Haiti's roosters a little off on timing

February 6, 2010 7:17:44 AM PST
ABC11 Anchor Larry Stogner, Digital Journalist Mat Mendez and Photojournalist Dave Anderson blog from Haiti, while embedded with the 82nd Airborne. 02/05/10: "We've got roosters around here...but their timing's a little off"

By: Mat Mendez

We were given fair warning as we went to sleep late last night on the grounds of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince.

There could be a few unwelcome guests overnight.

Sure we expected the usual...mosquitoes, flies, more flies, and even a friendly stray dog or two.

But life started getting interesting when we saw some serious pest control happening around our cots.

And then this gem from one of the soldiers who for the time being calls this ruined palace home: "We've got roosters around here. They'll usually (usually?!) leave you alone. But trust me on this: their timing's a little off."

A word of advice: trust soldiers when they warn you about something.

From about 2am forward, the roosters did show and so too did they crow.

As you can imagine, it did not make for the greatest night's sleep.

I mention this not to complain, but to illustrate a point. The soldiers of the 82nd Airborne deal with the same conditions every night - and they're here a lot longer than we are.

The people of Haiti now have it far worse. And it's what they call home.

We spent the first part of our morning at a 6am rice distribution, at which the soldiers of C "Charlie" company were providing security.

Only women are allowed to partake at this stage of the recovery, for fear men will be overly aggressive or sell their meal tickets on the black market.

The line went all the way down the block along the side of the National Palace, and was for the most part orderly. Music was even blasting through the streets, which seemed to have a calming effect.

More than 700 bags were distributed in just over an hour. And afterwards, it was a much needed chow time for the soldiers (and a few ABC 11 employees as well).

The break was short-lived though, as the company soon moved out to a local school that partially collapsed in the quake. There - at an area previously untouched by the U.S. military - they oversaw yet another food distribution.

Here, pregnant women were brought to the front of the line, to prevent them from having to wait in the heat.

At this point, I split off from Larry and Dave - to shoot a couple of interesting local connections to this disaster.

And along the way, even more amazing sites. A haircut in the middle of a street. The young girls carrying more weight on their heads than I could in my arms.

And the biggest dichotomy of them all...the still-standing Porsche dealership, with brand new six-figure vehicles sitting inside.

Indeed, before the quake, Port-au-Prince was a city full of division - between the "haves" and the "have nots," as our driver put it.

But now, there are the "hads" and the "still have nots."

Everyone needs help. And the military units of the world have come together to make sure all people here have equal access to the basic essentials of survival.

Click here to read about ABC11 arriving back in Haiti on Thursday.

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