Yesterday was the six month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. It also marks the start of my first visit there. Over the next few weeks I'll be going around with out team in Port-au-Prince and seeing first-hand our rebuilding efforts.
I was picked up at the PaP airport by Lyndia and two of our volunteers. From there we were crossing town to visit Quisqueya University and talk with architecture students and faculty. I rode shotgun as our cruiser rallied through the city streets, and it was simply overwhelming, the colors, the life pushing right into the streets. An endless series of roadside vendors selling everything from sunglasses to lollipops and roasted chickens. People were dragging 12-foot lenghts of rebar down the street. Doubled-up motorcycles zoomed around colorful tap-taps (shuttle trucks) and the occasional UN caravan. The heat and humidy was impressive, but as we drove around, and especially as we climbed into the hills, breezes picked up and the temps cooled.
At the Quisqueya University ("UniQ") we were greeted by an architecture student and acting ambassador named Elizabeth. She gave us a tour of campus before our meeting with the Dean. The administration hall had moved to a series of large tents on the former parking lot–tables and computers in the open shade in a climate where it felt natural to be outside (under shade) whenever possible. At the back of the campus the school had built a transitional education block: about twelve concrete-walled classrooms under a giant tin roof. We discussed the merits of this classroom block (which I'll cover later), but it didn't fit into the master plan of campus reconstruction. Right inside the front gate, a new two-storey building was nearing completion–people were hammering the timber roof frame together, atop smoothed concrete walls.
Elizabeth then brought us around the front where a large banner displayed the new plans for the University: four storey buldings accompanied the one currently under construction. This, of course, was a long-term plan. But UniQ is wasting no time making it a reality.