Port Au Prince, Haiti Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Port Au Prince, Haiti

Port Au Prince, Haiti 06/01/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I had lived in a few places in the Middle East and Kabul before coming to Haiti. This was my first post in the Western Hemisphere.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, USA. One typically flies to Miami or Fort Lauderdale, then to Haiti from there. It is a two-hour flight from Florida to Haiti.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived there for two years, ending in 2017.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy housing tends to be spacious. A new and large compound opened after I left, so there are likely fewer embassy houses located around town by 2019. From the compounds, the commute would be very short. My commute was typically 15 minutes from Vivy Mitchell but those who live near Petionville or near Avenue Panamericaine would have longer commutes. Roads are not good and drive times can vary greatly.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

At least as of 2017, a good variety of groceries was available at upscale grocery shops in Petionville and Tabarre. Items might be expensive but were at least available. At the embassy, services like amazon or netgrocer could help supplement your supplies of dry goods. Haitian coffee is quite good and a wide variety of tropical fruit jams and jellies are available locally.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Ship paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, etc.) as these can be expensive locally. I also recommend shipping liquid goods with brands that you really like, e.g. shampoos, cooking sauces, etc. Otherwise, there is not a lot in this category.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Delivery was not widely available. There are at least a dozen or so good restaurants in town. My favorite was Le 3 Decks in the hills of Kenscoff. The upscale hotels typically had good restaurants as well.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We had ants in our house periodically, but they rarely posed a problem to us. Geckos got in the house occasionally but tended to be harmless. Hornets often made nests outside the house but they tended not to bother us. We saw a couple dead tarantulas in the driveway now and then but they were never a menace. We often had cockroaches that were the size of matchbox cars or larger.

Perhaps the main problem here was termites, which were eating at some of the wood in the house and ate many of our long-kept packing boxes. Think hard about wooden items that you ship to Haiti, and think harder about the wood items that you ship back. Some expats said that if a wood item was too big to put in the freezer upon your return home, you should leave it on the island.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I used Embassy DPO for mail and packages. Service improved on this during my time here and got to where I could get packages from amazon in a week. I never used the local postal service.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Haitians typically fill these roles. Ask around at your employer for recommendations on this front, as it tends not to be too hard to find. Some people expressed concerns about the quality of help but we had good luck there.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy had a decent gym. I believe the Hotel Karibe had a health club that some people liked, though I could not comment on its fees.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Some in the embassy used credit cards on the economy but I would not advise doing so. I heard enough stories of credit card numbers getting stolen to put me off using them, except at the major hotels. ATMs are common but you should choose these wisely, as people are often robbed after withdrawing cash.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

This will depend on your social circles, as many upper-crust Haitians will speak at least some English. That said, speaking French will go a long way. If you already speak French, use that and do not invest time in learning Kreyol.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I would imagine so, as infrastructure is spotty at best.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

They are reportedly quite affordable but safety is a much bigger question.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Some kind of 4WD is a must. The roads in Port-Au-Prince are some of the worst I have seen, and that includes Afghanistan. And when it rains, there is little drainage control so you will find yourself driving at times through instant rivers. High clearance is therefore highly desirable.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

There are a few internet providers. Access Haiti was OK for my needs at home. NuTV was a decent TV provider.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I could not speak to roaming costs for foreign phones but would recommend a local provider.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

The only out-of-embassy employment I knew of might have been with NGOs, PVOs, or the UN. There is not a big private-sector job market for expats.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many, but again, I recommend being highly selective, especially if you want to see lasting results.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

I wore a suit and tie but that level of attire is not too common except in the most formal settings. Even in nice restaurants, I typically removed the tie.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime is very high. Political unrest can occur at any time. And the situation on any given day can be subject to quick and radical change.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Tap water is not potable. Dengue fever exists, as does chikungunya ('dengue lite'). I never used local medical care, except one dentist for teeth cleanings. Most any medical issue beyond a fleeting illness might merit a medevac. Smell any meat at the grocery store before you take it home and freeze it unless you plan to use it within a day. Wash vegetables and fruits to be on the safe side.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I never heard of anyone having a problem with air quality here.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Environmental allergies may not be a big issue here, but I could not offer meaningful commentary on this. For those with food allergies, if you can order groceries via amazon, you may have few issues.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather is hot and sticky for about six months, and fairly pleasant the other six months. In the hills outside the city, the air is cleaner and cooler. Hurricanes can be a danger. There is no clear dry season, and it can rain at most any time.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There was at least one school (The Union School) that embassy kids went to, but I heard mixed reviews about it.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Day would almost certainly be a nanny that you hire individually. I believe there was one preschool.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The diplomatic community is fairly small, though there are many NGOs and PVOs in the capital. The UN had a large presence when I was there but that is smaller now. Morale tended to be reasonably good, since most should know what they are getting into before arriving.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The Petionville Club was one such option, with its periodic Friday night wine happy hours. Otherwise, you might have to do some digging to find such opportunities. Because crime and security are always concerns, most people and outfits tend to circle the wagons and interact less than they might in other posts. It would surprise me if, for instance, there was a Hash House Harriers club in Port-Au-Prince.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I am not sure it is any less challenging for any of these categories. Any of the above will have to work to find their fun and things they enjoy, and will face challenges in enjoying them.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Haitian society does not seem very tolerant of LGBT.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

I found the Haitians I worked with on an official level to be quite nice but had few local friends. Again, the tendency to circle the wagons prevents these sorts of interactions to a degree.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

3% of the population in Haiti is Arab, but they have been there for generations. There were no real racial problems within the local population.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I mentioned my favorite restaurants and hotels. The poor quality of the roads discourages road trips outside the capital, especially when you can fly to Miami or Guadeloupe in two hours. My best memories from Haiti are from my work experiences.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

See my earlier answers -- Le 3 Decks, Hotel Karibe, El Rancho Hotel, The Lodge up high in the mountains.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Metalwork is the main local craft. Paintings were also quite popular with some.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Proximity to the USA, if you have family there.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The extent to which finding amusements and fun could be a challenge.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

If I could have the same quality of work experiences, yes. Otherwise, probably not.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Impatience, since you will need a lot of patience, and expectations to improve the area around you.

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4. But don't forget your:

Healthy skepticism and attention to your own security.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Michael Deibert has written at least one good book on Haiti, if not two by now. Ralph Pezzullo's book is also good. Laurent Dubois also wrote a couple good books on Haiti. Paul Farmer's books are popular with many, but his views on Aristide should be taken with several grains of salt.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I do not miss living in Haiti but, two years later, I do still miss working there. Depending on your line of work, you will likely find the work to be either extremely frustrating or extremely rewarding. Find your niche, build a good team, and those things will get you through.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 08/04/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I've also lived in Frankfurt and Amman.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over one year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing for the mission varies widely, but "eventually" we will all live in one of two compounds near the US Embassy. Eventually is in quotes because this compound was supposed to be finished in 2014.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are expensive, but most things are available. Be prepared, you will pay 3x the market price for them.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More laundry detergent, specialty sauces and spices, cleaning items and products.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Haiti does not have a restaurant culture. So the restaurants that exist cater to foreigners or the elite. A meal is US prices or more, and quality varies widely. Delivery is an option but you do so by WhatsApp.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Typical Caribbean housing issues, ants, geckos, spiders.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO & pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help ranges between US$20-30 per day, and quality varies widely.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Very few, and those that exist are very poor. One in Petionville, charges 70$/mnth for membership, and is not fully stocked with the equipment that you'd expect. And the embassy gym has damaged equipment (benches with exposed foam, treadmills that don't work, etc) that is unsanitary and/or dangerous. It is also tiny, and always crowded. There will be a new gym on the new compound when it "eventually" opens. I cannot speak to it's quality.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are widely accepted, but I do not use mine because I have had mine scanned at places I thought were reputable. Moreover, the cashiers often give you a choice in whether you want to be charged in haitian gourdes (GDS) or USD (at the moment 68GDS=1USD), and there have been instances of the cashier charging the figure of the price of GDS in USD. They try to remedy the mistake by giving you change in GDS. I stick with cash.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is present, but Kreyol or French would be helpful. A common troupe here is that many claim they understand English but cannot produce it.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. No sidewalks. When there are sidewalks, they have huge ditches. Very few buildings have elevators.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No. There are public transportation restrictions, but you wouldn't want to take it anyway.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring a AWD or 4WD vehicle with high clearance.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

No. Internet service is inconsistent. It works until it doesn't. Speed is tolerable. Not fast, but not painstakingly slow. Cannot handle online gaming without significant lag.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Everyone seems to use one of two vets in town. I have not heard complaints.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most EFMs attempt to find work at the embassy, but it takes a while, between recovering from the hiring freeze, clearances, and going on Authorized Departure, there are many wrenches thrown into EFMs employment prospects. Unless you speak French, or have a job that allows you to telecommute (as much is possible with the connectivity issues here), employment prospects are low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many. There are many orphanages, English classes, women's shelters to volunteer your time. The issue becomes where they are located, the most needy places tend to be in zones prohibited by security restriction.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Haiti has a formal culture. Ties for men are expected.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Violent crime is on the rise in Haiti; I have heard that unfortunately it has touched some of our local staff.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

If you need medical care, you are going to go to Miami.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Bad. Port-au-Prince is dusty, trash fires are frequent, car exhaust is heavy in the air.

