Haiti earthquake diary: A trip to the US Embassy

The soft green grass, swimming pool, barbecue pit, and heat lamps all feel a bit surreal compared to life outside the gates, but I like what Ambassador Ken Merten has to say.

Julie Jacobson/AP
A crowd gathers outside the US Embassy hoping for a chance at attaining travel visas to enter the United States in Port-au- Prince, Haiti, Jan. 22.

Saturday, Jan. 30

The US ambassador to Haiti, Ken Merten, has agreed to an interview with our PBS crew. Although I’d prefer to spend the day out on the streets with the Haitian people, there’s some value in hearing what the ambassador has to say. And, I have to admit, I’m kind of curious what the inside of the highly fortified compound looks like now.

It looks like the United States, of course.

Green grass – soft, green grass. A swimming pool, complete with a locker room, showers, and a lap lane.

There is also a barbecue pit, heat lamps, floodlights, an intercom loudspeaker. It's all a bit surreal, compared with life outside the gates.

Merten is an old Haiti hand, having been posted here twice in the past 22 years, the first time in the late 1980s. I suspect that at some point back then our paths crossed, though I can’t say for certain.

Today he’s dressed casually: Izod polo shirt, grayish-brown slacks, loafers.

In order to get the best light for the interview, our cameraman puts him in the sun. Merten doesn’t sweat. The ultimate diplomat.

He doesn’t say anything new, nor does he say anything that gets me worked up. But I like that he says that the Haitian government has its own ideas about things and is very clear in articulating them; some suggestions they take from the US, others they don’t. That sounds right to me.

He’s also another advocate of building Haiti back better than it was before the quake.

If enough people say it, maybe it will be so.

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