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A Bit of This, a Bit of That

February 16, 2012

As I rode home tonight with the wind in my face, my mind harkened back to cruising down the highway in the back seat of a ’67 Camaro SS ragtop.  The tap tap’s bench was only slightly harder than the Camaro’s seat and the tap tap had a lot more legroom.

After getting off the tap tap I noticed an adaptation to living here.  I had forgotten my phone at home today, and since it also serves me as my flashlight (almost every phone sold here features a flashlight), I was quite literally in the dark.  Moonrise won’t be until nearly 3AM (I take note of such things here as they have become important to my life), so the evening was pretty black.  But my night vision has improved somewhat I believe, and I was able to comfortably navigate my way down my road, feel around to find a stick to trip the latch on the inside of my gate through the little hole I assume was cut for that purpose (I keep meaning to make a tool for this as someone always takes my sticks), make my way between the trees in my yard without doing a face-plant into any of them, and unlock my door padlocks, all without light.  I find I also use lights less and less in my house.  I am just careful to put things I may need during the long night (sunset before 6PM and total darkness within minutes remember) in their proper place so I can locate them in the dark, and not leave things where they may send me sprawling.

Another thing I have learned is to walk “loose kneed” so that the frequent irregularities in the roads don’t throw me off balance and cause me to fall.  But I still have not mastered the skill of maintaining my balance when the tap tap in which I am riding accelerates or brakes suddenly.  I still occasionally find myself suddenly in someone’s lap.

I am having an interesting problem that I am told a lot of women would die for.  The medication in one of the eye drops I use for my glaucoma stimulates eyelash growth.  The problem is that my lashes have gotten so long I have great difficulty keeping my glasses clean.

My water came back on Tuesday, but the supply has been sporadic, rarely full pressure, at times a trickle, and usually non-existent.  But I have found ways to cope, mainly by drawing water from my neighbour’s well.  A water storage tank might be a wise investment at some point, although my neighbours would probably help themselves if there were no water supply.  They frequently come to my yard to fill their water buckets, do their laundry or shower as it is, sometimes bringing a lunch and making a day of it.  Here sharing what you have is an expectation.

I am struggling to complete a variety of projects in my house, always running into a problem that has become familiar to me here:  trying to find what I need is often exasperating.  An excellent example has been the drain line on my kitchen sink.  Friends in Canada had purchased a drain kit (among other things) for me while I was there, and I had purchased a p-trap.  But I needed about 3” of pipe to connect them to the existing line.  Although the pipe is readily available in 20-foot lengths, despite extensive searching over a couple of weeks I could not find a short piece.  I would have been quite willing to purchase a few feet, but twenty was a bit much.  Finally on one of my frequent strolls through Saint-Marc’s market I spotted a stub of pipe sticking out of a pile of used plastic pipefittings and was able to purchase it for a few cents.  Smashing the tee into which it was glued left me with what I needed, and I was able to dispense with my “slop pail”.

My kitchen is coming together.  The counters are in place and I am working on finishing touches as I have time and materials.  The sink is installed, but the faucet is awaiting my finding the adapters necessary to connect it to the waterline.  I put up shelving for my dishes and pots and pans.  I am enjoying my new stove immensely.  I am looking forward to baking as soon as I find a cake pan or two that suit me; so far the ones I have seen have been too beat up or too large.   One of these days I will spot what I want in the market.  As I have written before, it’s much like thrift store shopping.  I bought a cooler and have found that a block of ice lasts for a couple of days even in this climate, serving to keep my perishables fresh and chilling what has replaced Coke as my favourite thirst quencher—a sour orange squeezed into a jug of water with just enough sugar added to remove the bitterness.  But the popular Haitian treat, Coke glase, a Coke chilled until it is half ice crystals, is still soooo good when I’m really hot.

I stopped by my furniture maker’s today to check on his progress.  He has my table completed save the finish and it’s perfect!  I was very pleased that it was exactly as I had designed it.  The medicine cabinet, however, is a different story.  Somehow despite my having given him a detailed dimensioned drawing it had become something akin to a night table.  So he will have to start again and I will have to wait.

My electrical system is progressing with the inevitable hiccups.  My additional batteries and second solar panel arrived, but despite my repeated insistence that the second panel be an exact match for the first, it was not.  I had awhile back had a frame built for the two panels, and the second would not fit.  So the frame had to be rebuilt, and hopefully the panels will be on my roof on Saturday (if I can figure out how to get them oriented properly).  I was very pleased to find exactly the right wire for connecting the panels in the market.  I had tried to get it in Canada, but had been unsuccessful.  I was even more pleased that I was able to purchase it for far less than I would have paid in Canada.

My ESL course turned out to be useless, and I finally emailed the company and told them exactly that.  They were very gracious about offering me a refund, although I haven’t seen the money yet.  I will start my little English school doing the best I can flying by the seat of my pants.  Since my students will not be paying for their lessons, I guess they can’t complain too much.

I start a 10-day vacation from the nursing school tomorrow.  It’s Kanaval time, the most festive time of the year in Haiti.  The partying will go on day and night for a few days.  I will go to Saint-Marc tomorrow to help man COPSA-Haiti’s information booth along the parade route.  Dr. Felix made a point of stopping to show me the booth as he drove me to the tap tap station tonight.  The vacation will be an opportunity to try to move my projects along and to spend some time visiting friends.  Working evenings is not conducive to spending time with others who work days.  Dr. Felix has offered to take me with him to Port-au-Prince one day to find a few things that are not available locally.  Another of my projects over my vacation will be to take some good pictures so that I can keep my long overdue promise of posting some photos.  It won’t be quite as much of a vacation for our students; they will write their term exams the day they return to class.

The days continue to grow hotter; the increase in the intensity of the sun is very evident.  Here at my beachfront home there have been some fresh breezes off the ocean, which make the days very pleasant indeed.  My office in Saint-Marc, however, is a sauna; I don’t think I’d survive without the fans and the water cooler.  I have rebelled against the dress code, taking to wearing short-sleeved shirts.  The nights are very warm to start, but by morning I feel like I need a blanket, something I never thought I’d need here and therefore do not have.

I was talking with a friend who came to see my home and enjoy the beach.  She asked me how I liked the community and whether I felt safe.  I assured her that I have very good neighbours, that the community as a whole has been very welcoming, and that fear is not a part of my life here.

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  

Isaiah 41:13

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