With them coming to visit, Diana and I started to think about visits to this country, and we read some interesting stuff recently that further intrigued us in conversation.
Some research firm, Mercer, recently ranked the major cities of the world in multiple categories. The full report they released costs money, so I have not read the report, however it has been reviewed in hundreds of news outlets. In the overall rankings, Port-au-Prince, not-surprisingly, did not fare so well. Here is what the report said:
1) Vienna at #1 is the considered the best city in the world to live in.
2) Baghdad at #221 is considered the worst. The survey realized, and rightfully so, that street bombings and rebel forces terrorizing the city make it a bad place to be.
3) Port-au-Prince, Haiti came in at #213 on the list, placing it in the bottom 10 cities overall worldwide to live in.
4) It gets worse.
Mercer also did an “eco-ranking based on water availability and drinkability, waste removal, quality of sewage systems, air pollution and traffic congestion” – the standard things you need to live – and on that list, (as Business Week states) “Calgary placed first, followed by Honolulu. Port-au-Prince, Haiti finished at the bottom.”
Or to put it more bluntly, for the basic essentials needed to live, Port-au-Prince is the worst overall city in the world.
There are, of course, many slums in the world that have concentrated pockets of destitution that are similar to or worse than what we see here in Haiti. Don’t let these rankings trick you, this ranking index is for cities overall, meaning that cities with bad slums and also good neighborhoods are averaged to be ok, even though there are similar and/or worse pockets of despair in hundreds of cities around the world.
As for life in Haiti, we love living here. It is really hard and really, really hot, but we wake up every morning and see the city of Port-au-Prince from our apartment, and we thank God that we get to be here. The country of Haiti has a lot of beauty, and a lot of hope, and it is truly indescribable until you experience it.
However, if you do come, be forewarned that upon arrival, the airport baggage guys now know a new phrase. And it’s all our fault...
When Diana and I were waiting at the airport the other day, the employees were trying to tell us in Creole that we were stingy and should give them money. We of course refused, but they enjoyed speaking to us in Creole, so we kept chatting and joking around. They wanted to know how to say stingy in English, so we told them, thinking it was funny. Then about 20 of the uniformed employees gathered around to learn, and write down the phrase, “You are Stingy.” They were excited to be able to tell the American (or Canadian -- for our Canadian friends) visitors that, hoping future travelers will feel bad, and give them some cash.
So we apologize in advance for every future visitor to Haiti that is told they are stingy upon arrival. Hopefully there are no hard feelings from our friends. And hopefully our friends won’t tell anyone else it was us.