R.E.M- The Great Beyond

After 31 years and just six months after the release of their 15th studio album, R.E.M has called it a day. Like most of their career they did it with little fanfare - an announcement on their website with Michael (Stipe), Mike (Mills), and Peter (Buck) leaving some parting words. As a classic rock junkie, this is new territory for me. I've never had a favorite band dis-band.

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Haiti- First Impressions

The first sights of Port-au-Prince (PaP) are not pretty. Unlike Cairo or Lima where I flew into the city well after dark obscuring everything until morning, I arrived in PaP under blue skies and a bright sun. And unlike other cities situated on the beach, there is not hotel after hotel lining the sand. Nope, the first sights of PaP as you near touch down are shanty towns.

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Destination: Haiti
10.31.2011 10:00PM
Over the course of 2+ years at my job, I've had the opportunity to travel quite extensively. While its all been domestic and not quite exotic (Washington DC, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Nashville, Tulsa, Omaha, etc.) it is one (of many) aspect I really enjoy about my job. But a new travel opportunity has arose and its international and exotic. The destination is Haiti, specifically Port-au-Prince. I like to consider myself a world traveler (as time and money allow) but there are certain places I would never realistically considering traveling. Haiti is such a place. So it is with great interest I look forward to my trip to the western half of Hispaniola, well beyond the usual architecture and preservation aspects.

Haiti and in particular Port-au-Prince, is home to the architecturally distinct Gingerbread Houses. Named such because they look, well, like Gingerbread Houses. And since the devestating earthquake of January 2010 the Gingerbread Houses have been at increased risk of destruction and loss. Shortly after the earthquake a colleague I work extensively with, has been helping document and assess the condition of the Gingerbread Houses. Now its time to put all that hard work to use.

I don't know all the details of the work to be completed during my visit, but it involves creating a restoration plan for one of the houses in order to help local firms jumpstart the necessary work. In a way we are going to "teach the people how to fish." The only way the Gingerbreads are going to be saved is to have the local Haitian population undertake the work. So on November 13 I head to Port-au-Prince to spend a week helping save just a single Gingerbread House but with the hopes that with some help and direction the people of Haiti can preserve an integral part of their country's history. Too much bad has already come out of the 2010 earthquake, losing the Gingerbread Houses shouldn't be another.

For more information about the Gingerbread Houses, including the report my colleague worked on with the World Monuments Fund, check out the following links:

Preserving Haiti's Gingerbread Houses: 2010 Earthquake Mission Report
TIME Photos: Haiti's Gingerbread Houses
Architectural Record: Haiti's Gingerbread Houses Focus of Preservation Efforts

My colleague is Stephen Kelley and you'll see his name pop up a few times in those links.
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