Port-Au-Prince Journal: Lives Filled With Fear

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/123566410/123684007" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript
Barber Luxon Fanfan cuts customer Cadelis Dennis' hair outside. i

Since the January earthquake, Luxon Fanfan now operates his barbershop in Port-au-Prince, from a street corner. Here, customer Cadelis Dennis gets a haircut. Tamara Keith/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Tamara Keith/NPR
Barber Luxon Fanfan cuts customer Cadelis Dennis' hair outside.

Since the January earthquake, Luxon Fanfan now operates his barbershop in Port-au-Prince, from a street corner. Here, customer Cadelis Dennis gets a haircut.

Tamara Keith/NPR

Nearly a month after Haiti's powerful earthquake, it seems like almost everyone is still sleeping outside.

It may be hard to believe if you've seen the pictures from Haiti, but there are plenty of buildings standing in Port-au-Prince. They weren't all destroyed. Some have barely a noticeable crack. But no one trusts them. Not with the continuing aftershocks. Not with the possibility of another big quake.

And why should they, when so many cement structures that seemed so sturdy turned to dust in moments?

Life On The Street, By Choice

I met Francoise Timo as it was just getting dark. She was sitting on lawn furniture on the sidewalk in front of her house. Her 75-year-old mom was sitting there, too, with both of her arms in casts.

Their house looks perfectly fine. But every night, they roll out a carpet on the sidewalk here and try to sleep. During the day, they pretty much stay outside, too.

"We don't stay inside, but we run every time that we go inside," Timo said. "Like if we need to go to the bathroom, we run and then do it quickly, and then run out."

Luxon Fanfan now operates his barbershop from a street corner.

On the day I visited, he was giving one of his regular customers a tight trim right out in the open while several others waited their turn. He pulled his clippers out of the rubble of what was once his shop, and is using car batteries for power.

"People have been offering me some cement houses to use for my barber shop. But I refuse," Fanfan said. "If I find something wood, maybe I will go indoors."

It's a big maybe. His customers seem happier outside anyway.

NPR's Tamara Keith covering the earthquake in Haiti. i

NPR's Tamara Keith covering the earthquake in Haiti. Nishant Dahiya/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Nishant Dahiya/NPR
NPR's Tamara Keith covering the earthquake in Haiti.

NPR's Tamara Keith covering the earthquake in Haiti.

Nishant Dahiya/NPR

Things That Go Bump In The Night

For so many people now, home is a tent made of sticks and cotton sheets.

Mary Celia Joseph lives in a tent camp at a park in Petionville. Her walls are a flimsy floral print. She doesn't like it in the camp, but she doesn't have much of a choice.

At night, the men stay up to keep watch on the camp. They look out for thieves and mythical, murderous creatures known in Creole as lougarou. As people talked about them, I felt like I was at summer camp all over again. But their fear was so real. The folk tale is that these demons can change shapes — and that they kill children in the night.

The lougarou have been part of Haitian mythology for ages, but the fear is greater now, perhaps because so many people are sleeping outside.

"Before sleeping at the night, I pray and I put my bible under the pillow of my children so that I can keep the lougarou, the fiends, away from them," Joseph told me.

I asked a man, the head of the night-watch committee, about the lougarou and suddenly my question seemed completely absurd.

He told me about something much more real, much more frightening. There are 250 kids in this camp, he said. They are hungry. They desperately need food and medicine. Rain will come soon, and the bedsheets aren't going to protect them.

I'm back home in the United States now, but I still feel the aftershocks. Every once in awhile, I get the sensation that the earth is moving again — even though I know it's not.

And I think about the man who only told me about the lougarou, so I would tell someone, anyone about his plea for help.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.