Nov. 18, 2012 (1)

I really had no idea what it would be like here. I imagined internet cafes, for one thing. There are some signs painted on the sides of small buildings indicating they have internet, but these places are dark and exceptionally dreary inside and I’m not quite sure what services they offer.

The only place I have been to that even vaguely approaches life in Haiti  is San Salvador, El Salvador. But Haiti is much, much more economically depressed, and the Haitian government is almost completely ineffective (whereas El Salvador’s, while probably U.S. controlled, is not).

The school at the end of Jacquet toto, my street.

Being in Haiti is like being in a prison or concentration camp or some kind of internment or refugee camp; I can leave anytime, and they can never leave.

Late afternoon thunder most days. Haitian philosophy (taught young): Don’t cry about it. Yell! Get mad! Stand tall and be heard!

Find the occasional playing card on the ground (from voodoo people, probably). Ace of Hearts (supreme love), Jack of Hearts (young playboy), 7 + 8 of spades (fighting being resolved). Burned trash is sometimes dumped by the wheelbarrow-full into dirt roads (like Jacquet where I live) and left to be packed down by cars.

Walked up to the Capital Coach Lines building today and found out all about entering the Dominican Republic by bus on Dec. 1.  Along the route, I saw a woman carrying 6 dead, but unplucked chickens (very big ones), and another woman with some kind of big, dead bird (chicken? turkey?) under her arm. I crossed over a deep creek or river bed which was full of trash to a depth of several feet in some places and yards deep in  others. Pigs, goats and dogs were feeding happily in it.

A young man from the evangelical church next door came over to talk to me as I sat, writing, on the wall outside our gate. He extended an invitation to attend his church (they always say it that way: “I’d like to invite you…” like it’s a party instead of a miserable gathering of zombies). I told him I go to the Voodoo Church and the Catholic Church. Protestants frown upon voodoo here; they don’t understand it and think it’s evil. (This is also true in the US: many people think voodoo is black magic, just like they think witchcraft is evil.)

Haiti’s only funny newspaper is La Banane Pesee published, of course, in Petion-ville (where there’s some serious cash).

Sidewalk politics: Respect myself; respect others. That said… I am, first, careful of not falling down on all the rocks, into the holes, in the ubiquitous trash, or getting hit by a car, bus, truck or moto. Secondly, I give way to old people (especially women) who look frailer than me, pregnant women, and small children.

I hold my ground in the path of Haiti’s many aggressive  men, even to the point of coming to a complete stop and letting them bump into me if they don’t move out of the middle of the sidewalk (or the gutter of the street where much walking is done as actual sidewalks are practically non-existent in my part of town).

There are no postcards in Haiti. There are no tourists in Haiti. Alone among all the islands of the Caribbean, Haiti is in none of the area guidebooks and wasn’t in them even before the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. Lonely Planet does publish a guidebook to Haiti.

While most of the folks going into the big, handsome church building next door seem to be self-righteous, smug, vain fools, yesterday afternoon and evening the youth group met and I heard the most fabulous, incredible, amazing singing I have ever heard in my life. They were inspired and had more energy and enthusiasm than a million white people could ever have.

I was transported by the youth group’s singing. For the first few hours, they sang admirably, accompanied by a cool piano player (who knew boogie-woogie) and with great soloists performing (one young man was definitely of professional quality). For the final few hours they did call and response type singing. This is an African style, I think, and it sounded exactly like recorded music I’ve heard from Africa. The group leader at that point, or the caller, had the perfect voice for this job: he was a tenor and his pure, sweet voice had immense strength, carrying perfectly to the large group. This part was unaccompanied by the piano and clapping was often used instead.

I can’t adequately describe the intensity of the music! Haitians are oppressed, but they are certainly not repressed. Their uninhibited, unrestrained joyful self-expression, as heard through the singing by this group of young people, is unequalled, I think, anywhere in the world except in Africa. Haiti is a totally African culture, and the people here have set themselves free.

Last night, during the singing from the church, a little boy was playing an overturned bucket like a drum in the alleyway on the other side of our house. This morning, a little boy (the same one?) sang loudly and freely outside my window.

In one part of Port-au-Prince I saw the Athletic and Equestrian Center. These are the rich folks of Haiti who fear the poor. Undoubtedly, they are people who have totally lost all real (i.e., intimate) contact with poor people. I believe the successful slave revolt still irks many people, and not only the French.

Samenta is the name of the nice, young. Haitian gal who has been making me food  (yesterday: more rice with that same spicy sauce and this time with small pieces of sausage which isn’t as good as the fish she put in the previous day). She cooks the rice with tap water! The water I’ve feared would cause death should I accidentally consume some. Samenta boil the water to make rice and, without this, it probably would make us sick. (What did the Haitians drink for those days and weeks after the earthquake when they had no water?)

I get up before 5 am many days to use the computer. The power is sometimes on all night and then goes off from late morning until about 8 in the evening.

My personal Aspie (Aspergers)/Geek/Nerd style is slow, steady, relentless accumulation of facts and information (i.e., the parts or individual details of a thing), followed by an application of creative intelligence in assimilating these facts into an original whole.

My personal style is expressed well when I am learning to speak a new language. I love French; it is the language of love. Spanish can not compare. English is great for IT, but it’s basically an unattractive language. German is the worst language, in my opinion, for beauty; I dislike the sound of it so much that I will probably never return to any German-speaking country. Italian and Portuguese: remains to be seen.

The poor people on the street sell little used cans (like those for evaporated milk, opened up on one end, cleaned and the label removed). These are used as candle stands: the candles are usually very thin and 5 or 6″ tall.

I’ve been in this house for over two weeks, and I’ve only seen one roach. In the Cap house, they were everywhere.

The mosquitos fly in through the many holes in the screens on my windows. I am taking Chloroquine every Saturday against malaria. Cholera is also present in Haiti, but I wasn’t advised to be innoculated against it; I think it’s present more outside the city.

All the whites in PaP live in the Petion-ville section (or suburbf). So it seems; I believe the four of us white folks at the guesthouse here in the Delmas section of Port-au-Prince are the only whites almost anywhere in PaP except for those in P-ville.

Dining room area at our guesthouse in Port-au-Prince. Kitchen is on the right.

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