Saturday, April 08, 2006

Haitian life

Normal life in Haiti is what I find truly astonishing. All those things I take for granted like clean water, a full fridge, light and hot water - most haitians live without. Still, with all the hardship and apparent misery, they keep on living, making do with what they have.

job description

Hmmmmmm, which part of my job do I love?

normal abnormality


It's all about the wait

I think this will become somewhat of a regular occurrence - me apologizing for the lengthy delay between posts. Chalk it up to interminable technical difficulties and plain ol' laziness.

In any case....

For the few of you that still bother to check this site for updates, I'll give you the low down. Haiti is in what I consider to be the "honeymoon" phase, the wait and see what the new government's going to do. Since the elections, things have been quiet. Personally I've been relishing it. As you know, the elections were a touch busy for me, so now I'm trying to recoup and put back some of the dozen pounds I dropped during all the fun.

There have been touches of excitement and insanity. Haiti's Carnival was one of them - two, actually, since they it ran on two separate weekends in two separate cities. The first weekend in the beach town of Jacmel was smaller but more costly. Everyone I knew who went had something stolen off them. I included. Luckily it was only cash - $450 - but at least I didn't have my passport and credit cards pickpocket. I have to say they were quite skilled. Granted it couldn't have been too hard consider the intense crush of bodies in the streets.
On the next weekend in Port au Prince, more than a hundred thousand people turned up each of the three nights for the spectacle. During the early afternoon, performers dressed in multitudes of colourful costumes sang and danced their way along the route. People in stands and on the street cheered them along. When night fell, though, is when all the lunacy commenced. Trucks decorated and sporting massive speakers, blasted along trailing swarming masses of people who jostled, pushed kicked and smacked each other in their attempts to stay with the music.
The first night I waded through the throng, giving as good as I got, but by the third night my age got the better of me and I spent it in a stand overlooking the fun. But here's what blew my mind. At 4 in the morning, as we drove back up the hill to Petion Ville where I live, we kept passing people who were running home. Running! They'd just spent the entire day jumping, dancing, singing and fighting through crowds and here they were running home. Uphill! Man if Haiti ever gets its act together and gets some people in the Olympics, those long distance runners better just hang up their cleats and call it a career.

Other than that, like I said, things are quiet. The kidnappings have dropped to maybe one a day. We don't even hear about it anymore. The gangs are quiet, waiting to see what the president-elect, who they supported so strongly, will do. The UN is working on the second round of elections that will decide the Parliament and Mayoral landscape and the Haitians are still living day to day, getting by.

The only big news I have for you lately is my purchase of a motorcycle. I guess I haven't been shot at lately so I needed to go out and do something absurdly dangerous. Let me just say that after a week or so of negotiating my way through the streets of Port au Prince I have come to the realization that dodging bullets is much safer than dodging Tap Taps. Have I mentioned Tap Taps? The bane of my existence here in Haiti? If not, they are pickup trucks done up with canopies over the bed, loaded down with up to 20 people and missing fundamental necessities like lights, mirrors, brakes. The drivers of these jalopies have one thing in common; they all firmly believe that they are the only person on the road. It is normal for them to go from the left lane to the right lane only to pull an immediate, blind U-turn. It makes for a very interesting trip to the grocery store. The only saving grace is that the roads and traffic is so bad that it's almost impossible to get up to terminal speed. Almost.....