Saturday, August 05, 2006
There's a saying in Haiti that 90 per cent of the people practice Christianity and 100 per cent practice Voodoo.
In the space of three weeks I attended two voodoo festivals, one in Seau D'eau, three hours from Port au Prince in the interior, with an impressive waterfall and the second in Plaine du Nord, in the, uh, north, featuring a mud bath. Covering any voodoo festival is interesting and exhausting. Along with all the practitioners, the ceremonies bring out the beggars, thieves and pickpockets. When your not taking pictures and trying not to fall in the water or mud, you're grabbing hands that are diving in your pockets and bags and threatening people with a death worse than any sacrifice. And there's always the smell. That is something beyond description that must be experienced to be understood.
Ah, well, another long absence. There's either too much going on leaving me no time to post or else there's nothing going on and nothing to post. In any case, as a quick update for all of you, Haiti remains an enigma and an impossible country to break down into manageable and understandable bites. Mostly things around the country are quiet and have been quiet since the elections back in February. There are, however, occasional piles of flaming shit that launch out of one cesspool or another, splatting on the face of those that think things are rosey.
Last week an entire neighbourhood of was forced to flee their homes because rival gangs were having it out. That in itself is not uncommon, but one gang decided that in retribution for some earlier grievance they would assassinate the families of members of the rival gang. Then one side or the other (and it makes no difference which, they're all fuckwits) decided to burn down peoples homes. The result was at least a thousand people loading whatever they could carry onto their heads and walking for hours to some safer place. 300 plus of these people, mostly women and children , ended up in a Baptist church compound. There is no food or water for them and no sanitary or cooking facilities, even if they had anything to cook or water to clean with. The people running the church claimed they called the government numerous times but received no responce. The Red Cross, World Food Program and Yele Haiti have all donated aid, but it takes more than they have to feed 300 plus people a day. I will be back there this week to see if anything has changed.
In Cite Soleil the gangs have decided that they've waited long enough for the new president to revitalise their neighbourhood and have called for Operation Baghdad to recomence. Three Brazilian peacekeepers were shot a few weeks ago when they foolishly decided to do a foot recon of an abandned neighbourhood school. The gangs figured the UN was trying to establish another base and were having none of it. Naturally a lively firefight broke out, leaving at least 5 civilians injured and at least one woman who was working at the market dead. Her daughter showed up shortly after I arrived on the scene. Needless to say, it was heartbreaking to watch the realization dawn on the daughters face that the motionless body on the ground was her mother.
And the day before yesterday, a family that owns a bakery a block for my apartment was ambushed in their car by two men on a motorcycle. The bastards simply rode up beside the family and opened up killing the 2 year old boy and fataly injuring the father. The mother survived with only minor injuries and aside from lifelong trauma, the daughter was uninjured. This all happened about a block and a half from my place on a road I regularly travel. Rumor has it, it was a retaliatory attack. Word has it that a year ago, the father decided to hire security guards for the front of his store to curb the incessant kidnappings that went on in the street in front of his place. At the time it was successful. Arrests were made and a few wannabe kidnappers were given a direct, do not pass go and collect $200 pass to the firey gates of hell. Success, I guess, is hard to measure in the Karma cup. Good for some is inevitably bad for others. And those who feel they've been wronged have a much longer memory. In this case, they waited a year, then served up their revenge ice cold.
And in the midst of all this, Mr Secretary general of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, decides to stop in for a little visit. Due to plane troubles in New York, his two day tour was cut to one - which, for all our sakes, was a blessing. One day of security guards pushing us around was more than enough, thank you. So what came of this visit? No really, can someone please write me and tell me what the fuck it was all about? I mean, really, you would think that with all the shit storms brewing in the middle east and the rest of the world that the head of our Global Peacekeeping organization would have more pressing concerns than traipsing off to a country that has neither nuclear arms, chemical weapons, rockets, tanks or any ambition to invade anywhere (not that they could even if they wanted to). I'm trying to come up with some pithy line to sum it all up, but I'm at a loss. Consider this an interactive blog and you can finish it off however you see fit.