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Schools & Children:

1. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Expat community is large, but I feel the FSOs have a hard time breaking out of the American bubble because of a myriad of reasons, but principally security restrictions and curfew.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

House parties, the popular spots on set days; Magdoos, Shakers, Asu, etc., but it's the same spots every week.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

No. I think it is a difficult city for all people. Singles: dating here is a formal process, and resembles more courtship than casual. Childless couples: it'll be good if the other can find work, otherwise it puts pressure on the relationship. Families: families historically have enjoyed PaP as a Post but with the increase in violence and danger (as recognized by State with a bump in Danger Pay) it causes some families to reconsider.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

As everywhere, an underground community exists, but it will be largely expats.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Leaving. Google flights from PAP (Port au Prince Toussaint L'overture Airport) to your destination in the US and you will see it gets pricey.

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6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are handicrafts, metal artwork, paintings that many collect. Haiti has a vibrant art culture.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

None.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely not.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Dreams of Caribbean paradise.

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3. But don't forget your:

Mosquito repellant, and swimming trunks.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Who Owns Haiti, The Aftershocks of History.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 04/01/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It's a quick trip back to the US. 90 minutes to Miami/Fort Lauderdale or 2.5 hours to Atlanta. However, if you are flying from the west coast to Port au Prince, you either have to take a red-eye to Atlanta or Miami or spend the night.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Nice three-bedroom townhouse on a compound across the street from the embassy. Quick 5-minute walk from my front door to my desk. Right now most people live in houses that are a 15-20 minute drive from the embassy, but at some point in 2017, the new compound is scheduled to open. Once it opens, almost everyone will live on one of the two compounds. The new one will be a short shuttle ride to the embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Pretty much everything is available, but it's expensive. Especially dairy. Wine and the local beer are reasonably priced.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Use your consumables shipment. Cleaning supplies and any large liquids (especially anything in glass bottles) are good to ship. Bring your own motor oil in HHE. If you are picky about beer, definitely ship that. Everything else comes fairly quickly through DPO.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Lots of restaurants in Petionville. Service usually isn't great, but food is generally good. The only delivery is pizza, but it Is much faster to go pick it up.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. I don't think there is a local postal service, but DHL seems to be fairly prevalent.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is available and fairly inexpensive. Most people have housekeepers a couple days a week and people with kids generally have full time nannies.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a small gym at the embassy. I have never used it, but it sounds like it isn't great.The new compound is supposed to have a workout room. Currently there is a boot camp class 2 days a week and an abs class 2 days a week. These are free and led by current officers. CLO has been organizing yoga at the Embassy once a week with a local instructor, 8 weekly sessions are $60. There is also a spinning studio up in Petitionville that some people have used.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I use cash for pretty much everything although it's probably okay to use credit cards at the grocery stores and most restaurants. There is a bank and ATM at the Embassy. It's not safe to use other ATMs.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We are not allowed to use local public transportation or taxis.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

High clearance is a must. Most people order parts through DPO. Local mechanics will give you part numbers to order and labor for repairs is cheaper than US.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is on the expensive side, but available if you want to pay (depending on where you live). There is a new option that the AEA has available, not sure of all the details, but it seems to be fairly easy to get installed and works fairly well.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local providers are easy and cheap. If you bring an unlocked phone you can get a SIM at the AEA and pay for minutes/data online.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most spouses work at the Embassy. There seems to be a decent number and variety of jobs available.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

For work, either suits or business casual. Depends on your section/agency and your day.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, there are restrictions on activities and movement for a reason. Pay attention at your in-brief and follow the rules, situational awareness is important. That said, day to day I generally feel pretty safe. Driving seems to be the biggest risk.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The medical ed unit is good for basic stuff. Anything else will probably require medical evacuation. You need to be prepared to advocate for yourself and listen to your instincts. Malaria, dengue, chikungunya and Zika are all possible.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate. There is a lot of dust and burning trash, but it doesn't seem to have much of an impact on health.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Not much in the way of seasons. It's very hot and humid in the summer and hot and a little less humid in the "winter." Even in the rainy seasons it mostly rains at night.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Between the diplomatic missions, the UN and NGOs it is fairly large. You definitely have to make an extra effort to get out of the embassy bubble. Port au Prince isn't an easy place to live, but people seem to make the best of it. Getting out of the city to the beaches and mountains helps.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

There is good variety of social activities that seem to work for everyone. It is possible, but not easy to date.

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3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beaches are beautiful and the hiking up in the mountains is also good. Haiti is a completely different place once you get out of Port au Prince.

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4. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Cap Haitian and the Citadelle. Jacmel and Bassin Bleu. The DR is a fairly easy drive. There are a lot of good options for weekend and day trips.

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Good variety of artwork, especially paintings and metal work.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Weekend trips to the beach. Easy trips back to the US.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. It hasn't always been easy, but overall it's been a positive experience.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and inflatable pool floats.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 12/21/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my fourth expat experience, I have previously lived in Korea, Albania and Armenia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

USA, Miami is less than a 2 hour flight -- connect from there to many US locations

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Three-bedroom townhouse on the Embassy compound. From Petionville it can be 30-60 minutes commute to the Embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

For imported items the cost is 1.5 - 2 times the cost in the US. Locally grown produce is not expensive. The mangoes, bananas, chayote, etc are all delicious. There are many grocery stores that cater to expats.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Pet food.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are no chain restaurants, which makes for good options. You can get sushi, a roast chicken at the grocery store or pizza.There are many nice restaurants, primarily in the vicinity of Petionville. There are coffee shops and good bakeries.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Occassional tarantulas, ants, roaches can all be a problem. Don't allow standing water inside or outside your home. This is where mosquitoes breed.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic mission. FedEx is available. Mission groups have an airmail system that volunteers staff and pay a fee for the weight of the mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Full time domestic help is available for about $350 per month. Local health insurance can be provided through DASH for a very reasonable fee. Some people employ drivers.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is at least one gym in the Petionville area. I heard that it is expensive. Of course, the alternative is hiking in the nearby mountains.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I only used my credit card twice at the Caribbean grocery store. Not long after, there were unauthorized charges on my account. Mostly it is a cash economy. You can cash a U.S. check at the grocery store.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Port au Prince Fellowship and Quisqueya Chapel offer Evangelical services.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

There a fair number of English speakers, but you really do need to know a little French or Creole.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, many.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No taxi or buses available. "Tap-Taps" are what the locals use.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring something with high clearance. The roads have deep ruts and can be flooded during the rainy season. Bring something that can handle the steep mountain climbs.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Digicel offers reliable service. They were very responsive when I phoned for service and offered English-language phone assistance. There are other options as well.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Digicel.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

The animal care center in Petionville was adequate for my dog. They sell Royal Canin pet food and a variety of pet supplies. There is no quarantine. Do have your pet immunized for rabies. The incidence of rabies is high in the country. Use Air France for transport of pets in and out of the country.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Local salaries can be low. However some spouses have been able to find work with NGO's.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many -- orphanages, NGOs, clinics, schools.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At work, standard business attire is appropriate. There are some occasions when formal dress is necessary.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Cite Soleil is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world. Along with other parts of Haiti such as Carfour, the American Embassy staff are not allowed to travel to without an armed escort.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Malaria, chikungunya, zika, dengue are all mosquito born diseases in Haiti. There is also cholera. Use insect precautions and be smart about the food that you eat. The hospitals are generally inadequate and almost anything beyond a mild illness would require medical evacuation. Be sure you have medical evacuation insurance. Some NGOs and faith-based organizations have made efforts to improve the quality of health care in Haiti, but there is a long way to go. Know how to get to your hospital of choice because there is no ambulance service.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Trash, tires and trees are burned frequently. Deforestation has lead to a high level of dust.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There isn't an ambulance coming to get you. Have a plan. Carry your epinephrine. Know how to identify your food allergens in the Creole language.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Observing the level of poverty can be depressing, but the weather is almost always great.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Nice weather, but with potential hurricanes and earthquakes. The rain can be heavy in the spring and fall leading to flooding. That is when cholera becomes a problem.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

In PAP there are really only a few options. United School or Quisqueya Christian School. Parents have varied opinions about either school. The commute from the Embassy is long and children board the bus early.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None -- if your child has special needs, don't come to Haiti.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is no preschool. People use nannies for day care.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There are many expats living in Haiti. Many are missionaries of some sort. The United Nations are still in Haiti as a peacekeeping force.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Most people can find something to do here. Go to the beach, go hiking,

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

For the most part, Haitians don't care about your sexual preferences.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is a big divide between the rich Haitians and the not-rich. In the local community, not everyone is of African descent, but they are all Haitian.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Go to Cap Haitien to see the Citadel, Jacmel for the mosaic walks. Drive to the Dominican Republic. Visit Croix de Boquet and the artisans there. Visit the art galleries in Petionville. Take a hike in the mountains. Volunteer your time to help someone.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go to the Apparent project and see beads made from old cardboard and buy some bracelets.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are many handicrafts in Haiti. Much of it is upcycled. Paper mache, metalwork, paintings, wood carvings, beaded purses and so much more.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's close to the United States.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The traffic can be horrible. You must learn alternate routes to your destinations.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I would take another assignment here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

220V appliances. The electricity is 110V.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen. Bring your winter coat in case you want to go north in the winter.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Comedians, Island Beneath the Sea, Claire of the Sea Light.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 09/13/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC. About 7-8 hours including a transfer in Miami or Ft Lauderdale. There are also direct flights to ATL and JFK. Flights to DC can be had for US$450-700 depending on the season. American is the major carrier, followed by Delta and Jet Blue (as of Dec 2013).

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3. How long have you lived here?

