"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

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.


Nandini said...

That tap-tap is so beautiful!!! Reminds me of all the painted trucks in India with the dangling shoe to ward off the evil eye. Agree that traveling on local transportation tells you lots about a place.

rilla jaggia said...

Beautiful photo, Katia, and beautiful tales of color and cheer. Using public transportation in a foreign country is something I love to do too, one of my favorite things being to figure out the subway system of large cities. No better way to catch an internal glimpse of a different way of life.
I love your Haiti series. More...more!

Katia said...

Thank you, Nandini. Yes, some of those Indian painted trucks remind me of the Haitian tap-tap at times. I should write a post about that, once. Some of the sayings on the trucks are quite funny.

Rilla, thank you. One of these days, you and I must travel together. Deal ? And there is more to come. Digging through our photo files. ;-)