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Day 2

February 28, 2011

I slept longer than I intended, missing the morning prayer meeting.  I have no sense of time here.  And I had very little sleep on the Las Vegas to Miami flight the previous night.  I was awakened by Olivia, Chris and Leslie’s 3-year-old Haitian daughter, at my door looking for me.

Yonese, the housemaid, prepared me a simple but delicious breakfast of pancakes.  In her long dress and straw hat with a wide white ribbon, she floats about the house attending to her work in a decidedly unhurried way.  Her face is calm with just the tiniest hint of a smile, behind which I sense great strength.  She is a picture of elegance and grace, and would in my opinion make a remarkable subject for a painting.

Chris and Leslie spent the morning telling me how they now see me fitting into Clean Water for Haiti’s operations.  My primary assignment is to learn Kreyol (the preferred spelling).  I will also work with them doing whatever is needed until they are able to purchase land for the new operational site in a more welcoming and safer community.  Then I will supervise construction of the workshop and the Rolling’s house.  Operations will then be moved and we will continue with construction of staff and visitor housing.  It is foreseen that this will take at least two years.  By that time I should be fluent in Kreyol and able to take on a larger roll.  In the short term I will be responsible for operations when Chris returns to Canada for the birth of their son in August.

After lunch Chris took me up on the roof of their house to show me his collection of plants and trees started in pots — mangoes, pineapple, guava, papaya, dragon fruit, tamarind, passion fruit, egg fruit.  Considering the poor soil he is working with, he is doing very well.  He also showed me the solar hot water system and the raised cisterns that provide the head for the gravity-powered pressure system.  He explained how the solar electrical system works; it is no lightweight system; their workers run a welder with it.  There is also a diesel generator for backup.

In the yard I noticed things I had missed yesterday.  There are coconut palms and calabash trees.  A huge philodendron has climbed the wall of my house.  Chris and I traded information about it:  he didn’t know what it was but he knew it grew wild here.  We then knocked down some mangoes with the aid of a 20-foot stick wielded from the balcony.  My efforts to catch them were pathetic, but most survived the fall.  They tasted incredible, so much better than any I had eaten in Canada.

After another young missionary couple and their 5 children stopped in for a short visit Chris told me to go and do whatever I wanted for the afternoon.  My plans were immediately altered by Olivia who showed up at my door complete with books for me to read to her.  She has already mastered some of the games on my iPhone and really likes Angry Birds.  That kept her busy enough that I could look at some of the documents Chris had given me to read.

I am beginning to get a hint of some of the difficulties of working here.  Many people from Canada and the US expect those who work here to behave as though they were working at home.  They are not.  This is Haiti and life here is lived by different rules.  Many Haitians view those who come to work here as exploiters rather than helpers.  We are “blan,” whites.  We have access to money and power that they do not.  Helping is difficult.  If you help one, another is jealous and resentful.  Those resentments can fester and become dangerous.  Almost all the missionaries here, I am told, can tell personal stories of Haitians lashing out at them in a variety of ways.  Unfortunately it is most often the Haitians who choose to work with the missions that bear the brunt of the attacks.

Clean Water’s security staff are very diligent in making sure we are safe.  This afternoon as I sat on the porch reading I would occasionally look up to see the guard watching over me, shotgun slung over his shoulder, unobtrusive but always there.  Whenever anyone walked past on the beach, he would step forward to make his presence apparent, his eyes never leaving them until they were at a considerable distance.  I would prefer if the security was unnecessary, but the reality is that this is Haiti and as I mentioned earlier, the rules are different here.  It is totally unreasonable to expect the police to protect you in any way.

The air was less hazy today and I could see the outline of Goneve Island, 14 miles from the mainland.  As I read I also got acquainted with one of my house lizards, a little anole about 4 inches long that had taken on the soft greenish brown of the planter in which it had been foraging for insects.  It was very interested in me but showed no fear, allowing me to get within inches of it as it enjoyed the sun.

As I end my day to the gentle lapping of Caribbean waves, the chirp of crickets and the muffled conversation of the two night guards, I find myself again marveling at the enigma that is Haiti.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 28, 2011 10:32 pm

    Barry, thanks for sharing your experiences in Haiti. You write well and it helps imagine being right there having a coffee with you (and your lizard friend). Keep them coming!

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