1year so far.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There's an Embassy compound of townhouses across from the Embassy plus stand-alone houses and apartments in Vivy Michel, Belvil, Juvenat, Mount Calvaire, etc. Commuting times have improved drastically in the past year for those who are smart enough to learn alternate routes to work. Vivy Michel and Belvil are 15-20 minutes away from the Embassy. Juvenat is about 45 minutes away now but very close to Union School. Canne Sucre is a 2-5 minute walk. People who complain about the commuting times probably weren't around when things were worse. Looking at other Post Reports, our commuting times are pretty common. Schools are usually in the opposite direction of work.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

A family of 3 I know spends US$1200/ month on groceries. This is a consumables post so that's a great way to save. You can get virtually the same offerings from the States here, surprisingly, but it will cost you at least double. Amazon usually ships here within a week.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Suspension parts for my truck, toiletries, lots of DVDs, a few UPS boxes, more clothing (I took for granted that there would be malls), more kids activities, a trampoline for the yard.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No such thing as fast food here!!! There is a Domino's remaining in Petionville, but I don't know how fast the service is. Food is expensive here. The CLO can provide lots of info, but there are Lebanese, Haitian, French, Mexican, American, Chinese, pizza, etc options available. And they will cost you!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes!!!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and Fedex.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Easy to find, though I don't think that many clean to U.S. standards. People usually pay US$150-350 depending on services or days worked. Please be advised that everyone has a story...you will be asked for money for some family tragedy. I was warned before I arrived and have certainly found it to be true.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is the Embassy gym, a local gym in Vivy Michel (Coin de Village, I believe), and Project Zen in Petionville is a yoga studio. There is also Dance 4 Life and they have a Haitian folklore class for adults in Petionville.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

The Embassy has an ATM and you can use the bank there to write/cash checks to yourself. Any place else is forbidden for us. I haven't had a credit card issue at any restaurants.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is one church that people go to, but ask around. We opt to watch Joel Osteen on TV.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some French will help. Creole will help a lot as it's the true local language of all.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes!!! This city is not wheelchair accessible at all and the roads are mostly unpaved and uneven. You will be severely limited here.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All forbidden for us.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

High clearance is a necessity!! Your Altima, Camry, or Accord won't do. An Xterra, 4Runner, Jeep, etc is more like it. You will spend more time off-roading than you realize. Flood damage is also a risk during a rainstorm.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yep for about US$140 month for the recommended plan. I stream movies all of the time without issue.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Unlocked iPhone. You can buy a local chip here and rechargable phone cards.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No clue. I know they cannot fly on American during the summer months. No kennels but there is at least one vet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

You will probably need to learn French or Creole. Some spouses work for NGOs. There are opportunities at the Embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Orphanages, clothing drives, opportunities to teach English.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

I would say business casual and colorful. The Haitians are usually better dressed than us.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is a critical crime post. Typically, mission employees are safe as long as they use common sense. Your iPhone can make you a target for robbery and you could have your purse snatched. Heed travel warnings and avoid routes where there are demonstrations and you are fine. Haitians are pretty nonviolent. They have real problems and we are probably the least of their concerns. We don't have any business in the slums and they are red zones for us anyway. Some people would have you believe that you are unsafe walking anywhere on foot here. I am more afraid of the South side of Chicago these days than walking two blocks from my car to a restaurant in Petionville.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Very minimal. Chickengunya (?) fever is the latest outbreak. Mosquitos are the biggest worry because some carry that and dengue fever. There is a good dentist from what I hear. We do everything while in the States.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very poor. It's dusty and dirty outside at all times. If you have asthma or respiratory issues, this is probably not the place for you. I really don't understand why anyone with impairments or chronic illnesses would bid on Haiti in the first place. It remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere so you can't get treated for anything in country.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's always hot. From April - November, it's rainy and hot. December - March is beautiful. Very little rain, dry heat. Temperature is always between 85-95F year round.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Union School is the default Embassy school and is English speaking. It's U.S. accredited and receives virtually all of the complaints from parents. I would not use this school for high school at all, but two years during primary is probably doable. The curriculum is unclear and the kids watch movies during the school day a little more than you would expect. Lycee Alexandre Dumas is the French school and it's a really good school, but nearly impossible to get into unless your kids are transferring from another French school abroad.

Coccinelle and Kikloe are both French preschools in Petionville for Kindergarten and below and the few families who have used them are very happy with the quality of instruction. Both schools also offer after school programs and French tutoring to outside students.

Boucle D'art is a French Montessori school with both a maternelle section (preschool) and primary school component in Vivy Michel. It's the closest school to the Embassy and parents were also very happy there. There are quite a few new families at post with toddlers and preschoolers who are trying the school this year. Keep in mind for the French schools that all meetings and events will be conducted in French. These are local schools, not French immersion programs geared to expats. That can be good or bad depending on what you are looking for. Knowing what I know now, if you are looking for a good quality English program, hold your nose if you aren't religious and enroll your kids into Quisqeya School (K-12) or Morningstar Christian Academy (PreK-12) which are both good U.S. accredited programs. I was warned by several parents (Haitian and American) to opt for one of these two schools over Union and I was hard-headed. Well educated Haitian-Americans who I have met since arrival are using Quisqeya primarily.

The biggest lesson I have learned here is that your best resource for school info will be your FSN (Haitian) colleagues. Americans love to think that they have discovered something new, but the FSNs have been using some of the good schools all along. Coccinelle, Boucle D'Art, Kikloe, Quisqeya, Morningstar, and the Lycee have been used for years by our Haitian colleagues. If you would like to find a martial arts, dance, or soccer program for your kids, ask around. The Americans are only here for 2-3 years and tend to not venture out beyond expat circles, with little exception.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't have a clue, to be honest. Union School barely covers the basics. I wouldn't bid on this assignment to be honest if my child had special needs. I have a local Haitian friend who has been trying to find accommodations for her son. She is very resourceful and has been helpful to our family but hasn't found the kind of assistance her son needs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, please see above. The preschools all range from US$175-450/month per child, depending on the school, plus an enrollment fee. Typically, you would be responsible for transport. Motor pool is trying to accommodate all this year as a pilot but this is not a guarantee or an entitlement. Post is only responsible for kids receiving education allowance (K-12). Please don't be that whiny parent complaining that your 2-year old requires Embassy provided transport to preschool because of security issues and have this wonderful new benefit removed for all.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Soccer, martial arts, ballet, hip hop, and folklore.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There is a large community of Diplomats, UN, and NGOs but little mixing between the groups.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Most people, especially in Canne Sucre, lounge by the pool every weekend. Lots of entertaining at home, having friends over, going to restaurants. Lots of people travel to the DR, the U.S., or the beach towns on long weekends. There are lounges and clubs, but they tend to be either very local or overly expat dominated. Also, you can tell when a promoter wants upper middle class patrons because the cost will be prohibitive for most. You need some local friends to do a little more.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Couples yes. Singles who love Haitians, yes. Families with small kids are ok too. I wouldn't advise for families with primary school aged kids, but it's not horrible. No way in hell for someone with teenagers. Single women probably have the biggest challenge.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not really, it is the Caribbean. There are gays and lesbians here but it's hidden.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Hmm, there is an unstated class divide between lighter and darker Haitians. As an expat, you will be fine either way. Going to the DR is probably worse for darker Americans as you might be confused as Haitian and there is definitely tension between the two countries (though I have never seen hostility towards Dominicans here).

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Meeting new people, learning a new language, ease of travel to the States and the DR, enjoying the beach in Jacmel and going to Bassin Bleu. Meeting the Haitian President. Wearing sandals almost daily to work!

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Bassin Bleu in Jacmel. Going up to Kenscoff (the mountains above PAP). Irish Village on Monday nights can be fun.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Art!!!

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Can be easy to save since the Post Differential is high (30%), close proximity to the U.S. and the Dominican Republic, warm/hot weather year round (I hate cold weather), decent beaches, employing household staff is pretty easy and inexpensive, nice arts scene, friendly people, etc.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes you can, but it will be tempting to travel outside of PAP often.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known that there weren't any shopping malls or movie theaters or fast food restaurants. I took a lot of American conveniences for granted. Now I am more thankful of how good we really have it.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes! It's been a great tour for my family, frustrations aside. I have met some great people here too. This is a very easy place to come to and become bored and isolate yourself from others. We have made Haitian friends and found some friends within the Embassy community that have made the difference for us,

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes and your belief that service should be customer oriented. Understand that we get hardship pay for a reason. The new GSO crew is awesome and they are really trying to improve moral. Please don't inundate them with requests for things you can do yourself (who hung your pictures for you in Washington?). Please don't complain about Haiti in front of Haitians, it's disrespectful. Please remember that when you are complaining about your housing assignment or commute on unpaved roads that you are working alongside Haitians who commute two hours each way from Carrefour and probably don't have electricity the majority of the day. Yet, they've managed to come to work looking fabulous.

