I got robbed last night.
Someone grabbed my camera as I was taking pictures on the road into Petionville. It was dark and a hand flew into the car and snatched the camera. It was over in a split second and the thief disappeared before I could see him. There aren’t many street lights in Port-au-Prince.
It was another reminder how things have changed here. Perversely, Haiti was much safer under the military governments of the early 1990s. The generals killed their countrymen at will and everyone knew to keep their heads down. Few people went out at night.
The return of democracy means that the average Haitian has much more freedom. They are still afraid. Policing is poor, street lighting minimal and security is a constant worry. But it’s a small step forward.
The downside is that Port-au-Prince has much more of a Wild West feel to it. There’s a dangerous edge I never encountered before.
Getting mugged won’t stop me doing what I was doing. I still believe getting out and about is the best way, and the most fun way, to get to know a place.
But it was a bit of a fright.
In my week here I’ve been veering between delight at being back and depression at how Haiti (and the international community) has done so little to rebuild the nation.
It can be done. This New York Times story shows how the Iron Market, one of Haiti’s oldest and best-known landmarks, can be rebuilt in double quick time with nominal amounts of investment, hard work and determination.
As home of the government and symbol of the nation, the palace should have been the first thing they targeted, to give a highly visible example of how the government was working to get Haiti back on its feet again.
I’ll get into the reconstruction efforts, or the lack of them, when I sit down to write stories for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
But it’s clear to anyone and everyone that Haiti hasn’t done a fraction of what it needs to do. It’s desperately sad.