge going east across the river by Street #2, but it’s MUCH more south than that. We got a little confused because of this, but after asking around we were led to the bridge.

 

 

 

Remember in the last post when I said that the more north you go, the less chaotic it gets? So it’s pretty much total chaos once you hit the southern bridge of Cap-Haitien.

 

Almost at the bridge

"Whoa, we got a badass over here!"

Crossing the river

 

Once crossing the bridge, we came upon a gas station by the bridge’s entrance on the eastern side, where all the taptaps were waiting. Just like how I was able to find the taptaps to Dhaka in Bangladesh, your voice is essentially an information desk: Just yell “Milot” loudly and they’ll whisk you away to the right taptap. 

The fare is 25 HTG (Haitian gourds) per person.

 

You don't find the taptap; the taptaps find you

Efficient use of space to maximize profits

Because we arrived on Haiti’s Independence Day weekend and around New Year’s it could be that traffic is generally much lighter this time of year, but the ride from Cap-Haitien to Milot is not an hour as Lonely Planet says it is; the ride was actually half an hour for us. 

The taptap ride terminates in Milot, from where you walk about 10min more on the main road towards the ticket office located in front of Sans Souci Palace.

 

Getting dropped off in Milot

The town of Milot

 

Lonely Planet says the entrance fee is $25 USD per person to see both the Palace and the Citadelle. It’s actually $5 USD. You pay more to get a horse and a guide, which we turned down.

After getting your tickets, you enter the ruins of Sans Souci Palace. It’s pretty cool, especially when it’s placed against a backdrop of Haiti’s jungle-like atmosphere. 

Sans Souci was built as Henri Christophe’s rival to the Palace of Versailles. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been relatively untouched by tourism.

 

 

As you go around to the back of the palace, you’ll be on a path up to the first entrance to the magnificent Citadelle La Ferriere.

A primer on The Citadelle: Overseen by Haiti’s former leader and liberator Henri Christophe, it was built to repel the French colonialists (it never seen battle, however).

 

Heading around the back of Sans Souci

Looking back at Sans Souci

 

You’ll notice it easily as there will be tons of horses and their wranglers waiting to accost you incessantly about how you’re “not going to make it” on foot. They’re talking about a 7.5km walk up to the Citadelle’s actual entrance on top of the mountain, and the path is very very steep. Although it’s well-paved, it’s not an easy climb for those who are physically unfit.

 

 

We decided to trust our thighs and legs: no horses. It took us about 2 hours to reach the top. 

Along the way you’ll notice that families and entire communities live and die on the sides of the path you’re hiking up. Some of them encourage you to pay the extra money to hire a horse, some ask for a dollar, some try to sell you beads or bottles of water, but most will generally watch you curiously as you go.

 

One of the rare flat paths we came upon; I had to take a picture of it

About 80min in, you'll get the first glimpse of the Citadelle (up top btw some trees)

After about 90min of hiking you’ll hit a parking lot where you can rest your legs a little bit. Those of you who hired a motor vehicle or a 4WD jeep to get up the hill will park here. Then it’s another 30min steep climb up to the top before you finally hit the Citadelle.

 

Reaching the parking lot

Optional rest stop and water break at the parking lot

Almost there...

 

And from there, you are rewarded with the best views in Haiti. In other words, you literally are at the top of La Hispaniola island:

 

Citadelle la Ferriere just got served

We spent about an hour and a half there before we headed back down, but you easily can lounge around here for a couple of hours taking it all in (after a grueling climb like this, you deserve it!)

 

Cannonballlllls!

 

The descent back down was pretty uneventful, but spend the rest of your time exploring Sans Souci Palace if you haven’t already.

Then it’s back through Milot on a taptap to Cap-Haitien. Just retrace your steps of what you did this morning, and you’ll be back home in time for dinner.

 

- At time of posting in Milot, it was 22 °C - Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

From Port-Au-Prince To Cap-Haitien

From Port-Au-Prince To Cap-Haitien

 

The 7 hour bus ride from Port-au-Prince is relatively straightforward, but you have to choose your poison; shall you go with the public transportation that’ll cost you no more than a few dollars for a nary a bench space on a vehicle without shock absorbers? Or a more private company for $20 USD for some cushion on your tush?

 

Saying goodbye to our new friend Daniel of Trinity Lodge

On our way to find a bus to Cap-Haitien

While waiting for our bus to Cap-Haitien, we noticed something was going on by the United Nations plane:

Once you find your bus, these are the views you’ll get along the way:

 

 

The rest stop food was actually pretty delicious:

 

 

Buses will drop you off about a few km west of Cap Haitien, where you’ll have to find a tap tap public van for less than a $1 USD or a taxi for $10 USD (they’ll charge you much more initially, from where you’ll have to haggle down) in order to get into Cap Haitien itself.

There you’ll arrive at Cap-Haitien: Haiti’s “second city” and the assumed location of La Navidad, which is where Christopher Columbus landed on his voyage to the New World. Cap-Haitien was relatively untouched by the 2010 earthquake but still suffers from the issues of being in a third-world country and a lack strong infrastructure. Nevertheless, Cap-Haitien boasts a well organized grid system (Avenues go from A to Z from east to west; Streets go from 1 to 30 from south to north) that is very easily walkable.

 

The town cathedral

Very well organized Cap-Haitien

Finding our hostel: COOP Guesthouse for $18/night (a steal!)

 

You’ll notice as you go north, the streets become less chaotic and more orderly. Then you’ll hit the U.N. buildings at the very north where it’s most peaceful.

You can also hug along the eastern part of town, which you’ll appreciate unhindered views of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

What’s unusual is that this is the first developing country I’ve been in where I’ve seen a large number of people regularly exercising: there are gyms packed with weights and weightlifters, runners in jerseys jogging along the ocean as early as 7am in the morning….usually you’d associate a populaton who have the privilege of exercising with more developed nations. Haiti is an exception.