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4. But don't forget your:

Positive attitude. We all need it.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Try new things while you're here. Subscribe to Manman Pemba and try some local events, get outside of Port au Prince. It's a dirty city but the countryside is beautiful. This place has a unique and rich history and I am really impressed by their ability to retain their local language (Creole) with the U.S. and Latin America surrounding the island. The arts and dance scene is nice. Get out of your comfort zone and add some color to your wardrobe. If you have small kids, take advantage of the local offerings and try a French program while they are young enough to gain entry. Force yourself to be social and create fun. Post needs more optimistic people.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 09/15/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No; South and North America as well as East Africa.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

As a Foreign Service Officer I do not have a home base. Haiti is home. But it is nice to be just a quick flight to Miami. With enough notice, a roundtrip ticket on American Airlines is under US$300. This was a surprising and unexpected benefit of being so close to the U.S. since we were used to long flights from Africa. We get to the U.S. every several months. You need the break, sometimes.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Little over a year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I am in USG housing so it is not representative of Haiti. USG struggles to find seismically safe housing, and our houses in the hills above Port-au-Prince (Vivy Michel, Belvil, etc) often have problems with leaks, plumbing, etc. Weird designs too, often very large though.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get anything here - at a price. Caribbean market. After not being able to find chicken, butter or cheese in East Africa, it has been a pleasant surprise to find everything is available here. Gluten free, vegetarian, almond milk, probiotic yogurt, hormone free and organic items of everything. Everything. I had been out of the U.S. for years and shopping in Haiti educated me about how much is now available for specific/niche markets these days.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Liquids - wines, beer, Diet coke, etc. Just because it is less expensive - you can get it all here though.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No fast food. There are no McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks etc here. The concept of Fast Food does not exist. Just relax and enjoy having the table to yourself for a few hours. There are good restaurants though, but not cheap. My favorite place is Haiku (Japanese/Asian) at the UN log base, cheap too. Restaurants in Petionville are ridiculously expensive. But there are a dozen or so very nice places, and all kinds of food are available, plentiful seafood. Churrasco will cost you US$35. Salad, side dishes usually at additional cost. Drinks US$8 or so usually. "Irish Embassy" is an Irish style pub that serves Guiness on tap. Usually Prestige, Heineken, Corona and Presidente beers available. Lobster, grilled fish, lambi (conch) always available. Not 100% sure if clean water is used everywhere - can get bottled though. I have had many GI issues in Haiti and probably some of it is to blame on eating out, but I do not let that stop me. Though expensive, ambiance of restaurants is very nice, usually outdoor garden settings, often with a beautiful view overlooking the city.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I have experienced much worse. I have had a tarantula in my house, as have most of my colleagues. Sometimes you get tiny ants, but keeping the kitchen clean keeps them away. I had a small roach in the kitchen just once - I am used to much worse in developing countries. We all have geckos too, mostly outdoors but sometimes they get in. I like geckos since they eat the bugs. Worst problem is mosquitos. I take malaria meds but many of my colleagues do not. Mosquitos love me, maybe it is my blood type! So I usually take mosquito spray with me when we go anywhere to dine outside, or to local parties (also usually outside). Not too bad in the house - we use Vape when during the rainy season to keep them away, but do not need a mosquito net, as I used in several prior posts.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through pouch and DPO at the Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I pay 11,000 gourdes (about US$260) a month for a full-time housekeeper, 5 days/week, 7-8 hours/day. I do not need a gardener but others not in the compound do use them at a reasonable price. Dog walkers are available, and there are folks to wash your car.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

At the Embassy yes - gym, boot camp, yoga, ballet, Zumba, etc. I have seen gyms in Petionville and the Karibe hotel but we keep free weights and bands at home and use workout videos. Exercising outdoors is hot, unless you get up at the crack of dawn. Early mornings are the best time to run outdoors.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I have not had a problem - markets accept credit cards, and worst problem I have had is that charges are sometimes in Haitian gourdes when I thought they would be in USD, so I get hit with a foreign transaction fee. Nice restaurants also accept credit cards.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Internet and Satellite TV yes. We pay about US$50/month for internet (sufficient to use Netflix though you can get higher speed than we have for more) and US$65/month for TV which includes all U.S. networks, Discovery and cable news channels.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I speak French (no Creole) and my husband does not speak French or Creole, but we both do just fine. I think you would be OK without French or Creole, but I have found French quite helpful.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It would be difficult to be here with a disability, e.g. in a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No trains. We cannot take tap taps (trucks used as taxis) or motorcycle taxis - not safe, though they may be affordable. You really need a car here. Some people hire a driver too, as they do not want to deal with Haitian roads or Haitian traffic.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

4WD if you know how to use it, or something with a good clearance at a minimum. Roads are the worst I have ever experienced (and I drive off-road rallies for fun and grew up 4WDing in southern California). We have a Jeep Wrangler and love it. If you are not a careful driver, you will get dinged up. Many cars here are covered in dents, bangs and bruises. When cars break down locally, they do not move them, but work on them in-place, even if it is the middle of the road, so all traffic must drive around. Which can be tricky. Road flooding also requires a high-clearance vehicle, as do the dirt/rock "short cuts" you will want to take to get around the heavy traffic on sometimes the only paved road in an area.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, US$50/month on up to double or triple that, if you want very high speed.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Widely available. Do not use a nice one (iPhone) in a large, public area if you want to keep it.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. Just watch out for airline temperature requirements. You'll need to take the first flight of the day in/out.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

One good vet from the Dominican Republic. She took great care of my dog when he was injured and has helped everyone I know with a pet. Not sure what I would do if she were not here. All vaccines, Xrays, lab tests, specialty foods available through her office.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

A number of spouses of embassy employees have been able to find jobs with NGOs and companies in Haiti, so I'd say not bad, but not the best either. If you work in development, your chances are greater at finding something.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual for the most part. Some men wear suits every day which is OK in the air conditioned building, but this would not work if you are outside a good part of the day. Haitian women are colorful dressers so expat women can be as well.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. We get danger pay here. Embassy staff have a curfew from 1 - 5am, and our travel is restricted, with "yellow zones" and "red zones" where an armored vehicle and/or armed guards must be used, and we must give notice if/when we plan to leave the area or transit through one of these neighborhoods. But concerns are valid. I know many officers who have been robbed (mostly folks on one of their first assignments, but not always).

E.g. at one recent concert at the concert venue near the Embassy, three separate persons were robbed, iPhones mostly. At another event, one person's wallet, phone, and gold necklace were stolen. Another officer's purse was taken while she was talking with someone in a safe area of Petionville - moto drove by and took it. I know of several car break-ins too, but in one case a suitcase was in the back of the vehicle and though it had tinted windows, a window was broken and the suitcase was stolen. We are directed not to leave anything in a parked car, so this was not really a surprise. Someone else also drove with window down (against recommendations) and someone with gun tried to steal their phone. There are recent reports of gangs of people trying to stop travellers in S Haiti near Petit Goave and search vehicles, steal items. This may end up restricting our ability to travel there if more incidents are reported. Americans are occasionally kidnapped, but do not seem to be specifically targeted. Read the State Department's travel warnings, which are updated periodically and seem to be accurate.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

You are going to get the Haitian sensation, guaranteed. I have had more GI issues here than anywhere, though have had amoebas and giardia in prior posts. Nothing seems to get rid of it, it keeps coming back. People are sick here (colds and flu as well) more than any place I have ever lived. If you have a sensitive stomach, be warned. I never had a sensitive stomach, but do now. Supposedly there is malaria so I take pills for it, but have not heard of any outbreaks recently. Embassy medical care is good, but Florida is close if you need to get there quickly. Biggest health risk is probably drivers on the roads. We lost an embassy officer recently from a car crash. Greatest health risk is probably the possibility of a bad car accident.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Dusty. Recent visitors told me "it looks like it hasn't rained for a long time" and I told them it rained the day before. But not smoggy or polluted, just dust. However, we all get sick often, with the "Haitian sensation" and some of us are convinced it is not the food or water, but something in the air. Who knows... could be true, or maybe we are just looking for excuses for getting sick all the time. It is always hot! November through March are cooler months thn the rest of the year, but even then at least 80 degrees and sunny during the day.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot. Surprisingly dry (after having lived in the tropics). Almost always sunny. When it rains it usually does not last long, but an unexpected thunderstorm can cause a flash flood worse than a passing tropical storm. Flash floods tun roads into obstacle courses. Warm evenings. You will keep the A/C on in your house all the time, if you have it. I live in Tabarre, but if you are in Petionville, it is 5 - 10 (F) degrees cooler, even more at night - you might need a jacket in the winter at night.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I hear older children (above primary grades) do not like the schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Some families near me have toddlers and they have no problem finding nannies, some who stay in the home.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. There are 10,000 UN (MINUSTAH) soldiers/police here. Endless NGOs and missionary/church organizations.

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2. Morale among expats:

So so - you either love it or hate it, usually (I love some things, hate some things). I am not extending my time here, but I do not hate it here and love Haiti's proximity to the US and the rest of the Caribbean. My reasons for not liking it here are more related to the job than Haiti itself.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Much is among friends and co-workers. There is always something to do. Restaurants and clubs have special nights too - salsa lessons, karaoke, etc. It's not Paris, but it's not the middle of nowhere either. Sometimes you have to look for entertainment to find it, but it cn be found.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I would not want to be single here. There are not a lot of options for things to do as you would have in a developed country, so it really heps to have a spouse or partner to share your time with.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

We have a few in our community who do OK but the country itself is not LGBT friendly and the local community recently protested an event for a British expat who was trying to celebrate his same-sex engagement, it got violent.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Haiti is known for its racial prejudice of the light-skinned elite vs. everyone else but I do not usually experience this as a white expat. I have a mixed-race marriage, and we are welcomed in this culture - I think sometimes most Haitians are more accepting of me because my husband is black. But my husband experienced a bit of racism recently when a light-skinned Haitian stopped assisting him to assist a white Haitian, i.e. making the other person's needs more important than his, and coming back to him 10 minutes later. He was quite upset about this. Overall though, prejudice here is less than other places we have lived, even the U.S. and people are quite accepting of our bi-racial marriage. No gender or religious prejudices. We can hear the call to prayer from our home near one of the MINUSTAH bases - there are a number of Muslim contingents here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Trips outside of Port-au-Prince. Outdoor patio dining in Petionville restaurants. Driving up to mountains, where it is 20 - 30 degrees (F) cooler than Port-au-Prince, with pine trees and fog. Rhum punch and rhum sours, the best in the world, I believe - I have sampled in over a dozen Caribbean countries. Barbancourt rhum. Day trips to Club Indigo or Moulin Sur Mer beaches or long weekend trips (described above). Haitian konpa music. Concerts at Parc Canne-a-Sucre (Sean Paul was my favorite).

