Last day in Haiti. Tired of being ripped off (for what’s pennies to me) at the street market when I go out alone. They hate it that: I’m white; I have more money than them; I am free (e.g. to come and go from Haiti at will). So, it doesn’t actually matter if they rip me off. I will be glad to leave here.
A kitten was mewing pathetically outside my window in the alley below. It went on for three fucking days. Finally, the kitty must be dead. I’m sure it was starving and dehydrated. I don’t know why someone just left it to die. I have a funny feeling cats are tortured here. I hear them screeching in the alley. One cat was calling back to the kitten for a while. The things that go on in Haiti are just too mysterious to me. I haven’t even approached this culture really. But I’m glad I came.
Dec. 1 early am
A fire in the wires outside our guesthouse burned out the electricity last night. It’s on again today. Some guy in the neighborhood puts a metal ladder against the telephone pole and messes around with the wires with his bare hands. And these wires are a mess, all taped together and frayed everywhere. But in Haiti, there’s no one to call to come and do things for you. You do them yourself or someone you know, a friend or neighbor, does it.
In the US and other developed countries, we are so far removed from sources. If the electricity goes off, we swear at whoever is responsible, and we wait for them to fix it. The car breaks down? Most people take it to a repair shop. Our food? It comes from the store (how many people ever go to a farm–let alone grow their own food–to buy food).
I think I hear that kitten still meowing. What the hell?
People who live in small towns have to conform to the expectations of their neighbors. If they don’t, everyone will ostracize them. After a few years in a town, the opinions become so ingrained, people take them for granted as the only correct opinions in the world to have about whatever it is. I don’t ever want to go back to that again. Out here on the road, I am free to think and feel what I really think and feel, not what others expect and want and need me to feel so that they feel comfortable. Nevertheless, I do have friends who have lived in the same small town for years and years; they seem to conform only to their own satisfaction and comfort level.
In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Staying with a Couchsurfer, Alexei. His apartment is on a busy street and the roar of traffic is constant. My host says, “We Dominicans are noisy.”
Notes from yesterday’s bus trip (8:30 am — c. 5:30 pm):
in Port-au-Prince people were burning trash at little fires on Jacquet; dogs were going through the trash piles on the street, looking for food; people (men and women) peeing at the side of the road (this is in the city). Market (poor) women wear skirts mostly (easier to squat and pee). Two Dominican gals at bus station share pastry with me; they are wearing booby-revealing blouse and tight jeans. A tap-tap called “Deception.” People collecting water in jugs from a leaky pipe; woman with a full bucket of water on her head. Houses of the wealthy: high walls, gates, lots of trees. Many shoe-shine men. Women in street stalls cooking food for sale. Lots of sugar cane being prepared for sale. Rubble, rocks, tin roofs: collapsed houses. Most of the trash (which is EVERYWHERE) is plastic. men run down the hill in a Port-au-Prince marketplace (at Petion-ville) with absolutely full wheelbarrows of stuff (big bags of food, a load of bananas). Everything is carried on women’s (and some men’s) heads, from huge bags to a bundle of wooden spoons. A bunch of poles are dragging from the back of a tap-tap; another bunch (about 15′ long) are trailing from a moto. To the bus station next to the U.S. Embassy. Shacks and tents at the edge of PaP. Many partly completed shells of cinderblock buildings. Industry: Honda, Dupont, Chevrolet, Hundai, playing fields full of the children of the wealthy people. A prison.
Justin Bieber billboard “Proactiva.” (?) Scientology Volunteers of Haiti. Found a 7 of clubs card on the street. U.N Headquarters. Suddenly, the Dominicans are on the bus: a bunch of voluble, excitable, fun, loose, warm, friendly, rockin’ people. The men swagger and the women wear sexy clothes. At the border, it’s crazy. The parking area alone is tiny and the buses have trouble maneuvering it. I didn’t even have to go inside; the U.S. passport is good here and unquestioned.
As soon as we enter the DR, the bus company passes out ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit drinks, and bottles of water. The people seem happier, the land is green and beautiful and well-cared for. My host, Alexei, says, “The Haitians eat the land. When you look down from the air, one side (of Hispaniola) is green and the other side (the Haitian side) is brown.”
Fields, flowers, cows, masses of white and yellow butterflies. Pigs and piglets wandering in yards and on the street. The bus shows a Chinese movie (I’ve seen it before: very funny) dubbed into French. Big statue of an iguana in town square. Nicer houses (still tiny, but pretty colors,nice architecture [reminds me of New Orleans] all well-cared for). No one is carrying anything on their heads in the DR. Small herds of cows; beautiful land: mountains, fields, the sea. A man butchering meat (is he making sausages?) with a bunch of dogs waiting around him for the scraps. The houses of rich people are not behind huge walls here.
Santo Domingo: I ignore advice from man on bus, and, instead of taking a marked “Taxi,” I get into the van of a driver who brings me to Alexei’s but then asks me for 300 pesos instead of the 30 pesos I understood him to say when we were arranging a price. I refused to pay it; he drove away, mad.
The electricity regularly goes on and off here in Santo Domingo. It goes off late at night, and then it will be on in the morning for a while, then off again. The internet service here at my host’s apartment is excellent.