Nov. 11, 2012

I am meeting voodoo women –voodooiennes– on the street here in my Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Delmas (where very poor and richer people are mixed together), and they talk to me, calling down the spirits and giving me messages in kreyol.

I feel blessed by them (no matter what their [actual]intentions are; I feel their positive energy). One old woman, today, raised her arms as she talked to me. The magic women of Haiti.

Me in the center of Petion-ville, a wealthy part of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Nov. 2012

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From The World Bank “News and Broadcast” 2012 Strategies

The devastating earthquake, which struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, significantly worsened the poverty and living conditions of the Haitian population and exacerbated the country’s development challenges. Over 220,000 people were killed and 300,000 wounded. The disaster brought the entire economy to a halt, wiping out an estimated 120 percent of GDP. The economy is projected to grow by 7.5 percent in 2011 in large part due to reconstruction efforts.

Despite weak capacity, much has been done. Four of 11 million m3 of debris have been removed, camp occupancy has dropped from an estimated 1.3 million to around 600,000, schools have reopened for the 2011-2012 school year, and capacity to prepare for hurricanes has been strengthened as demonstrated by the limited impacts of Hurricane Tomas in October 2010 and the preparation of the 2011 hurricane season.

Nicholas and Pia walking past street vendors in Petion-ville.

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I want a new tarot deck. I know how to read now: it’s not the gypsy way to study the cards and give a wise, intellectual reading (although this is nice and good). It’s more of a quick study, figuring out what the client wants (or needs) to hear.

Fire and water.

Pia and I took a long walk around our neighborhood. We found one of the many remaining “tent cities.” It’s not huge, but it’s substantial. I bought some round pieces of fried dough for 1 goud each (5 for 5 goud). It was good, and the young woman vendor at the tent city put some spicy Haitian cole slaw into the little bag with the bread.

I have a bathroom and good sized bedroom. This table and alligator chairs are at one end of room. Entry is on left.

When I got home, Ilona treated me and Nicholas to a delicious dinner: beefsteak (which the French love), sauteed eggplant slices, baba ganouch (store-bought), and sliced tomatoes (lots and lots). Fresh papayas for desert. And a beer with the meal.

Ilona was incensed that the water had been out for two days. She’d been supervising construction sites up in the country (NGO work) and needed a shower. Of course, we have had no electricity (which is normal around here), which infuriated her, too, because, like any good French woman, Ilona arrived home with bags and bags of groceries. She requires a refrigerator.

The alleyway under my window.

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The Haitian literacy rate is 55% for males and 51% for females. Much lower than the 90% rate for Latin America and the Caribbean countries. The Haitians who have never been to school speak only Kreyol, no French. We met some of these people today on our walk (of course, they are always all around us, but we don’t know who’s who until we talk with them). Pia, who speaks French but not Kreyol, bought some food from a family at a stall where they were selling meat, friend plantains and other fried food (all in a basket and a bowl). They didn’t speak any French.

Wilson, the young Haitian guy who is the caretaker of the house, told Pia there was a shooting a few days ago in the huge tent city called Cite de Soleil. I tried to find it online, but nothing came up.

Sitting with my back to the tap-tap driver in a van filled with 16 people, I snapped this shot of the driver.

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I just called my son, Seth. First time I’ve ever called anyone in the US from another country. He and Noelle were on the way home from shopping for baby clothes. It’s a boy.

The Haitians are incredibly vibrant people. They are a combination of great patience, humility, and peace with determination, perseverance, pride and robust energy.

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I walked by Wilson’s little apartment last night to get a mop for my bathroom floor. He had candles lit at a little altar (I think) on the floor. Beautiful.

The ants and mosquitoes here are miniscule. The roaches are huge. The birds are non-existent (here in the city). Yesterday I saw a 6″ (not including the tail) black rat looking for food in the daytime near our Delmas neighborhood’s tent “city.”

Many people have earphones plugged into their ears. I have one earphone for my cell phone’s radio; I’m going to start wearing it around outside.

People dress nicely here, even if they are poor. For most of these people, their appearance is meaningful to them (if not also to others).

Sebastian, Pia (both Germans) and Nicholas (French) walking down our street, Jacquet toto in the poor Delmas section of PaP, framed by two Haitian women.

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If 52% of Haitians live on 40 goud or less a day, and I spend 280 goud on a rum sour at Hotel Ebo Lele, I am going to notice that and remember it. It’s only logical; it’s only rational to be paying attention.

“And there’s no place else on earth I’d rather be than here in my room dreaming of you and me.”* I am still a die-hard romantic who believes in True Love, the kind that is eternal; the Divine Marriage written about in Hinduism where you might meet your one=and-only, eternal Soulmate in physical form. (*These words are from a song I heard late last night on the radio.)

Kids at school (in background) at the end of my street. This part of Jacquet toto is where field of wild herbs and corn grow, and down in the bowl (to the left of photo [can’t see it]) is the little shanty town \from which I heard voudoo singing and drumming.

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“L’effort fait le fort” and  “I Love Me” are more slogans written over the cab on tap-taps (nearly demolished Toyota vans that are local taxis).

I just went out for a walk and found a big Sunday street market up Delmas 95 and to the right down a side street. I bought a pen (cinq – 5 – goud [40 goud = $1]), but couldn’t find a rain jacket for the trip up north tomorrow. Will borrow one from Ilona.

 

I saw chicken feet and okra for sale. Lots of meat out in the open. Tons of church people coming back from church and shopping; they are dressed up fancy, and the women wear high heels, which are hard for walking on these bumpy, rock-strewn, dusty dirt roads. (The roads are paved closer to city centers.)

Front foyer of our little guesthouse on Jacquet toto.

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