If hustle and bustle could be converted to currency, Haiti would be one of the wealthiest nations in the world instead of being a perennial contender for poorest country in the western hemisphere. It's mid-afternoon and a steady stream of buses, tap-taps, motorcycles, and trucks rattle and honk their way past the woodworking shop where I'm standing. The building is slightly larger than a decent sized bedroom in the U.S. and it's pretty much chock full of wood pieces and furniture in various stages of completion. The structure is made of corrugated tin nailed to a minimalist framework. There are sizable gaps between the sides of the workshop and the roof, which is by design. Without these, the combination of the Haitian heat and metal exterior would turn the place into a large oven.
As it is, I've already sweated through my clothes and the evening breeze that precedes the storms this time of year can't come fast enough. The owner of the shop and his three helpers are busy cutting and sanding pieces for what will be a very attractive cabinet. The building is close enough to the road that the traffic sounds drown out the woodworking noise, which seems strange until I notice there is no electricity in the shop and no generator in sight. Everything is done by hand and the finished pieces appear to be as nicely constructed and finished as they are heavy.
The owner stops working long enough to show me around and through my translator, Junior, he talks me through his construction process. The fellows doing the sanding seem to welcome my presence, though I suspect it's because my arrival has given them a much-deserved break. I think the image of the owner shows someone who is confident in his abilities. He knows he's good. As much as I like that photo, I prefer the one of his helper's sawdust covered hands. It tells you all you need to know about this enterprise. The only thing that is missing is a sign above the door in Creole that said, "Yesterday was the only easy day this week."