Our car finally arrived, and we’ve been navigating our way through Port-au-Prince and Petionville (the fancy suburb/neighborhood up the hill from the city center.) It’s great to have wheels to go out, go shopping, and run errands. But traffic is pretty awful. There’s no way around it. The roads are simply not wide enough (or paved enough) for the amount of cars, trucks and tap-taps that use them.
What’s a tap-tap, you ask? Well anyone who’s been to Haiti has seen something in the tap-tap family within minutes of arriving. Tap-taps are how most city dwellers get around. Sometimes they are a pickup truck retrofitted with two benches and a roof. Others are larger buses. Almost inevitably, they are brightly painted with soccer stars, religious symbols, American or Haitian flags with writing in Creole, French and English.
Tap-taps are what keep the population moving through the city – going to work, going shopping, transporting food to market, moving construction materials to a work site, and one time I saw someone loading pigs and goats. You just don’t want to be stuck behind one. They make frequent, unexpected stops whenever they see a potential passenger. They clog up all the major intersections, not moving until they have a critical mass of riders. They also get really loaded down and can’t make it up the hills like the fancy SUVs that are zipping around. They frequently break down and are often left in place until the right parts can be found – with a little tree branch stuck somewhere on the vehicle to signal that it’s broken, not just parked in the road for no good reason.
I’ve only been able to capture a few tap-taps with my camera. Last weekend we drove through an area with dozens of beautifully decorated tap-taps and I didn’t have any camera. Next time.
Also, Haiti has hipsters. I have proof.