Mon Frere Pepe - very close to the spot where he was when the earthquake struck
Hanging outside the hotel I have a chance meeting with Frere Pepe.
46 years old, father of four, Pepe is both artist and tour guide, and judging by the number of people who meet and greet him around the city, a bit of a celebrity too. He also speaks English and he is clearly the man to take me on a city tour around PaP. After some negotiations on fees, he insists I tell the World what is happening in his city and to take lots of photos. This is something that I really still don´t feel comfortable with, not least because the residents are camera-shy, but i sheepishly take a few snaps as we go round the city.
We start in the adjacent squatter camp. He reckons there is only about 700 people in this one, but it seems impossible to tell. I do find out the surface is concrete rather than grass however.
a boy in the squatter camp - conditions are literally shit
Pepe is keen to take me to the spot where he was at about 5pm on the now infamous 12th January. The devastation around would have been intense judging by the destruction surrounding this area.
We then jump on a bus to go down-town. I wasn´t quite aware just how big and sprawling this city is! What surprises me most is that whilst some buildings were completely devastated, the neighbouring houses look virtually untouched!
devastation, but life goes on
Huge squatter camps can be found, equally as smelly and revolting as the next.
literally in the shit
We check out the remains of the Presidential palace and the cathedral originally built in 1971. The city centre clearly seems to have taken the brunt of the quake.
the Presidential palace has become the archetypal image of the 12 January quake
the remains of the cathedral
Over coffee and a cold energy drink, I ask Pepe how he feels about taking “tourists” around his now devastated home. “My city is dead” and indeed he always uses the past tense when describing it. Ironically he informs me that before the earthquake, town planners had been discussing pulling down the older buildings and modernizing the city.
Lastly Pepe sorts me out with a SIM card for my mobile. You can get direct news from the front-line by calling me on +509 - 831 0282. I still await confirmation from HODR about the shuttle bus to take me across to Leogane. I´m desperate to get stuck in and i take no pleasure playing the “tourist” in PaP.
artists sell their wares on the street
I am grateful to my new brother, for I would not have found all the things out for myself. He invites me to a pop concert tonight, but I graciously decline. Not taking my decline he calls me later, to tell me the concert has been rained off. Could this be the start of the rainy season? It bodes badly for reconstruction work.
cracked but survived
hanging out on the streets
parts of the city resemble a building site
a young girl feeds herself on the street
a wacky local bus
evidence of international aid is dotted around the streets