The NBC team I was working with earlier this week took a trip to Corail on Wednesday, which is where they are relocating people from overpopulated tent cities in PAP. To put it lightly, the location sucks. It’s in the middle of absolutely nowhere, about an hour’s drive from the city, and there is NOTHING to do. There’s no shops, no buildings, and no jobs.
But we went to follow-up on a family that we had interviewed two days earlier who had moved there from the Petionville Club tent city. We walked down the gravel-lined alleyway and arrived at their tent where we found a mother and daughter, but no father. “He hates this place, there’s nothing to do, he went to the city to find work,” she told us. I don’t blame him. The whole tent city seems like a lesson in how to make Haitians completely dependent on aid organizations, which seems pretty stupid to me.
But the problem for us as television journalists was showing the vastness of this new tent city, which is located in the middle of a desolate field. There are mountains close by, so the idea was to drive to them and get a wide shot from above. Well, we started driving towards the mountain closest to us and we started to realize it was MUCH farther than we thought. It was almost as if we were trying to get to the nonexistent puddle of water sitting on the road on a hot day which looks like it’s right there, but you never actually drive over it.
We realized that the shot might be impossible so we decided to turn around and head back when an interesting idea popped into my head. A soldier with the Army Corp of Engineers was steamrolling a road right in front of us, and the roof of his steamroller might give us the elevation we needed for the shot. I told our driver to stop the car, asked everyone to hold on a second, and in true Tiananmen Square fashion ran towards the elephant-sized steamroller with my arms frantically waving in the air.
He killed the engine and calmly asked, “What’s up?”
“Can we use your steamroller?” I responded while trying to catch my breath, “We’re trying to get a shot of the tent camp down there and your roof would be perfect.” I thought for sure there was no way he was going to say yes, but clearly the Army Corp of Engineers are a lot cooler than the tank drivers in China, as he responded, “Sure, where do you want it?”
I pointed to the top of the hill, about 100 yards away, and he started the engine and drove. I ran back to the cars and the team looked at me in disbelief, “What are we going to do with that?” they asked incredulously. “We’re going to get on the roof of the steamroller and get the shot,” I said, thinking that it seemed pretty obvious to me. The cameraman, Ned, is a pretty chill guy, so he looked at me and said, “it’s worth a try…”
While it was no mountain, Ned made it work and we got the shot we needed. He jumped off the steamroller, we thanked the soldier with an ice-cold Coke, and we parted ways, now having the unique ability to say that we have used a steamroller as a riser for a tripod (in Haiti). Beat that!