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

As listed in some of my favorite things above. Art and music are prominent in this culture. Getting out of Port-au-Prince as often as possible - beaches, especially. Outdoor patio dining in Petionville. Home parties. Socializing with other exPats. Touring the Prestige or Barbancourt factory, or gingerbread houses. I am hoping to get to the Olafssen hotel on a Thursday night to see their cultural/voodoo dance show. Voodoo section at the iron market is very interesting, a bit scary.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Colorful art, voodoo flags, metal iron sculpture, Haitian furniture, music, Barbancourt rhum.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You could save money if you didn't need to get away so often! Haitian people and culture are wonderful, but we cannot travel freely, and "resorts," which are not really up to international standards, are very expensive. The embassy organized a trip by air to Cap Haitian with tour of Sans Souci and the Citadelle, horse, tour guide and lunch included, three nights at Cormier Plage half-pension for just over US$500 per person. Nicest trip so far. A similar trip to Ile a Vache, Abaka Bay resort, cost about the same, but took 6 hours of driving plus another 2 hours to park car, load and take boat across the island, so one whole day lost in travel. It took two hours less driving on return drive, but still way too much time in traffic not too mention over US$100 in gas for the drive.

The country is beautiful, but not cheap! Former Club Med, now called Club Indigo, and several similar beach clubs are nice, with US$20 - $25 entrance fees, but still not up to international standards. Haitian food is not too bad if you like Caribbean style food. People are friendly, colorful, fun. Weather is perfect if you like hot & sunny. Semi-tropical. I like it, you can always go to the pool. Being close to the U.S. is nice too, easy to get away. Sometimes Insel Air has flights to San Maarten and beyond for 50% off, so can get to other Caribbean countries - Curacao, Saba, etc.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you stay locked up in your house. But don't do that, you'll go stir crazy.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Hmmmm. Probably, but I doubt I would come back here to work again. Glad for the unique experience and love my work and that my husband also has a good job. It has been a blessing to be so close to home, for personal reasons. But you cannot come here trying to fix Haiti. If your goal is to make a difference, you will have to measure your impact in very small teeny tiny increments.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter coat. Thoughts that anything starts on time or that food will be delivered promptly.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor. Jeep. Patience, especially with traffic.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Ghosts of Cite Soleil

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Currently reading "The Big Truck that Went By" about the 2010 earthquake.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you come with the right attitude, you will do just fine here. If you have not been to a developing country, you may be frustrated and hate it here. Your experience will be what you want it to be. Though certain things are very difficult (travel and security restrictions, getting sick a lot, the need to be patient for things to get done), there are wonderful things you can only experience in Haiti and for that, the experience here is worth it.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 09/03/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Second experience, I've lived in France before and traveled extensively.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

A two hour flight from Miami, but flights are exorbitantly expensive.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Affiliated with the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Depressing, and perfectly fine. Mostly depressing.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You will find almost anything you want from tahini sauce & falafel mix, to pad thai and sushi wrappers in the grocery stores here. Extensive selections of French cheese, American apples and lettuce, high end chocolate and everything you could imagine. It's just expensive. A box of Minute Maid orange juice - $10. A pint of raspberries (American) - $15. A medium size bottle of liquid Tide - $26. A jar of French raspberry jam (Bonne Manman) - surprisingly slightly LESS expensive than what I used to pay in NYC.(Too bad I shipped this jam in my consumables . . . ) Ship in your cleaning supplies, a $2 bottle of whatever at Target is a lot more palatable, than a $8 bottle of the same thing available here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

A cooler and a bag to cover it. To make Costco meat and cheese runs up to the States. Note:American Airlines won't allow you to fly to Haiti with a cooler during the summer months, so you have to put the cooler inside of a duffle bag of some sort. Also, re: American Airlines -- they have a summer embargo season, so check flight restrictions up to the minute you fly. (You arrive at the airport with your three bags w/ carry on and find out that yesterday they changed the rules and now you're only allowed to check two bags, not three. The airline attendants don't budge, they don't bargain, they don't care that you are moving to Haiti for two years. They won't let you pay the fee for a third bag, even though you're very willing. And no, even if you're on orders, they won't pretend that you're military and give you those allowances. Just be prepared.)

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Near the Embassy, plan on spending US$10 - $15 at the Daily Cafe. The lunch buffet at Cannes a Sucre is around $12. Dining out, Hot & Fresh (Sandwiches) $7. Munchies in Petionville (BEST PIZZA EVER (NYC style)) Large pizza & two cokes $20. Quartier Latin (latin music & dancing on Thursday nights, make a reservation) $25 and up. The View, Trois Deck, Mozaique, Papaye, and others, $30-100.(USD)

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Surprisingly there are some organic and gluten-free items available here. Annie's brand mostly. Look for these at Maison Handal.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes, ants!!!!, and some roach issues. I find by using household bug repellent (the stuff you spray around your foundations, doors and windows. I use the Bayer/ blue bottle stuff), that my insect problems indoors have been minimal. I sprayed this around my house when I arrived (brought it in my suitcase) and I haven't had tarantulas, most spiders, or other bugs inside my house. I had some minuscule brown ants that started coming indoors three months ago, the blue spray didn't work, but Taro brand liquid ant traps killed those rather quickly. So, bring that too! Bring mosquito repellent to spray on yourself. Even if you're outside for five minutes at dusk to chat with your neighbor or water your plants, you'll walk away with several mosquito bites. Also most restaurants are outdoors.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO & Pouch. Items that happen to be sent by regular mail to a real address in Haiti take months (several) to arrive in Haiti. So if you don't have access to DPO or the pouch, use FedEx.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

My housekeeper comes three times a week and I pay her $15/day, plus Taptap fare. (This comes to just shy of US$200/month or $400/month for full time, 6 days a week.) She cooks, she cleans, she's worked for Americans for a very long time. Please be aware there is a 13th month and a 14th month for salary. You pay an extra 13th month when the school year starts (September) and then a 14th month as a bonus during the holiday season (December). Gardener comes 3 times a week for $150/month. We have a very small yard. Yes I pay more, but I also don't have to micromanage my staff. So, my clothes get laundered correctly, don't come back shrunken with holes, my produce gets bleached, and kitchen get's cleaned up to American standards, my plants outside don't die, and the yard stays tidy. This all happens with me not having to do much, if anything, at all. Which I like after coming home from a long day at work.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a pool and a small gym on the US Embassy compound. Ship in your own treadmill/elliptical trainer/weights and turn your second bedroom into a gym. The old Gold's Gym in Petionville that was mentioned by a prior post has been taken over by the CEP (think elections). It is a gym no more. Don't bring a pull-up bar (I made this mistake). The walls are thick concrete, which leaves you with no door frame to hang the pull-up bar from.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Only use ATMs on the Embassy compound, unless you want to be mugged walking out of a bank or scammed at the ATM. Most restaurants accept credit cards, so do the grocery stores. However, sometimes there's a LONG lag (think up to 4 weeks) for purchases to ping your account. Which can be an issue if you don't balance your checkbook regularly.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

English language? None that I know of.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Through Voila wifi internet. Hulu & Netflix.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I get by with French. But everyone speaks Creole. Currently, when I want to talk to my Gardener, I speak in French, then my guard translates into Creole.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

No sidewalks, unpaved/bumpy roads, the paved roads have quickly forming pot-holes. Very few elevators. NOT wheelchair assessable.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Prohibited by RSO. And no, definitely not safe. For those of you non-Embassy folks, there is questionable maintenance performed on Taptaps, which lead to auto accidents, and sometimes death.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A 4x4 is necessary. High clearance is more important than having a 4x4. (Think: high cement speed bumps, deep pot holes and dry riverbeds -- which function as the roads leading up to and running in front of your house.) You don't want a vehicle with stiff suspension. People who bring their sedans to post are idiots. Toyotas are the most popular brand locally.(Practically everyone drives a Toyota.) If you're a diplomat (particularly an American) the CD on the front of the car will protect you, so don't worry too much that your car might be flashy (there are thousands of Land Cruisers running around town).... That said, DON'T bring your Mercedes or Lexus, you don't see those SUV's that often and they scream money.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

US$99/month "Medium Spender" package through Viola. Speed has gotten significantly better within the past few months. (I stream TV & movies online and it rarely, if ever, stops to buffer now.)

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap. Digicel & Voila (the two local cell phone companies) don't talk to each other very well. Most locals have one of each so they can reach all their friends. Post will issue you a phone you can use (direct hires only, EFM's no, so wait until you know which phone you've been given, and then run out and buy your wife/kid/significant other the same type of phone).

