The tall thin figure of Jean Luc came out from the reception area and greeted me with a large hug. Our ability to talk to each other was limited. Jean Luc – although from Canada and had learnt his English at school, rarely got to practice it. For me, I was terrible at learning languages at school, and although I had worked a lot with Linguaphone CDs and tried to practice when in francophone countries, the big time gaps in between trips to French speaking countries meant I lost a lot of the syntax and rhythm. Consequently it would take several days to get back to a general conversation level and, when ordering food and drink, anything out of the usual patter would confuse me. Added to this in many countries there was a local patois, often Creole, both the accent and dialect would obfuscate any French in amongst it.
But we had to work together off and on for the next few months, so we had to make the effort. Jean Luc was supremely patient with me but I soon realise we did share a language – in a stupid sense of humour.
Christophe, as well as his own excellent technical specialism, was the lubricant for the whole team – patiently translating back and forth from French to English, and organising much of the interaction with the Haitian clients for the field work elements of the trip. When he emerged from his room that first evening, we ordered some food then Chris and Jean Luc briefed me on the situation so far. The plan for the work was coming together but there were still a series of bottlenecks to solve. And now I was here I needed to try and source all the data I needed. Fortunately, Haiti was well organized for GIS and there was a centre which housed the repository of all Haitian data. I thought that a visit there was the major thing I needed to do in my week on the ground. But I also had to visit the Department of Fisheries so they knew I was on the ground and I could fathom out if they had any useful data, and I wanted to get a feel for the fish farm and fish cage industries that did exist.