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Rain Is Grace

May 27, 2011

God is gracious.  Our rainy season has arrived at last.  It rained on Monday and Tuesday nights, and Thursday morning dawned with the sweet smell of rain in the air and a heavy overcast that soon condensed into a warm drizzle dripping from the palm fronds and rolling off the banana leaves.  Weather here is extremely localized, and although areas around us have been enjoying rain for some time, up until the last few days we had none.

American author William Lyon Phelps wrote, “If I were running the world I would have it rain only between 2 and 5 a.m. Anyone who was out then ought to get wet.”  Apparently Haitians agree with him.  Yonese was grumbling Thursday that it’s not supposed to be raining in the morning (I am told this is indeed rare here) and there was a mini-revolt by some of the installation crew about working in the rain.  I love the rain.  It’s warmer than my morning shower most days.

Many expect that the rains will give rise to a spike in cholera cases.  Every water sample that Ashley tested from the wide area she has covered has shown evidence of at least some cholera bacteria.  Not even our own well is unaffected.  We will have to await her return to Duke University for her to have access to the testing equipment necessary  to determine quantitative results, but she has indicated that she is sure that some of the samples will produce high Vibrio cholerae counts.

Rain in Haiti is almost synonymous with flooding.  Widespread deforestation has severely decreased the land’s ability to retain water, so most of the rain becomes run-off, often with devastating results.  Attempts are being made to mitigate the damage from future flooding.  I have personally seen a great deal of work being put into improving drainage, particularly the construction of rock and concrete drainage canal walls and concrete-lined ditches.  Often these are being built in areas that bear the scars of extreme erosion from past years.

It interests me to observe how our news media operates now.  Apparently an NGO issued a news release early in May expressing concerns about a resurgence of cholera.  Immediately every media outlet grabbed that release and edited it, added a little commentary, or simply posted it verbatim.  Little actual reporting or research was undertaken.

But I guess that’s how things work.  I suppose this blog is a micro-example of news reporting.  I post my impressions of what I personally witness and what I glean from trusted sources, and since you trust me (or am I being overly optimistic?), you accept what I report and probably pass some of what you read on to others.  For my readers, verifying much of what I post is at best very difficult, and often impossible.

                                         For me, the future of journalism is blogging.

                                                                                        – Mary Jo Foley

I have not made a habit of checking the statistics on my blog, but Leslie’s mention that she does this from time to time led me to take a look.  I launched my blog on February 2nd, not quite four months ago.  (It seems much longer to me.)  To date it has been viewed over 1300 times.  May 2nd, the day of my return to Haiti, readership picked up and has been consistently higher than prior to that date.   Half the total visits have occurred since that time.  I know that some of my readers do not show up in my blog stats.  I am aware that there is a group in Manitoba that has developed its own system for keeping up with me: printouts of my posts are being circulated.

I read somewhere that if you don’t blow your own trumpet someone else will spit in it, so here goes  some shameless self-promotion.  One of my goals in writing this blog is to create posts that are interesting and relevant to my readers.  In short I hope to write something you want to read.  Moreover, I want to write posts you will encourage others to read.  I get a fair number of e-mails forwarding items that strike a chord with one of my friends and therefore they want to share with me.  Often I do find those items enjoyable and I appreciate my friend thinking of me.  (Other times I wish I hadn’t come to mind at that moment.) So if you find what I write entertaining or informative or whatever, and can think of someone who might also enjoy it, forward my blog address to them.

I successfully completed my first major Haitian driving assignment on Thursday.  Chris drove me to Port-au-Prince where our newer delivery truck was waiting, transmission repairs completed (almost).  After Chris adjusted the shifter linkage to make the truck more drivable, I picked up a load of steel that he purchased on our way in, and drove it back to Pierre Payen.  I only got lost once, and that was minor; I was on the right street, but I hadn’t gone far enough.  Once I left the steel dealer it was smooth sailing.  The fact that the steel was tied to the headache rack with binder twine was a bit unsettling, but it stayed put.

For a short but fairly accurate video of driving in Port-au-Prince, click on this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YC4uVRjW0YU

I found the 2009 Mitsubishi Fuso Canter FG83 4×4 comfortable to drive considering the condition of the roads in the Port area.  It is highly maneuverable and the 3L turbo diesel is responsive enough to zip around the tap-taps with ease. The 5-speed dash-mounted shifter has the look and feel of a small car stick.  The roomy cab-over design with plenty of glass provides more than enough visibility to keep an eye out for chasmal potholes, inattentive pedestrians, kamikaze motorcyclists and wayward goats.  Thirty-four filters fit nicely on the 4m tray top; the drop sides make for easier loading and unloading.  Although it’s not the largest thing on the road, the Canter is big enough to benefit from Haiti’s “the biggest vehicle has the right of way” rule in most cases.  The roof-mounted horns Chris installed give ample voice to Haiti’s language of the road.

Today was a special event at Clean Water for Haiti, something that Chris hosts from time to time.  Our workers were let off before noon and they and our promoters (those who get us orders for our filters) were invited to join us for the afternoon.  It is a time to express our appreciation for all they do to help Clean Water operate successfully.  We all gathered on my patio, getting to know each other a little better and discussing some of the issues around promoting our filters.  Feast followed socialization.  Yonese and Julie had been working since early morning to prepare some spectacular food—a huge pot of rice and beans of course, with a savoury sauce to ladle over the top, fried chicken, potato salad, Yonese’s fiery pikliz (Haitian spicy pickled vegetables), fresh vegetables, bannann fri (fried plantains) and soft drinks.  Everyone had more than his or her fill.

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I cooked up a mess of these little cuties for supper on Wednesday.  Lionfish have become a serious problem in the Caribbean.  Half a dozen of them escaped into the Atlantic in 1992 when hurricane Andrew smashed their aquarium tank in Florida.  Since then lionfish have undergone a population explosion and are preying heavily on native species.  So I thought I’d do my part for the local aquatic environment by eating as many of them as possible.  They’re delicious!

I’ve learned there are over 140 varieties of mangoes.  Reportedly those from Haiti are the best in the world.  Only one variety however, the Mme. Francis, is exported.  It is very good, but it is not the best.  The Baptist is the pièce de résistance.  However the USDA has not as yet given Haiti permission to export it.  (Why should Haiti have to ask for US permission?)  We regularly enjoy a number of local varieties, some of which we pick from trees in our yard.  Even the very stringy kinds are very tasty; they just take a little more effort to enjoy.  Besides, they’re a good stand-in for dental floss.

Most pests I can tolerate.  Even whatever had been chewing me up I can put up with to a degree. (By the way, I seem to have found the answer to that problem; no new bites for a couple of days.  Either it was having the house sprayed or bathing in insect repellent that did the trick.)  But there are a few forms of pestilence that get my goat.  My current pet peeve is ants.  My kitchen is teeming with them.  Not big ones, but those teeny, almost microscopic vermin that traverse my walls in writhing columns like guerrilla armies on the march.   Upon finding even the smallest speck of food the point men call for reinforcements.  I don’t like to use insecticides in my kitchen, but I can’t think of any other alternative.  And it’s not like I can whip down to the hardware store and browse through the pest control shelf.  I’m sure some of you have some “home remedies” for this problem, and if you do I’d like to hear about it.

Speaking of getting my goat, Yonese brought me a big chunk of  kabrit from the market on Thursday, so I guess I will be whipping up some curried goat this weekend.

It’s evening and the wind has just risen suddenly, slamming my hurricane shutters closed.  A paradiddle begins on my roof.  We are being graced with rain again.

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