Since I have arrived in Haiti I don’t need an alarm clock any longer. At 06:30 the heat in my tent is so stifling that I cannot bear staying inside any longer. But even if it wasn’t so hot – the noise of the five other people I’m sharing the tent with would be more than enough to wake me. Anybody who thinks that aid workers in Haiti have an easy life, should spend a few nights at the IFRC base camp.
And compared to my co-workers I have it easy. Since I’m working for the IASC Shelter Cluster I get to work at the UN’s logistics base – and there’s aircon there. Most of my colleagues from the Red Cross Red Crescent have to work and endure the heat inside improvised offices inside an abandoned construction project. At least it helps us to understand better what the Haitian’s living in tent cities all over Port-au-Prince are going through. Though our living conditions are of course much, much better.
Shelter, shelter, shelter
My first week in the job was … interesting. Coordination by itself and shelter as a topic are incredibly complicated and since I’m now tasked with communicating (competently) about the aggregated work of all agencies doing Shelter in Haiti I am struggling with a steep learning curve. Shelter is simply connected with everything: land rights, livelihoods, disaster preparedness, tenure, debris removal – you name it, shelter is somewhere in the mix. And the topics of land rights in Haiti and debris removal by itself are already enough to drive you insane. But to be able to build shelters, the humanitarian community has to help the government to fix these issues. Which is why I suddenly found myself at a “presidential taskforce” – I even met the president.
It’s the small things
And then there is all the other things that make life interesting. Like traffic – which means that going to a meeting can take two hours – or the fact that I still don’t have an entry badge for the UN base because they ran out of ink. And apparently you can’t get ink (or that ink) in Haiti. Other surprising things: hearing the call to prayer at 4 am, being expected to know the streets of Port-au-Prince well enough to guide a driver, being considering the most capable French speaker on the team.
I also gave my first tv-interview in Haiti. Unfortunately it was on my second day and believe me when I’m saying that I was not comfortable speaking with an Al Jazeera journalist who has been here since January. But hey – it can only get better. And the most important thing is – I have extremely competent, experienced team members who I genuinely like. The rest will come.