How does your Cell Phone Work?
Almost no one in Haiti has a credit card, but almost everyone has a cell phone. So how do you create this system?
There are two rival cell phone companies in Haiti, Digicell and Natcom (think AT&T and Verizon). It is incredibly inexpensive to text/call within your own network, but the prices are much higher to call someone on a different network. Therefore, you will often see people with two cell phones, one Natcom and one Digicell.
Picture of a PapadapI took from the Internet :)
When you want to add money to your cell phone, you walk out on street and look for a person with a red vest that say “Papadap” on it. Here in Leogane, you can’t throw a stone without hitting one of these guys. You hand him however much money you want to put on your phone + 10% and he sends you minutes from his phone. It has not caught on as much here in Haiti yet, but in other developing countries, cell phone credit is increasingly being used as an almost credit card: you buy a goat by sending minutes to the vendor.
Cell phone coverage is incredibly inexpensive and on a pay-per-use basis. I probably pay about $8 a month for hours of air time and nearly unlimited texting.
How does electricity work?
The Haitian power company cannot make enough electricity for its customers, and that is before you take into account the plentiful illegal wire splitting. The result is frequent, many hour long power outages. This changes life significantly. I remember explaining the idea of “Leftovers Night” to someone. They were very confused because you certainly wouldn't trust a fridge to keep food here for multiple days!
We are spoiled at the school with a generator that we can run a couple of hours a day and an inverter, which is basically a large battery pack, that we can use to keep a limited number of devices operating when the power goes out.
How does food shopping work?
The market, again taken from Google Images
Again, I am spoiled that most of my meals are made for me in the cafeteria and the extent of my shopping is for snacks. There are no grocery stores outside of the well-to-do portions of major cities. Instead, you do all of your shopping in the market, meaning you are hauling your chickens and skinned goats around a hot, buggy area without the wheelie carts (or space to wheel anything) that I would take to a farmers market back home. When you buy things like oil or flour, they will be poured from a large container into a smaller plastic bottle (usually a recycled water of Coke bottle) or a pink-striped plastic bag. Markets are largely dominated by women, who do both the buying and the selling. While the big market days in Leogane are Wednesday and Saturday, you can buy stuff there any day.