Thursday, July 29, 2010

Haiti Sneak-Peak

A few days ago I enjoyed receiving an email from a SOIL administrator in Haiti answering a barrage of my questions – until then I had no idea what any of the practicalities of my accommodation would be! It turns out there is a house near the SOIL office in Port-Au-Prince that is shared by a couple of other NGO's working in the area. The house itself is used as common space, and most people sleep in the yard in a tent. I was highly amused by the tentative-sounding email asking if I would mind sleeping in a tent the whole time I will be there...and further, if I could possibly bring my own tent! Luckily I was planning on bringing a tent anyway for the first couple of days on bicycle when I'll be sleeping in national parks! So instead of leaving that with my Great Aunt Jane in Tampa, I will bring it to Haiti. (I'm leaving my bicycle with her. Everyone is always curious what I will do with it! Then I take the Amtrak to Miami and fly from there. Tampa to Miami is an impressive 250-280 miles and I don't have the time to ride almost 1,000 miles!)

I will also be responsible for paying for my own food, which luckily will cost only about $5 per day. My first week I will likely get a tour of a compost facility that is being built in Port au Prince, I'll get a “toilet tour” (whatever that is!), and probably get to see a public composting toilet being built. I'll have a lot of flexibility and independence in my schedule since everyone is so swamped with projects and work, so I'm hoping I'll find a project that I'll naturally want to attach myself to and go from there.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The trip is coming up!

I'm getting excited about the bike ride coming up - my bike's being tuned up, I've been putting in some good pedaling miles, and have my route confirmed. For 6 of the 8 nights of the bike trip I'll be staying at random peoples' homes, facilitated by the cycling hospitality site It has been so fun to be in touch with these people who are willing to host bikers passing through and who are excited to share their passion for biking, adventure, and hospitality. Many people in this "outdoorsy" crowd are also concerned about the environment and so it's been encouraging to hear all the support not only for the bike ride but the work in Haiti. One person even researched me on google and found this blog and made a donation!

Elisabeth and I have been back in the states for a little under two weeks now from our trip to Nepal, India, Thailand, and Cambodia. We completed a stressful apartment-hunting trip to New York City by bus. Manhattan is a crazy place where money is king even more so than I expected! (Elisabeth is about to start her Ph.D. program in physics at NYU in Manhattan.) The brokers were more pushy and "in your face" than the touts in India!

I've also heard from the folks at SOIL about what to expect in my first week, my accommodation, and so forth. Flexibility has been key since they are so busy and it was useful to be fine with not knowing any details until the last minute. I'll post more on this and some related observations from my earlier travels in a subsequent post.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recent Update from SOIL

A quick update on what is going on in Haiti with SOIL, and thus perhaps what I might be doing when I arrive!! ---

SOIL is working with OXFAM Great Britain on ecological sanitation in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Port-au-Prince - this is where the displaced people from the earthquake are staying. It would be really interesting to work in this area, as proper sanitation is important for the quality of life in these camps. It must be hard enough for people as it is, so you don't want them getting sick too! It's also a great chance to show that wastes can be dealt with properly, even in emergency situations.

A new composting facility is being started in Port-au-Prince. It will be exciting to be a part of that project.

From the SOIL website:
• As of June 15, 2010, we have installed 44 urine diversion toilets and 16 arborloos and composting toilets accessible to children and handicapped persons.
• Our toilets are scattered throughout the city in 15 neighborhoods including Delmas 33, Nazon, Jake Toto, Bwa Grifen, Delmas 3, Karade, and Cite Soleil.
• We are clearing the land for our pilot compost site and expect to begin work there by June 21. In addition to this primary facility, we have started 2 smaller compost bins in Delmas 33 and Cite Soleil, where composting of the toilet materials (poop!) has begun.
• We have trained 53 masons to build UD toilets, and have also trained 12 people to set up and maintain a compost site!