Saturday 17 March 2018

The short walk that is a descent into desolation

Crossing into Haiti from the Dominican Republic, you enter a land condemned to penury a long time ago, says George Hook

George Hook

George Hook

IN 1991 I was in Rhode Island coaching the Brown University rugby team. The Ivy League school was the home of the smart, the privileged and the wealthy of the United States. My open-side flanker was a young man who seemed destined to follow the family tradition of a successful career on Wall Street. Patrick chose a different path, and qualified as a schoolteacher. Last November, when I went to Haiti, I spoke to him on the telephone in Port-au-Prince, where he had established a school for children disadvantaged even by the standards of the poorest country in the western hemisphere. He lived in the capital with his wife and two children.

Since Tuesday, I have been unable to contact Patrick.

Haiti is one of two countries on the island of Hispaniola. Many Irish tourists will have visited the Dominican Republic for sun, sand and golf. Few, if any, will have made the border crossing to neighbouring Haiti. The 200-metre walk under the arch and across the bridge to the immigration hut on the other side is a descent into Dante's Inferno. Nothing prepares one for the disparity in economic conditions between the two nations.

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