Tuesday, February 9, 2010
My Haiti Picture for today : Tap-Tap
The tap-tap is the most commonly used means of public transportation in Haiti. It could be a bus or a pick-up truck, they operate on a fixed route, and depart only when full. When you've reached your destination, you tap whatever surface available (ceiling, or side wall) to let the driver know that you want to get off.
To add a cheerful and artistic touch, their owners usually decorate them with bright paintings. Here, we see the Haitian flag on the right, but also the American flag on the left. They often carry religious slogans or sayings. "L'Eternel est ma Lumière" says this one, which means : The Eternal is my Light.
I always say that no-one can pretend they have really visited a country if they never used at least one of the public transportations available. Moving from air-conditioned taxi to air-conditioned bus full of other tourists is no way to visit a country. One needs to travel with the locals. Yes, it's not always comfortable, but the experience is always interesting, and sometimes really fun. I remember one such trip in Northern Vietnam ; I was sitting next to an old gentleman who spent the entire trip telling me the most extraordinary jokes and stories in impeccable French.
During my first two trips to Haiti, I regularly hopped on tap-taps to take me around. And I'll never forget a tap-tap ride from the northern city of Cap-Haïtien to the village of Moustique, with so many people crowded on the benches of the pick-up truck as well as in the space meant for the legs in the middle that I actually had several kids sitting on my lap. Everyone was cheerful, and laughter bounced around - sometimes probably at my expense, as my Creole was extremely basic. No matter. It remains one of my most vivid memories of Haiti.
Four weeks since the earthquake.