Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Book-seller, the Entrepreneur, and the Policeman





This weekend we worked with Solomon, founder of Ecole Shalom, to find some affordable books for the kids. There was some concern that the current books are too expensive and only a few of the parents were buying. We also wanted to know what was in the curriculum, so we could get the right activities and content on the laptops. We traveled to Petionville, a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, to meet the bookseller.





Tony and Solomon got in line behind the many eager parents at this place; Adam and I were behind 30 more customers at a store down the road. As it worked out, Tony got many language books and Adam got mostly math and science books, so we got a good representative sample.



At another point in the weekend, Adam and I met with COSMHA mapper Clemson in downtown Port-au-Prince. Clemson is interested in OpenStreetMap's existing map of bus routes. He explained that he regularly travels between Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien (a city on the northern coast), but he doesn't know where to find the bus to Jacmel (a city on the southern coast). If we produced a map of reliable bus routes, there would be obvious value for foreigners and locals alike. Since OpenStreetMap data is free, Adam and Clemson settled on the idea of Haitian artists creating a unique and appealing map that could be sold on the street.

When we were done in Port-au-Prince, we took a series of tap-tap buses home. Unfortunately the last driver tried to raise his price 8 times during the trip and ended up arguing with Solomon over a matter of 8 USD. We were across the road from the police station, so the driver insisted on resolving the dispute there. We were dismayed by this turn of events. I was thinking something like this:

Logo: Locked Up Abroad - National Geographic

Through some process that I don't understand, the policeman determined that we owed the money and that we could pay a friend of the policeman to drive us the rest of the way. This was unacceptable so we found a bus going in the right direction. Crisis avoided! We went home and ate the cookies we'd bought in Petionville.

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