 

A concert was going on inside

Cap-Haitien at dusk

 

Go have a beer or even a dinner at popular La Kay, where if you’re brave enough, teach the kids on the dance floor how to dougie or Gangnam style.

 

La Kay inside. The dance floor is towards the back.

After a dance session, we took pictures with our dance partners

 

Cap-Haitien seems to have a more popping nightlife than Port-au-Prince as everywhere on the streets there will be live music and DJs playing into the wee hours of the night. It was like every corner was a small block party. Take advantage of this!

 

- At time of posting in Cap-Haitien, it was 25 °C - Humidity: 85% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

The “Official” Warning In Haiti

The “Official” Warning In Haiti

First things first, the internet in Cap-Haitien barely exists. Not that I’m complaining, but it’ll be hard to shoot an update out with pictures until I get into Santo Domingo probably tomorrow.

So far we took a 7 hour bus ride from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haitien (the capital in the south to the northern “second city” of Haiti), taught a few kids how to dougie and Gangnam style, hiked up 7.5km up a steep mountain to see Haiti’s “8th wonder of the world” La Citadelle la Ferriere and hiked back down to explore the alien-like Sans Souci Palace. Our adventure there should be up by tomorrow on the blog.

WiFi is absolutely nonexistent (like finding gold) and the only way I’m able to send this out is being able to find 1 of 3 legit internet cafes in the town. And it’s slow… it kinda reminds me of my days backpacking through Southeast Asia.

In the meantime for your viewing pleasure, I give you the current travel warning on Haiti that was issued only 5 days ago by the U.S. State Department:

 

Travel Warning

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Bureau of Consular Affairs

 

Haiti

December 28, 2012

 

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Haiti about the current security situation. This replaces the Travel Warning dated June 18, 2012, updating information regarding the level of crime, the presence of cholera, lack of adequate infrastructure – particularly in medical facilities – seasonal severe inclement weather, and limited police protection. The United Nations’ Stabilization Force for Haiti (MINUSTAH) remains in Haiti.

 

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when visiting Haiti. Thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Haiti each year, but the poor state of Haiti’s emergency response network should be carefully considered when planning travel. Travelers to Haiti are encouraged to use organizations that have solid infrastructure, evacuation, and medical support options in place. (Please see the Country Specific Information page for Haiti.)

 

U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age. In recent months, travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport. At least two U.S. citizens were shot and killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents in 2012. Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such violent acts, or prosecute perpetrators.

 

The ability of local authorities to respond to emergencies is limited and in some areas nonexistent. Should you find yourself in an emergency, local health, police, judicial, and physical infrastructure limitations mean there are few local resources available to help resolve the problem. For this reason, the Embassy limits its staff’s travel in areas outside of Port-au-Prince. This in turn constrains our ability to provide emergency services to U.S. Citizens outside of Port-au-Prince.

 

U.S. Embassy personnel are under an Embassy-imposed curfew of 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. and must remain at home or at another safe facility during curfew hours. Additionally, there are restrictions on travel by Embassy staff in other areas or times. This, too, may constrain the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside Port-au-Prince. For additional details on restrictions on staff travel within Haiti, please see our Country Specific Information for Haiti.

 

The Haitian National Police (HNP), with assistance from MINUSTAH, are responsible for keeping the peace and rendering assistance. However, given the possibility and unpredictability of protests, including the potential (as with any protest) to become violent, its ability to assist U.S. citizens during disturbances is very limited.Please see our website for additional information on how the Department of State assists U.S. citizens during a crisis.

 

Haiti’s infrastructure remains in poor condition and unable to fully support even normal activity, much less crisis situations. U.S. government-facilitated evacuations, such as the evacuation that took place after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist. Medical facilities, including ambulance services, are particularly weak. Some U.S. citizens injured in accidents and others with serious health concerns have been unable to find necessary medical care in Haiti and have had to arrange and pay for medical evacuation to the United States. Given these conditions and the cost of private evacuations, we strongly encourage visitors to Haiti to obtain evacuation insurance, including for medical issues that may arise.

 

While incidents of cholera have declined significantly, cholera persists in many areas of Haiti. Prior to travel, U.S. citizens should obtain information about cholera and other health-related issues by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov.

We urge U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Haiti to review our Country Specific Information page. U.S. private sector organizations with operations in Haiti can obtain additional information on the security situation in the country through the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). OSAC’s mission is to promote security cooperation between U.S. private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State. OSAC also maintains an active Country Council in Haiti to promote the exchange of security-related information. The Council is comprised of security professionals and is co-chaired by the Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince and a private sector representative. U.S. private sector entities can obtain additional information on OSAC by visiting the OSAC website at www.osac.gov.

 

U.S. citizens are also urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information. While the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular services is extremely limited, by enrolling in STEP travelers can receive security messages via email. Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States; callers outside the United States and Canada can receive the information by calling a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except U.S. federal holidays. The Embassy of the United States of America is located in Port-au-Prince at Boulevard du 15 Octobre, Tabarre 41, Tabarre, Haiti, telephone: (509) (2) 229-8000, facsimile: (509) (2) 229-8027, email: acspap@state.gov American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit office hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Consular Section is closed on U.S. and local holidays. After hours, on weekends and on holidays, please call (509) (2) 229-8000. The Marine guard will connect you with the Embassy Duty Officer.

 

U.S. citizens can also stay informed about conditions in Haiti by following the Embassy and ACS on Twitter and Facebook. Travelers can have the latest travel information at their fingertips by downloading our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes and the Android market.

 

 

 

 

- At time of posting in Cap-Haitien, it was 21 °C - Humidity: 85% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear