Seems a common feature of a place like Haiti is the hidden haven: outside is chaos, but knock on the right door, and you can find oases.
In the morning we head into the Dorian’s new school from the bustling chaos of Petionville, and it is charming. A well guarded underground car park/entrance feels safe – kidnapping is an issue here – and leads to a brightly colored courtyard festooned with childish designs. The kids feel right at home. The school is run by a young light-skinned Haitian woman who boasts her US credentials and the precocity of her syllabus.
The place is a whirl of puppet shows, drum banging, a Caribbean rainbow of skin colors (although Dorian is one of only three or four white children). He is tested and found to be up to par except for fine motor skills: we are told that they teach a 4-year-old pre-writing course to 3-year-olds here (rendering elite Haitian pre-schoolers 33% more advanced than first worlders?) and Dorian has to catch up. He looks dubiously at the French course book.
We need to buy a car. This is a palaver. As a UN employee Anna is required to have international plates, but the process can take three months. In the meantime, we would need to rely on taxis, or buy a car and put it in the name of a trusted Haitian for local plates while we wait. This is something I would be reluctant to do with my sister.
We drive to UNHQ; where Stanley, the friendly UN driver, has arranged to meet a friend with a “new” car from Miami. This friend turns up after a mere hour of roasting in the hot sun. Anna road tests while I try to stop Dorian from honking the horn in our borrowed car. He slips past my defenses three times.
After an hour and half we are all frazzled and head to the Hotel Montana. Compared to the streets of Port au Prince it truly is a pleasure dome; I find myself glancing at the relaxed internationals there with mild jealousy.
The Hotel, on a hill, has an amazing view over the city down to the sea. We sip papaya juice in a spot I think may be have featured in ‘Ghosts of Cite Soleil’, a crazy documentary about a love triangle between two Haitian gang leaders and a crazy French aid worker. A well groomed American girl nearby loudly informs her father that she has decided against the salad.
Anna discovers she must return the car we were borrowing; and negotiates the use of a UN Patrol for the weekend. She is grilled over its use… they are reluctant to hand it out. Without it we are doomed. When Anna eventually heads off to collect it, she finds it has mysteriously accidentally been dispatched to the airport, and must wait two hours for its return.
Back at the house, the sun goes down, but the inverter is broken and the electricity is off. We sit for 45 minutes in pitch black, baby Alandra crying, until Anna convinces the landlord to turn on the generator. Anna returns feeling sick; and collapses into bed. I play computer games for a couple of hours before following suit.