After living on Mon Bouton for 4 days and breathing in Port-au-Prince for five, it has become clear to us that almost all Haitians, regardless of whether on the mountain or in the city, live in very tough conditions by American standards. But our abrupt transition from mountain to city got us thinking about the differences in the living conditions in the two environments.
It was pretty clear that the people living in cities like Leogan (the epicenter) and Port-au-Prince were impacted by the earthquake in a far harsher and more direct way than the people on the mountain. Although there were some who died in land slides towards the bottom of the mountains, and others trapped in concrete churches, most of the houses were wooden and thus did not collapse. Loss of life is always tragic, but the sheer numbers in the city are terrible. Every city person we asked lost at least one family member. Furthermore, over one million people are estimated to be living in tents. It definitely seems that the cities bore the brunt of the quake.
Besides the earthquake, we wondered to ourselves if the standards of life were better in the mountain or in the city, and where we would prefer to live. The mountain is pristine, slow, familial, and as close to nature as it gets today. Port-au-Prince, on the other hand, is dirty, with trash and rubble strewn everywhere, and is noisy, bustling, and cut-throat. When we thought about whether we preferred the dirt floors and bug-infested walls in the houses of Mon Bouton, or the tiny tents and shacks of the makeshift tent cities, we did not come to a clear decision.
In the end, we found that there were simply too many variables, such as living alone or with family, to definitively say where we would prefer to live. Although we felt that the organic life on the mountain produces happier people, as we saw in Mon Bouton, like many Haitians we decided that the exciting (yet questionnable) opportunities for advancement and success in the city were worth the sacrifices in living conditions. But seeing life in the tent cities post-earthquake with our own eyes has made us less confident of that conclusion.