Five-year-old Jean Delimat waits for a chance to fill his jug with water… (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti — Henri St. Cir's neighbors think he's nuts. While they meander in the increasingly squalid conditions of Haiti's capital, living on the sidewalk, their homes and businesses destroyed, he is reopening his Internet cafe amid the ruins.
He may just be one of the most industrious and optimistic -- or oblivious -- people in Haiti.
The small one-story building that houses his Ajesech Cyber Net was relatively undamaged, in contrast to everything around it. On Sunday, he put a large generator in the street, somehow found enough gasoline to keep it running and ran a cable up into his store.
It would be enough (he hoped) to eventually power some electricity in the cafe that would in turn make it possible to run computers. His computers fell to the floor during the earthquake, but he thought he could make them work.
"I'm luckier than most Haitians," St. Cir said Sunday afternoon. He figured he could welcome his first customers by the end of the day.
"Even if no one comes to help, I want this to work," said St. Cir, a burly man of 35 with a thick beaded necklace. "It's a chance to show we can rebuild."
After suffering generations of natural disaster, political instability, crushing poverty and one of the most egregious socioeconomic inequities on the planet, Haitians are famously resilient. In the worst of times, which is most of the time, they manage to survive, most of them getting by on less than $2 a day.
Whether that spirit revives now will depend in large measure on many factors, including how international aid efforts are managed.
"I know how to work, I know how to fix things, I wanted to take care of the people in the neighborhood," said Gerson Almeda, alias Toto. On Sunday, he reopened his tiny barber shop on Rue Cadet Jermie and by midday had clipped and shaved a dozen customers.
Almeda installed a car battery in the shop to power a razor. He then extended power strips onto the sidewalk and invited the neighbors to plug in their cellphones. With no electricity still in much of the city, this was a godsend.
"We are the survivors!" chimed Jemina Desmornes, whose phone was amid the tangle of devices and cords.
Inside, barber Fred Claremont snipped, trimmed and shaved. Under a fluorescent orange sign saying "Welcome," he cut the somewhat failed dreadlocks of Roosevelt St. Paul, a singer.
"I will continue working until I can't anymore," Claremont said. "I have responsibilities. I need the money. If I can work, I will."