But amidst all that destruction, our team was struck, again and again, by the pride the Haitians (mostly women) take in their tents, shacks and cracked homes. We visited Nanette in the Petionville tent city above Port au Prince. It was during the rains from Hurricane Tomas, and we trudged and slipped with her up a muddy bluff to her "home," cheek to jowl with a 20-foot-deep latrine pit. The clay-like mud clung to our boots – they looked like brown snowshoes. She was barefoot, carrying her silent 18-month-old up the hill (most didn't bother wearing shoes). I had never experienced mud like that. To me it felt like something only experienced in the Flemish trenches in WWI.
We wanted to interview her in her home, but when she threw open the tarp, we realized that wouldn't be possible. The bed – up on cinderblocks and covered with a light blue spread – was made with military precision. Her few dishes were symmetrically stacked. There was a candle in the corner. Smaller than a prison cell, the tent was nearly immaculate. I could not understand how there was no mud inside. So we stepped back out into the rain – hoping to keep it that way. Every tent we saw – the same. It was hard to understand how people's interior space was so cared for while the outside was so horribly neglected – trash, feces, more trash, debris everywhere.
Another woman, Kathleen, took us to her tent. She'd lost her husband and her parents in the quake – and suffered terrible injuries to her back and arm. She slept on the floor while her three children shared the neat bed made almost regal with its mosquito netting. She used sacks of rocks to keep the tarp from blowing away. She kept her stack of two Bibles and some knickknacks on a plastic shelf near a bouquet of plastic flowers. And she slept on the floor to read the Bible at night while her three children slept. The tent was lively and warm, but Kathleen, seemed shut off -- still frozen in January 12th.