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is a vet in Petionville where everyone takes their pets. Although plan to arrive 45 minutes before the office opens, or you'll be standing in a line all day long.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. Not really, although there are more and more EFM jobs coming available at the US Embassy. In particular, I've known spouses of people come to post who are nurses, and despite the grave need for medical professionals, they've been unable to find places to work due to Red & Yellow zone travel restrictions.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Think French. Sharp dressers. The locals dress more nicely than the Americans. Nice shoes, nice pants, nice shirts, nice skits/blouses, nice jewelry, four-inch heels. Freshly laundered, nicely pressed. Etc.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is a critical threat post. You're not allowed to walk outside on the sidewalk, not allowed to wander through local markets to shop, not allowed to drive into certain parts of town (unless in an armored vehicle w/an armed guard and follow car). There is a curfew in effect. If you're the type to feel trapped, this is not the post for you. Oh, but the danger pay is only 5%, so don't be fooled by the low allowance. Management says, "Oh it's safe, go enjoy yourself." But then other people at the embassy say, "NO! It's dangerous, don't do this, don't do that." Then the riots happen and you're locked down. Or high profile local Americans go and get themselves kidnapped. Two days later, you're driving around town with an all okay signal from the powers that be, but what's really changed? Nothing. It's a racket, and you begin to doubt yourself, your own judgment, and then you become cynical and paranoid.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes. and None.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Poor, very poor. Bring HIGH quality/professional air purifiers if you have any sort of allergy or asthma at all. (I recommend the Oreck brand.) Someone is always burning something. Burning trash: there are always trash fires, the worst is when it's right next door and your house fills with smoke. (Think: plastic and Styrofoam, as well as paper and garden material.) Burning tires: the go-to choice when Haitians are rioting. Dust: not only from the unpaved roads (extensive), but from the rubble. There is concrete dust everywhere that just doesn't settle. Charcoal: smoke when Haitians make charcoal, smoke when they cook with it.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid, but less so than in S.E. Asia. There are two rainy seasons, hemmed in by two semi-dry seasons.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

French Lycee and American School is available.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Haiti might not be the right country for you.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Ballet classes, yes. Soccer, I think so.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Enormous, however, there is little interaction between groups. State people visit State people, USAID people visit other USAID people. Likewise, the UN folks stick to themselves, and the NGOs stick to themselves, and the other Embassy communities stick to themselves. It's actually quite isolating, especially when you have to debate whether a visit to a friend is worth the risk of sitting in traffic for a minimum of one hour (each way) every time you want to go out.

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2. Morale among expats:

Low. Extremely low. It's interesting to watch. Haiti sucks the life out of you.(And I've watched this happen quite a lot with the extremely high volume of TDYers I've seen come and go.) People come with a glow. Then they dim, and by the time their short TDYs are over (2-4 months) the glow is long gone and they're just walking around with a shell-shocked survivalist mentality. (We're not talking earthquake shell-shock, I'm speaking about a time period 16 months after the earthquake.) Sometimes I feel bi-polar towards Haiti (many others feel the same, the prior Real Post Report speaks to this issue). Some days I love it here, I think I want to come back again and again and try to make a difference. But then I wake up, become a realist, and want out. Cynicism, sarcasm, and rage will eventually trump altruism, optimism, and hope.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Depends on where you live and transit times. If you live in one of the clusters, then you're more likely to entertain and be entertained. If you don't, then each time you get invited over to someone's house you have to weigh whether you want to take the risk of being stuck in traffic for up to 2 1/2 hours on the way there and the same on the way back. As for entertaining at my place, I drew a short straw re: housing, I don't entertain here.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families fare better here, because you have a built-in support structure at home. Of course, some families fare worse, because the spouse often goes stir crazy and wants out. (Out of the country that is...)

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. The class system is alive and well in Haiti. The lighter-skinned Haitians look down on and denigrate people with darker skin, and the darker skinned Haitians have hostile resentment toward lighter skinned Haitians. As a Caucasian person, I almost always have been treated very nicely.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

A trip to Cap Haitien and then to Ile la Vache. Haiti has the potential to be an amazing tourist destination, everywhere.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

People go to the beach, or up the mountain to the Baptist Mission (view is nice). Sleep, read a book. Watch movies online. Sleep some more. Walk little circles around the housing compound.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Beautiful wooden bowls (Einstein), metal art, beaded bags, paintings (from the galleries and on the streets), stone sculptures.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

I would say saving money. However, there are no middle class services. Everything from groceries to restaurants are expensive. You can save money if you buy consumables in the States, ship them in, and then don't internet shop. (The import fees are excessive which drive up prices AND there is an uber-wealthy class here in Haiti. All of the services are geared toward them.)

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11. Can you save money?

Only if you don't eat out, don't travel, and don't shop on the internet.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Maybe, but most likely not.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

Swiffer dusters, air purifiers, & dehumidifier. An extra set of tires. (Yes, the mechanic at the dealership is lying to you, sort-of. Yes, those tires will last you for two years. Two years of driving on freeways in the States. But those tires will only last a year on the everyday roads of Port-au-Prince. I'm assuming here that you don't have brand spanking new tires on your car right now.) High quality UPS (uninterpretable power source) and associated Voltage Regulators (think: your generator sends out too high of a voltage, so everything electrical runs hot, and your UPSs don't charge, then when the power goes out everything crashes). A battery powered alarm clock, or use the alarm on your iPhone/Touch/Pad. Also, fyi, Verizon phones go crazy in Haiti. They won't keep time (and won't make calls), so if you use your phone as an alarm clock, don't count on it working here. (If you use Verizon.)

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?


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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

There is a new crew on board and the Management section of the Embassy is making great efforts to correct many of the issues that have directly impacted morale at post. It will take a while, a long, long while for change to take place, but for those of you coming in the future, there is hope. One day, the well-deserved reputation that this post has earned will change. Change for the better. So you mid-level managers and seasoned veterans, think about coming. We need you. Things are changing, you can help that change stick, and keep this embassy on track. Plus in the coming years, the Embassy is shifting toward compound living w/American style housing. So many of the housing complaints will go away and quality of life issues will drastically improve.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 01/25/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have previously lived in Tokyo, Japan; Quebec, Canada; Darmstadt, Germany; and Luanda, Angola.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home is Detroit, which is an easy trip from Port-au-Prince tthrough Miami (about 1.5 hours) with a connection to Detroit.

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3. How long have you lived here?

7 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government (U.S. State Department)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing varies but is, generally, of decent quality. Homes are almost all made from concrete and cinder blocks. Windows and doors are frequently leaky and allow air and bugs to circulate freely.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There is very good availability of household supplies. Most of the big U.S. brands are available at the larger supermarkets. Groceries are a little more unpredictable, and the quality/availability changes from day to day. It pays to go to the grocery store frequently and, when you see something you want, buy it!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are a few good restaurants in Petionville which range from expensive to very expensive. Dinner for two at La Souvenance will run you over $200. Quartier Latin is a little more than half that. There is a Domino's Pizza in Petionville but no "real" fast food such as McDonald's or Burger King.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Strangely, certain stores seem to specialize in organic, gluten-free, etc. Maison Handal, next to the U.S. Embassy, imports a lot of these products, as does Giant. Unfortunately, the price is prohibitive. Girls in the street sell very nice produce at more reasonable rates.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are everywhere and carry malaria and dengue fever. Keeping your home cold and not leaving windows and doors open helps to alleviate the problem a little. Traditional mosquito repellants seem to have no effect. Homes tend to attract giant cockroaches (or, "waterbugs") which are an upleasant surprise when you step into the shower in the morning or open a kitchen cabinet.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and pouch are available. Mail can also be hand-carried to Miami and sent from there.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Rampant unemployment makes for a large available workforce. Costs are about $100 per month for a maid who comes 2-3 times per week. Extensive training will be absolutely required since most Haitians looking for work as cleaners do not have a solid understanding of the American definition of "clean."Gardenders come at a slightly higher rate than maids. The best solution for someone looking for domestic staff would be one person who does it all at about $150-$200 per month depending on experience, ability, etc.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are accepted at the large grocery stores and the better restaurants, as well as at some other specialty stores. ATMs are hard to find and not trustworthy. There is an ATM inside the U.S. Embassy which works sporadically.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are numerous U.S.-based missionaries in and around Port-au-Prince who conduct services in English. The difficult part would be making contact with them, but some internet research should yield fairly complete results.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Satellite TV is available, but the initial setup can be costly (about $3,000). English-language newspapers are not available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It is important to note that, in spite of what everyone says, Haiti is NOT a French-speaking country. The language of Haiti is Haitian Creole, which is very different from French. As a native French speaker, I can say that it is difficult enough to get by with fluent French. Creole is a must. English is widely understood but less widely spoken.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This is a very difficult city for someone with disabilities to navigate. This is a very difficult city for even a fully-abled person to navigate! There are no accommodations made for differently-abled persons, and the lack of any kind of infrastructure -- along with mountains of rubble and trash, occasional flooding, pollution, the heat and the crowding -- can make Port-au-Prince very difficult for anyone to manage.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The tap-taps are omnipresent but are not safe. Muggings are very frequent inside the tap-taps and it is, therefore, not advisable to use them. No other public transportation is available.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Roads in Port-au-Prince are almost non-existent. The major routes in the city are paved but are riddled with potholes. Anything off the main roads is going to be gravel or dirt and almost impassable in the rainy season. Bring a 4x4 vehicle with a high clearance. In the provinces, roads are nothing more than a good idea and you will need a true off-road SUV with a winch, a snorkel, etc.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Define "high speed". Internet is available and is fairly reliable. Voila seems to have a much better reputation than Access Haiti. Speeds are not too bad and the cost is about $100 per month. Service has generally been reliable with only a few problems during storms, civil unrest, etc.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are relatively cheap, and coverage within Port-au-Prince is good -- thanks to the city being surrounded by high mountains with atennae on them.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is one good veterinarian available in Petionville.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are no job opportunities on the local economy. Unemployment in Haiti is the norm, and a "good" job by Haitian standards is one which pays $10 per day.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business dress during the week; much more casual on the weekends. That is just a suggestion, though, since there are so many different types of people here doing so many different types of work, you will see everything.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime is fairly rampant owing to the abject poverty in which much of the country lives. Kidnappings have increased significantly, with several resulting in murders. A curfew is observed by U.S. Embassy employees. This is definitely not a place where you want to be out until all hours of the morning.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

