Crazy Town, Crazy Island – At the ministry

I was glad of the sleep, despite being several hours behind UK time, I was fatigued from nearly two days on the go.  It meant the next morning I was not too groggy to wake up for an early breakfast.  Jean Luc insisted we travel as early as possible to the office; any later than 8 and we would spend the whole morning on the road.  So after a quick breakfast we met our driver at the reception and descended the windy road into Petionville.  We got through the town centre quite quickly but soon had joined the steady line of traffic down the main road towards the airport.  We did well though, it took only two hours to get to the Ministry of Agriculture compound at the back of the airport.

The ministry’s building was a large colonial style edifice with striking yellow painted plaster walls, a green roof and white highlights on the large window frames and balustrades.  Mainly two storeys but with an extra storey on stumpy towers and surrounded by tall shady trees; it must have been one of the grandest buildings in the neighbourhood.  It also showed that agriculture had had high status at one time in the country, no doubt related to its plantation history.  From the appearance of the buildings at the back; 1960’s and 70’s construction there had been some investment in agriculture then too, but it was to these newer constructions we headed towards.  For the main building had been a victim of the earthquake, its facade badly cracked in several places, surrounded by a wooden fence it was out of bounds to everyone.  Regrettably I could not see that Haiti would ever have the money to rebuild it.

So behind one of these buildings a small door took us in to a series of modest rooms that acted as the Fisheries Department’s national headquarters.  I met the staff including the chief fisheries officer and we had several meetings.  My main intention was to establish the meeting with the national GIS office and this achieved I talked with staff about what data they did have.  A GIS had been established in the office, as I find in many places, but the staff were not confident in what existed on it or how the software operated.

We lunched in the staff canteen, as far as I could make out, but it was quite unlike any canteen I had ever been in.  A short walk across the compound under the shady trees brought us to a house, little more than a chattel house with gingerbread roof and balustrades.  The main seating area was an open terrace with room for about twenty people.  We sat and had our dinners ordered – that old Caribbean thing about having a big plate of hot steaming rice and peas loaded with some hot spicy meat or fish.  Washed down with the sweetest soda you could imagine.  But the ambience of this location; a quiet oasis in the Port Au Prince valley and the good quality of the food made it a pleasant lunch.

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