West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Lights On, Lights Off

On my recent trip to Haiti, I was attending a Governing Board meeting at the Servotel, a hotel located very conveniently across the street from the Port au Prince airport.  So I decided to book my room there, rather than at Eucalyptus Guest House.  I am very fond of this guest house and its owners, but for practical purposes I figured it would be easier to stay at the hotel where the board meetings were to be held.  Not to mention the challenges of navigating Port au Prince traffic. A ten minute trip can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on whether it’s market day or a national holiday, or other random factors completely unpredictable.  And whether the driver can find the tiny road to the guest house in the dark, with directions only from yours truly.  My lack of navigational skills is legendary. 

The Servotel is built out of shipping containers, they say.  It is a lovely hotel with a pool and patio area surrounded by almond trees and has the standard hotel bar and restaurant.  The only hint that shipping containers have been joined together is the small groove in the carpet under your feet when you step from the hall into your room.  Otherwise it looks like a solid, single building to me, if the geometry is rather stark and rectangular.  They even have a decorative fountain in an outside courtyard, with turtles and carp in the pond.  An unexpected piece of beauty.

Being in a hotel, one counts on a few certainties.  The plumbing will work, the electricity will stay on, the lights will work.  And I must say that was mostly true at the Servotel.  However, my first night I remembered that hotel or no, I was still in Haiti.

My room had a nice queen size comfy bed, a couch, 2 bedside tables and a desk, a TV, a closet with hangers, a bathroom with actual towels and Kleenex and small sample bottles of shower gel and shampoo.  Those of you who have been on one of our medical service trips to Haiti will understand how marvelous all these things can be. The AC worked, in fact it was a constant 63 degrees which I couldn’t seem to adjust despite the illusion of pushing the up arrows and watching the screen say 72 degrees.  That number had no bearing on the actual temperature in the room.

There was a light switch by the door which toggles up and down. UP gives you light inside the closet and the front part of the room by the door.  DOWN gives you light over the couch, desk and TV.  You can have one or the other but not both at the same time.  So unpacking your clothes from your suitcase, you can either see inside your suitcase or see inside the closet.


Toggle switch DOWN – grab shirt from suitcase, then toggle switch UP- hang shirt in closet.  Repeat.

Then, upon retiring, it’d be nice to have a light to read by- Great!  There is a bedside table with its own lamp.  But the switch doesn’t work. No wait.  There’s no bulb in the lamp.  Of course.  So you use your flashlight, which is standard gear for anyone traveling to Haiti.  Then when you want to turn out ALL the lights to go to sleep – NOPE- you can leave the toggle switch UP to light the front part of the room plus closet, or DOWN to light the couch and TV.  There is no OFF.


On my return flight to the US, I remembered that I left something behind in the hotel room.  Remember that closet?  Well, if you don’t turn the light on when packing your clothes, you don’t see the mesh laundry bag with your dirty underwear hanging in the back of the closet.  Sigh. 

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