As most Haitians will tell you: Haiti is an African country. That means that all of the typical tropical illnesses are here in a big way: cholera, typhoid, dengue fever, malaria, etc. Get your vaccinations before you come! Medical care is not too bad, given the large presence of foreign volunteer doctors. However, for anything more than a simple infection or flu, medevac will be the only option.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality in most of Port-au-Prince is unhealthy. There is a tremendous amount of dust in the air. That, coupled with the almost-constant smoke of burning trash, makes breathing in Port-au-Prince a very unpleasant experience.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The climate is typically tropical: hot days, cool nights, a rainy season and a dry season.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large. The diplomatic community is fairly large, and the U.N. presence is huge. However, the U.N. people mostly keep to themselves and do not interact much with others. NGOs and missionaries are also everwhere.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies widely depending on the person and the situation. Some people have a great time in Haiti, others find it difficult. Most people have very different opinions from one day to the next as the result of the constantly-changing environment (safety, security, political situation, etc.). Life can be great one day and everything can go south the next.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Mostly conducted at home or in the upscale restaurants of Petionville.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for singles and couples. A single person will have a lot of flexibility and be able to take advantage of the different social options available. A couple will have each other to rely on and help each other out which can be hugely important here. This is not a good or safe place for children.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

This is not really a good city for gay/lesbian expats. There is something of a community, but it is not organized at all. The internet helps to establish contact with other gay/lesbian expats but most foreigners do not stay in Haiti for extended periods of time, so it is hard to build any kind of meaningful or lasting community. Homosexuality within the Haitian community is very taboo, and it is almost impossible to make contact with gay/lesbian locals. Furthermore, most Haitian men who demonstrate an interest in foreign men are really only looking for money.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Haiti still has a high degree of segregation based on skin color. The higher up the social ladder you go, the lighter the skin of those around you becomes. Many times this is stated explicitly but, more often, there is just an atmosphere of "your kind is not welcome here" if you are dark-skinned. There is such a diversity of religious groups in Haiti that I can't imagine any religious discrimination taking place (nor have I heard of any). Women are well-respected in Haiti and do not experience any great discrimination. There are many women in the police and other occupations traditionally considered "masculine." Haiti may even get a woman president soon!

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The beaches are not bad;. There are some nightclubs and a few good restaurants.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Everyone who has posted on Port-au-Prince so far has said you can spend it on the completely and totally unique Haitian art. Although you can buy art here, be aware that it is in no way unique! You will find the exact same paintings anywhere in Africa. Be aware that those beautiful "Haitian" paintings are most likely mass produced in Taiwan and sold to gullible tourists all over the world. If you are going to buy art, be sure you work with an artist and not some guy in the street!

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The close proximity to Miami is a big advantage. When life in Haiti starts to overwhelm you, you can always get away for a long weekend for around $300-$400.

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11. Can you save money?

It is possible but not easy. If you are eating American-style and trying to live a Western life, it will cost you. If you make a few cuts and go local for your food and household products, you can save some money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"The Comedians" by Graham Greene is the classic work on Haiti under Duvalier and a good read. Most of the recent non-fiction on Haiti tells the same old story. If you've read one, you've read them all.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 01/06/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes. I have never traveled outside of America..unless you want to count going through the Canada.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

I am currently in Portland, Oregon and will return to Haiti again in March or April to continue to help the organization.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I was there for 14 days.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I went there to volunteer my time for "people in need" partnership, which is a non-profit organization connecting people living in extreme poverty with people who want to help.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The majority live with dirt floors, no running water, and extremely hazardous living conditions. I mentioned to a Doctor with no border, that I couldn't even see an animal live in these environments.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are places to shop but mostly the rich shop there. There is only two types of people in Haiti. Rich and Extreme Poverty. There is no middle and there should be.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

food,books, purification system for water, medical supplies,building equipment, and tools to build, clothes,underwear and shoes. I can not believe how many people have no shoes, and most of them can not go to school because they don't have shoes or underwear to go.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Albadore? I probably misspelled this. It is a buffet style place , mostly Americans , UN and Rich Haitians eat there.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Most of the mosquitoes and small bugs carry malaria then you have a problem with the animals that could carry rabies. It is very difficult to go in and help the people in extreme poverty ..when your risking your own health in the process.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We bring the partners the gifts from their partners. Hand delivery. If anyone is wishing to send light items, and not over 100 pounds for the people in need they can through our organization.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Through people in need partnership, what we do is set up a health for each person who is the partner to someone in the world, and each month they can seek medical help paid for up to $30.00.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There are some locations that have ATM but they never worked. There are places you can go for Western Union, and if you need to change the currency then Western Union is the best way to do that too.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Majority are either Catholic or Voodoo.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

I never noticed a TV there..I will check when I go back.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

basic directions, hello and good-bye, water, where to buy food, where is internet connection, and anything else that could be helpful for you..which is hard to say at each given moment in Haiti.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Number 1, there are little to know street signs. There are numerous pedestrians with no legs because it was ran over and they have no set speeding limit. Each man for their own. It is the craziest to walk , drive or walk in.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The local bus or taxis that are called Tap-taps. n my blog, I have a picture of one. Many people fit into them, and they drop off at different locations and some even in the mountains.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

There are vehicles there but everything is over priced in American dollars, so I can see why the people in extreme poverty can not even afford to buy a car or purchase food . The problem that I saw , very often was that Haiti is comparing their prices with Jamaica and Bahamas and their not the same.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

The have coffee shops called, cyber cafe. It costs $4.00 for 1 hour.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Leave your personal cell phone in America or Europe, and buy a pre-paid one in Haiti. They towers are different and so is the coverage.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I wouldn't take a pet there.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I never saw any.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Very professional. More then we see here in America. I was so surprised.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It was horrible breathing conditions through Cite Soleil, it is extremely difficult when temperatures are so high and no clean drinking water for the majority of the people living there.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I hear a lot of people inside Port au Prince, Haiti that have told me they don't think the UN are helping the people. I spoke with a lot of journalist who were covering various stories on the humanity to politics and they each agree that UN are not helping but stopping the people in Cite Soleil from any outside resource's.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes. All . Have all your shots, make sure to take bug spray with you and get checked when you return.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It was between 92- 98 degrees every day, with no rain. When it does rain the garbage from the polluted rivers- which are filled with trash and waste, and god only knows what else. The water from this river rises and goes into their sheds, which usually house up to 7 people. While I was there , I was very concerned about the mosquitoes and also small bugs that might possibly carry diseases.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

People in Need partnership, has opened 2 mini-centers which is also on my blog post. The thing that really is alarming to even me is hearing how common it is that there are some 20-30 year old people for the first time going to school and starting the 1st grade. There is a strong need for books, teachers, and more school resources for the people in Haiti.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

There are some special schools. But the people stay away from anyone with signs of skin pigment to a natural growth, or wart. They locals in Haiti consider them to be with disease and something they contain evil spirits.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I saw a few pre-school but adults attending them. No day cares.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

The children say they like soccer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are many dances and different cultural events.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

no. I told some American's that I ran into that where there helping , I feel that they should get the people out of Cite Soleil and clean it up for people to live in.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are so many wonderful artist. I saw many of talented and gifted people in the arts and wood workers. Beautiful art pieces.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Try not to buy anything, unless you need it. Wait until you go to the airport. Everything is there, and easier to get.

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9. Can you save money?

good luck. Everyone is in need there. Like I told a guy that came in from Europe. You will be lucky if less then 30 people a day ask you for help.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. They need help and we are doing everything we can to help them. I am going in March or April.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

go simple. Be modest and don't take any jewelry. If you take you laptop or wallet, keep it close to you at all times.

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3. But don't forget your:

common sense. Be polite, Be patient, and Be compassionate.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

My blog is: http://haitipeopleinneed.blogspot.com, and I have links on the blog to other sights that I am working with to try to get more partners to help the people in need in Haiti.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

I have several videos that I am adding all the time to my blog.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Please make a difference in a life in extreme poverty. By becoming a partner with someone in extreme poverty , you are giving them a chance at life. Make a difference , become a partner and a friend. Please visit our website at : www.pinpartnership.orgThank you, Jennifer

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 05/03/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years .

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

2 hours from Miami.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Commuting to the Embassy, 2 hours each way with a 6am departure, is about the worst thing about living here, as far as I can see, as are just pretty terrible traffic conditions

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is largely available, if very expensive. Using your sconsumable allowance is a good idea, but even decent meat is now finding its ways into the stores.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing special.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All dining out is very expensive and can be good...but not especially. I am proud to report that fast food has not hit Haiti yet, except for Dominos --which I have happily boycotted for many years. There's so much bad pizza in this world, we must do what we can to encourage good pizza.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I've never seen the 'cockroaches' others complain over, or anything else troublesome. Except one morning: a wonderfully black, large tarantula was crawling across my floor to my bed.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Only through the Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

About US$10/day for someone not working full-time would be a good rate.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Not very much...there's a gym at the embassy, and a pool. Tennis courts can be found but they expensive, esp. with instructors.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

None, don't bother.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Pretty cheap and good cable.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Creole would be most helpful, but French can get you along. Some people are suggesting in these reports that you can live and work here in English only. but i can't understand why anyone interested...and knowing about living overseas...would suggest that for Haiti?

