Obama was reelected president of the United States yesterday. Good. Two US states OK-ed recreational use of marijuana, and two states voted for same-sex marriage (one was conservative Maine). A very good birthday present.
The PaP newspapers are Le Nouvelist and Le Matin. French, of course, and probably not read by any of the poor. How many of the poor (half of Haitians are dirt-poor) are literate?
Tap-taps, the local taxis, range from little Toyota’s and crotchety old beat-up vans (usually missing the sliding door) to medium-sized and big buses.
I live in Delmas 95-83 on Rue Jacquet or “Jacquet Toto.” If I got lost here in PaP, it would be ridiculous and scary (although people are very friendly and would help me, but I speak limited French and virtually no Creole).
I had a couple of beers (Prestige, brewed here in PaP) with Wilson, caretaker of guesthouse, and new guest (actually he’s a guest of my CS friend here, Ilone, who I will meet tonight), Nicholas from France. Nicholas made us lunch (pasta with subtle, yet cheap sauce). We can buy beer right across the street from the house: woman in little tiny store has cooler outside. 1 Prestige (Port-au-Prince brewed beer) costs 35 Haitian Gourdes (HTG) or 0.83 USD (US dollars). In Creole, Gourdes is “goud.”
5 Haitian Gourdes = 0.12 USD (2 oranges bought at stall on the street)
35 HTG = 0.83 USD (1 Prestige beer ]locally brewed] bought on the street)
70 HTG = a delicious, 8 oz. of fresh juice (tasted like strawberries) in restaurant in PaP (Port-au-Prince
75 HTG = 1.78 USD (1 can of sardines, bought in rich folks’ big, guarded market)
100 HTG = 2.37 USD (two and a half rolls of toilet paper)
200 HTG = 4.75 USD (?)
280 HTG = a rum sour at Hotel Ebo Lele, a very ritzy hotel overlooking all of Port-au-Prince ($6 or so USD)
350 HTG = 8.31 USD (a bottle of wine in market that’s cheaper than above market, but still with armed guard outside)
1 Haitian dollar = 5 Gourdes (this is a coin)
1 USD = 40 HTG (Gourdes) –at least — downtown (where I live in PaP), but less in a very upper class place like the Hotel Ebo Lele. There it is worth 35 HTG or less.
Toilet paper goes in trash can (as in many countries). I only use TP for poop. Otherwise, I just wash with a bottle I keep for that purpose on the back of the toilet. Saves $. Can not put anything in toilet, even hair.
What I eat: bread, rice, peanut butter, sardines, mustard, olive oil, cider vinegar.
Nicholas is going to take me down to that shanty town I mentioned. I am afraid to go there alone. I don’t know the protocol. He, like many young men, is not only aggressive but (possibly) kind and compassionate (he’s a Rainbow and Burner person), so I trust him. But we may get mobbed and killed for being white–ha ha. Just (sort of) kidding. A friend, Ilona, told me that it should be OK to go down there and if they are in an intense part of a Voodoo ceremony, someone will keep us out. It could be dangerous then because they go into trances.
Touch is OK here. Much more than in the US.
It’s hard for the average Haitian to leave the country (except to go to the Dominican Republic, which is the other half of Hispanola, this island). Audelio told me it costs about $250 (USD) just to get in to TALK to the US embassy people, and that’s without any guarantee of getting a visa. Impossible for most Haitians.
A church is on the other side of our guesthouse. (I’m on the “neighborhood” side; church is on the other side of house.) They sing and preach and so on ALL DAY and evening Saturdays, Sundays. I don’t know which other days, yet!, but I will find out. Their building is about 3′ from ours and the sounds are very loud. The singing is usually beautiful. Turns out, they sing every day! It’s almost like they’re in the livingroom here. Sometimes it’s lethargic and sad, sometimes joyous and uplifting.
When Eric drove me here from the airport ($20), we drove through an area where I saw two men with butchered goats (I guess) on wooden tables. They were selling the fresh meat and cooking some of it over a small open fire right there. A new sight for me. Ilona told me $20 is a huge amount here. I paid Natacha $250 for rent. No wonder she’s getting rich and living in Petion-ville!
The Yoruba people came from Africa to Haiti?, Brazil and where else? This is where the Voodoo comes from.
Last night, Ilona (CSer and NGO worker in Haiti who lives in my guesthouse; from France), Nicholas, and I went to a restaurant (where I got the yummy fruit drink) and then up into the hills of PaP to the Hotel Ebo Lele. It’s set up in a gorgeous location. The big, swirling, three-level patio and pool overlook the whole city. We had a rum sour, then Ilona’s friends arrived.
Her friends are a team of NGO workers here in Haiti. (An NGO, of course, is non-governmental organization, like the Red Cross, UNICEF, and Save the Children.) Many people are very critical of these international aid workers. Our group consisted of four French folks (including Ilona and Nicholas), one Bulgarian, one Belgian, one Senegalese (team leader), and one from the Ivory Coast. Men and women, white and black. And me. It was delightful.
On my right was Stephanie, whose birthday was the reason for the party (she was 32 yesterday; she’s the Belgian, and she’s engaged to a Haitian NGO worker).
Stephanie gave me lots of info, including this:
52% of Haitians live on $1 a day. That must be Haitian dollars of 5 Gourdes.
The free elementary education I mentioned the government is providing isn’t free and it definitely isn’t reaching most of the kids. It’s a dream of the President who used to be a Compa (Haiti’s music) singer before he was elected to office. He is trying to make it happen, but it’s very slow.
If there’s any kind of national (or other) emergency there’s no one in the government to call. You’re on your own. The government apparently is nearly non-existent.
Haiti is so much better now than right after the earthquake (2009) when some of these workers came here. Cite de Soleil, a slum, was declared by the UN in 2004, the “world’s most dangerous place.” Now, apparently, there’s comparatively little danger in Haiti (compared to New York City or a slum anywhere in the world).
I saw a little boy playing a game my dad used to play in Berlin when he was a kid: he had a plastic hoop (made of refuse from something) and a little stick he found somewhere, and he was rolling the hoop with the stick.