Nov. 10, 2012

“The gourde (French), goud (Kreyol) is the currency of Haiti. Its ISO 4217 code is HTG and it is divided into 100 centimes (French) or santim (Kreyol).”

THAT’S how you spell it: gourde. Or goud (no plural) in Kreyol. OK, got it.


Nov. 8

Some kids played a radio in the dark alleyway beneath my window last night. Happy Birthday was the first song, and the young girl sang with the saxophone. It was beautiful. I was having a teary evening, overcome by all the sights and sounds of a week that seems like two or three days here in Haiti.

The tap-taps have, “One Love,” Dieu Devant,” “Souvenir,” “I Love You,” and a thousand other slogans painted across the front above the windshield.

I don’t know who John Brown was (“John Brown’s body lies a’moldering in the grave”  from an old slave-related song) though there’s a street named after him here.


Nov. 9 Friday

The electricity was off almost all day and just came on at 5 pm. No water during all that time. We always have drinking water from a big dispenser here in the house, but the tap water goes off. It’s not on now so it’s not related to the electricity.

No need for a towel here. I wash in cold water, standing in the shower stall, and dipping a coke bottle into the bucket I keep full of water (usually). I just wring out my hair and put on my (often just washed) clothes, and the clothes and I dry quickly.

Boys were mixing cement on the rooftop outside my window the other evening.

One of the schoolboys who mobbed me and took photos with me yesterday outside GIANT supermarket, turned and said to me, “Don’t be afraid.” I said, “I’m not afraid.”

Cats fighting (mating?) outside my window last night. I haven’t seen one cat here yet.

Haiti is a very romantic culture. Such strong people and such gentleness.

The kids beneath my window last night appeared to have made a fire (I can’t see the alleyway; it’s right beneath my slatted window which doesn’t let me lean out). It was probably a household behind the walls of the alley. I heard the crackling of wood and smelled the smoke.

After Happy Birthday, the love songs poured from the radio for a few hours last night, in beautiful romantic French. Today, beneath my window, a young woman sang a long song.

Only men drive tap-taps and trucks here in PaP, but, among the wealthier people with cars, women also drive.


Nov. 10

A quiet Saturday morning. Even the very poor in my neighborhood are quiet on Saturday mornings (weekdays it’s noisy well before dawn). By 6 am this morning many of the people are awake and starting their gentle re-animations.

The mosquitoes here are very small, and I can barely hear them as they sneak around at night. All of Haiti is malarial. I’m taking the drug Chloroquine once a week against it; otherwise, no mosquito netting over my bed, no DEET, no long-sleeved clothing. (And no side effects from the Chloroquine.)

A cat (or cats) were meowing and screaming outside my window up and down the alleyway last night. A slightly different cat voice than I’ve ever heard before

No water since early yesterday morning. (We have drinking water.) It’s really not much of a problem; people keep on keeping on. And smiling about it all. Someone is singing softly in the alley, women are talking quietly, someone (a woman, no doubt) scrubbing something in the alley.

Pia gave me the skinny about Haitian men last night as we walked out in the early evening to get a “jou” (juice; 25 goud each) down the street. Haitian men, the story goes, are very rarely loyal to one woman; they have lots of women. The women do the same. In a world where it’s hard to find your true love (and I believe in True Love with capital letters), I think playing the field is the wisest choice. Why be married to someone you don’t really love just for the sake of appearances, appeasing others, and legitimizing children (like we aren’t “legal” if we’re bastards like me).

The young men are awake and talking loudly now. Pia says the men here talk and the women are quiet, they don’t talk. But that’s only what the young men tell her; she hasn’t been able to meet any Haitian women her age (she’s 18). “But women love to talk,” I said.

Pia’s been here for 6 weeks (from the country outside Stuttgart, Germany), and she has a handsome, young friend named Vidal who we saw on the street last night. Groups of mostly young men and a few women hung around everywhere in the darkness (no street lights), but the general feeling was non-threatening. They’d often say things and laugh as we walked past, I’d hear the word “blond” (white), sometimes they’d talk to us and Pia would respond, but no one was hateful or mean (even though we are perceived as rich aliens, which is correct).

The singing has started at the mission church next door, and it’s not even 7 am. Crazy worshipers. It’s often a pleasant sound so who cares, really? I rather like it. Sebastian’s friend, Jannes, came in on the bus from Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) last night.

My loyalty is to Travellers. Wherever I go in the world, the local people, who are usually kind and friendly to me, consider my way of life strange and unusual. Only other travellers see me as “normal.” They understand me, recognizing and embracing me as one of their own. Even in the USA, my own country, people see me as odd and wonder why I don’t settle down. They often chastise me for being irresponsible.

To people whose primary virtues are hard work (the “Protestant work ethic”), responsibility, and unwavering consistency, my life seems idle, heretical, and quite insane. Contented, committed capitalists consider my vagrancy to be that of a lost, pagan wastrel, pissing her life away, and wandering aimlessly, courting danger for no apparent reason. Moderate, unremarkable tourism is fine–even desirable–to such people, but a life lived on the road is detestable (and sometimes punishable). The discomforts of such a life repel the settlers, but it is the “immorality” of my life that secures its reprehensibility and unholiness in their minds. Travellers defy the goals of a sedentary populace: social status, the accumulation of possessions, land-ownership, and long tenure in a place. The children of these people are ideally raised in pleasant, sanitary, well-structured environments (like my adoptive home and neighborhood), and their brains become repositories of their parents’ safe, careful dogma.


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