This is probably not terribly eye opening, but I thought you might get a little taste of the relief worker’s life in Haiti by taking an annotated tour of my backpack.
1)Backpack – this is the incredibly cheap backpack I bought in the Chinese store in our neighborhood of Rome. It is worthless, so I thought I’d be able to finish it off in Haiti. I was right. Notice the dust all over it. Any road travel in Haiti on a sunny day includes beaucoup dust.
2)Travel wallet – While setting up a base to the west of Port-au-Prince we spend lots of money every day! We need a constant supply of Haitian Gourdes (HTG). The 5 Gourde coin is known as the Haitian dollar, which is the unit most prices are quoted in. Some prices are quoted in US dollars, so sometimes you’re not sure because they both use the $ sign. Then again, some prices are quoted in HTG. A calculator is handy.
3)Passport - not only do you need your ID on your person, it is the only way to get into the UN meetings at the airport complex. Hope I don’t lose this. I brought my Belgian one, too, just in case I lose the American one!
4)Cell phone – everyone needs his own Haitian SIM card here. Many times the network is completely full, but you have to have the reflex of sending text messages which almost always get through. Sorry I’m not answering my Italian phone these days .
5)Sunscreen – yes, I violated rule one. Pale white guy rides in back of pickup truck all day in Caribbean sun. White guy becomes red guy…peels. OUCH!
6)Baseball cap - same reason. See no. 5.
7)Sunglasses - same reason. See no. 5. You don’t see my sunglasses because I lost those last week.
8)GPS unit: Wow. How do you get oriented to a new city in one week? Set waypoints on your portable GPS unit! Don’t forget to add text notes so you remember what they were. It’s still a little tough to find your way with the GPS because 95% of the streets in Port-au-Prince are not labeled. We label orphanages, ministry venues, churches, houses, and most important of all, turning points off the main roads!
9)12 V. DC cell phone charger. See no. 4.
10)Camera – got to take photos for the blog.
11 Extra batteries – see nos. 8 & 10
12)Drinking water – it is a strange new habit to have to calculate how long it might be till you’re near a source of clean water. Take as much with you as you can carry.
13)Hand sanitizer – very handy in countries (including all over Europe) where you’re lucky to find soap or water. There has been some heavy rain on and off for the past 10 days in the Port-au-Prince area. Authorities are fearing the worst about the disease and epidemic scenarios. I noticed today that the government has begun an advertising campaign to remind Haitians to wash their hands…with soap.
14)Rain poncho – haven’t needed that yet.
15)Extra phone recharge cards – see no. 4.
16)Protein or granola bar. Often lunch. Sometimes breakfast.
17)Little bottle of energy drink – this is more strategic than you might think when you are stuck in traffic for half a day.
18)Pocket knife/pliers combination - handy for setting up tents.
19)Palm Pilot - yes, I know this is dinosaur technology, but I still have 3000 contacts in this dinosaur and I'm too cheap to start paying for a data plan! Anyway, I need my contacts with me all the time, especially in a new situation.
20)Roll of toilet paper….