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Oh, a lot and too many to list.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Well, all of us especially lucky and priviledged folk associated with the grand US Government aren't allowed to take these. They're affordable enough, but really uncomfortable and pretty dangerous, simply because of bad traffic and bad driving.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring a small SUV that you're prepared to have pretty much banged around for a few years.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, about US$80/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

No.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Not so good.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not unless you're involved in development work.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Pretty much business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate, the winds keep the air mostly clear.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Well, most expats are under pretty strict guidance, and for fair reasons. But security is improving now, for the better part of the year.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There are lots of decent doctors and dentists around, but hospitals are very bad. You wouldn't want to get in a bad accident. You can expect some stomach bouts ---but generally we priviledged types are looking pretty healthy to me.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Oh, generally very nice. It can get tropical hot and rain in the evenings.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Well, they aren't particularly 'good', but if you have kids who are under 10, I'd say, 2 years at the American school here would be 'okay' and not 'life-setting' backwards, as others seem to suggest.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Oh, very little here.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, quite a few private, fairly okay preschool facilities are available.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not very much im afraid. It can be a bit on the boring side for younger kids, I can imagine

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, and some are even interesting, beyond the security and embassy crowd.

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2. Morale among expats:

People I know and befriend here LIKE Haiti, as I do, and feel quite happy...or at least 'productive'..living here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Well, pretty limited. There are about 4-8 restaurants people frequent, only about 3-5 'night life'centers, and the 'scene' is not so very inspiring. Unless you get to the 2or 3 real Haitian nightclubs that are just fabulous, I think, with not a white soul in them.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Well, it can be a bit lonely for a single person, with not a lot of places to go to or things to do...very much so. But it is good enough, if you have the strength to get out and battle driving and traffic and finding hard to find places.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No, it isn't. I'm one of few expatriates that saw a gay fashion show, of a type...and it reminded me of the gay scene in the US about 30 years ago, and how uncomfortable people are about 'coming out'. The Kompa music is great, and I find it to be a really 'festive' culture But it's conservative as well.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No, not unless you are particularly -- and unnecessarily -- spooked by voodoo, which is an interesting thing to learn about.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Beaches, drives up in the mountains, a few concerts, dances, .. Cultural events happen but it's very hard to figure out where and when they take place.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Paintings, art, great privately-guided tours for weekends away (but such getaways can cost $3-$400/weekend).

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you're fairly careful about how you spend it.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. If I came to know it much better...and had more confidence in how to arrange what...I could even like to have a part-time retirement place here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Thoughts that Haiti has to be a hardship assignment.

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"The Uses of Haiti" is about the best, short primer on most of it.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"The Uses of Haiti" is about the best, short primer on most of it.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Haiti and Haitians can just be terrific...the poor place is blasted by bad storms, bad luck, and a terrible government...so it can become a bit despairing. But I'm delighted that I got to come here and I wish for others considering this place that hey Really Come...and bring younger children...because it's so wonderful and special and needs positive in-comers.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 02/03/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Africa.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

1.5 hours from Miami, 3 or 4 flights a day!

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work for U.S Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Ok to excellent.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive! Prices are high enough that the COLA should be around 30%, don't know what happened there. Use your consumables allowance plus you can bring back food, meat, etc. in suitcases from Miami.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Favorite toiletries, condiments, car items.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

2 Dominos, a good Lebanese place, a good steak place, and some French places.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

A few cockroaches a year inside the house.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch mail 2 or 3 times a week.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available but spotty in quality so you may go through a couple to get one that's average. Expats pay US$200-250 per month average. Most speak no English.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

A good gym just closed, although I've heard there is another one in the area that's ok.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

CCs at major groceries stores are ok but careful wiht the ATMs.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable just changed from a good package that included the 3 main US networks, 2 CNNs, and a movie channel to a new basic package with no US, no movie, and 1 CNN.Supposedly you can buy additional "packages" in the future.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by with none for restaurants and grocery stores but for anything else you need some.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Too many to list?

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No. Yes.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You don't need four wheel drive but you do need that type of vehicle's clearance and suspension. Buy used or plan on your new one getting scraped up. I doubt if most locals have insurance so if you get hit plan on paying to get it fixed yourself whether it's your fault or not.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but speed can be spotty. US$80 for basic package.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The Embassy gives employees phones but it's hit or miss whether GSO will set up your phone up properly. You can also by your own unlocked phone in the U.S. and get a chip here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I hear there's one vet who is ok and one grooming place.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No, just at the Embassy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

The usual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Port au Prince is rated as having the highest level of fecal matter in the air in the world. It was also rated the fourth dirtiest place in the world in 2008.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

If you're very careful you'll be ok but there are many: Off limits areas, curfews, armored vehicles to and from work. Guards at every house. Kidnappings remain common and include U.S. citizens. An American School teacher was kidnapped from her car one early evening some weeks ago by four armed men and taken away and raped. She didn't manage to escape, and she was let go the following morning. A similar incident happened to an American School teacher about two years prior but most people didn't know as security incidents and statistics aren't reported to Embassy employees.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Lots of eye infections due to the air quality.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Excellent weather in general and the hurricanes do little damage in PaP itself.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American school is mediocre at best. Two families having recently left because of the quality of the school combined with the recent security incidents.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Little or none.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

A very limited after school program.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, if you factor in the UN.

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2. Morale among expats:

Ok to bad, I'd say no one's really happy here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

BBQs, restaurants, group trips to the beach.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is not a good city for families. There is little to do in PaP itself except entertain at home or go to restaurants. There is more to do for singles as ther are a lot of singles here and there is a club scene.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The beaches, or the Dominican Republic.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, your danger pay more than covers the additional food expenses your COLA doesn't cover.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Oh hell no.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations of things being done correctly or on time.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The post report?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The post report?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 12/06/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

1.5 hours or less from Miami, 3 hours from NY.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses and apartments, commute time is pretty bad due to traffic.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Imported goods are very expensive, but local produce is pretty cheap and delicious.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing really.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is a Domino's. LOTS of excellent French restaurants that are actually pretty expensive (NY prices). Very good Lebanese food here too!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Friends going back and forth from the US, DHL.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very affordable and excellent!

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Never had a problem with a credit card. Never used an ATM.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I'm sure they are. Pretty much all churches with a couple of mosques. No synagogues that I saw.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes - there is cable and sat TV from the U.S. and Canada.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It is hard to get around outside of the elite circles without at least French, preferably Creole.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot, the infrastructure is pretty bad.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

American side.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No, but affordable.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

High-clearance 4WD SUV is mandatory.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes - it's satellite or microwave, both of which go out in the rain.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can get a local SIM card here - there is surprisingly good cellphone coverage now, thanks to Digicel.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Phone cards or cellphone.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes - not kennels, but good vet care. Servants can be paid extra to babysit animals.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Pretty formal. This is a French culture and everyone takes great pride in his/her appearance. Don't wear sweatpants to the grocery store, and even going to poverty-stricken areas, dress nicely to show courtesy and respect. After all, they're putting on their best to meet you.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, but not as bad as what people think.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Food poisoning, even from the best restaurants - related more to sanitary issues (E. coli, ciguatella) and food storage/refrigeration. Malaria. Dengue. Many doctors train in the States, Canada, Belgium or France. Good vet care.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Mostly hot, sunny and tropical. Rainy season starting in August and going through November, which makes getting around difficult (it can't just rain, it comes in buckets). December and January are beautifully cool in the evenings.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large - lots of Embassy, UN, NGOs and lots of expat Haitians.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends. You go through highs and lows here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Some great restaurants, lots of great music clubs, but hard to meet people outside of the expat community/elites. Lots of entertaining at home among Haitians (dinner parties, etc).

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

For everyone! Very family-oriented culture but lots of singles there too.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Art galleries, hiking, travel, sports (esp. tennis), dance.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Art, handicrafts (metal work, embroidery/linens, papier-mache), coffee, rum.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, but day to day living can be expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Preconceptions about poverty. There are a lot of rich people here too and the poor here are very proud and self-sufficient.

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3. But don't forget your:

Heart. It is really easy to fall in love with the unique beauty of the country and the kindness of the people, even though life here does get frustrating at times.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Edwidge Dandicat, Graham Greene, Truman Capote (House of Flowers is based on Haiti - he spent quite a lot of time here)

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Edwidge Dandicat, Graham Greene, Truman Capote (House of Flowers is based on Haiti - he spent quite a lot of time here)

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Ghosts of Cite Soleil, The Agronomist.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I loved my time in Haiti. It is a beautiful, special place and I hope anyone who goes there does see all of the good as well as has a healthy grasp of the problems.

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Port Au Prince, Haiti 02/21/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have previously worked in Africa.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Nine months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

About 1.5 hours from Miami and there are four flights a day!

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Author works for the U.S. government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are houses, duplexes, apartments - all ranging from ok to excellent. Maintenance has been horrible but there is a new facilities manager who is doing a great job getting all pending work orders completed -- this makes a huge difference.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everthing is here but very expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

A mediocre Dominos, a great Lebanese place, some good hotel restaurants. The French places are really hit or miss between bad and good on any given night.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and affordable but slooooooooooow and/or lazy.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs but I'd only do it at a bank. You can use credit cards at supermarkets.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need French or Creole but mostly for talking with your maid and/or gardener.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many, many.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No and yes.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Best is a used SUV that you don't mind getting scraped up.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

US$80 for 256 (384?) and average quality.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You buy them here instead of getting them free with a plan but they have cheap models.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

I guess somewhere between unheathly and very unhealthy. Burnging garbage and dust cause problems, including eye irritations. People seem to get sick here a lot but don't know if that's pollution related or not.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, there are areas you can't go to and curfew times as a result to kidnapping concerns. All homes have guards but, since the guards often sleep on the job, you must definitely take an active role in your home security - always lock down and alarm up.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Many I think. A lot of people seem to get sick here.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather is generally good.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Really bad to good, it depends on the section you work in.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Home or restaurants.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

No/No/No.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Leave.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Locally crafted airplane tickets out.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Not now, but maybe in a couple years when there's a shift change at the embassy.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Ghosts of Cite` Soleil.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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