4/15/10 - 4/15/10 91 °F
4/15 (continued) 9p
Ok so to finish the skinny on yesterday, our driver drove us past the Presidential Palace (Destroyed) where Michelle Obama was the day prior. It had a slight resemblance to the white house, and I couldn’t help but think that we could have had something like that happen during the air attacks of 9/11. When Haitians come into the clinic expressing symptoms that they have had since the earthquake they say, “Since 1/12,” instead of the earthquake. People here believe that a new Haiti is being built and in the future Haiti will be referred to as before the quake or after.
During lunch yesterday, Mark and Isaac walked me to the Cuban hospital. “Hospital” was more of a figurative word; it seemed like one step up from our very humble clinic. However, it did have electricity, which meant fans, so it was much cooler inside. It had a few exam rooms, a couple of observation rooms and one “operating room.” The Cubans were very hospitable and gave me a tour, allowing me to practice my Spanish with them.
Then the boys took me past the cathedral, while we were walking, they strategically walked one in front and one in back. I glanced back at Marc and he said, “I’m here… I’m back here for a reason.” They were apparently my bodyguards. They said, “It’s safe, just some people are stupid…” I had one person yell something in Creole after I took a picture and I asked what they said, Marc responded, “They said thank you for coming here and helping us.” I couldn’t help but giggle and said that was definitely not what she said… He laughed and said, “It is what she should have said.” J
Walking the streets for the first time today initiated a serious gut response. Before then (yesterday), I had a cognitive grievance for the loss experienced not a soul filled response. After my feet connected with the ground and I experienced the devastation at the pace of the people, tromping through debris, my heart sunk, and my soul ached. The magnitude of the disaster was exponentially larger by foot than by truck or “tap tap.” I had the time to absorb each piece of fallen ruble and each down electrical wire. I studied steel poles that were snapped in half as if they were aluminum. Each road has a layer of trash that has been compacted flat but coats the entire street. We passed a section of tents that provided housing for hundreds and hundreds of Haitians. As we walked past we watched some locals pay for water and then shower under it with their shampoo and soap. In fact a line had formed to take a public shower under a bucket of water on a sidewalk next to the street. Coal was made and sold everywhere because electricity was out in the entire metro area and so coal was the only means of cooking food. While this walk gave me a sobering reality blow, paradoxically I felt better as well, as if I had a brief glimpse into one aspect of Haitian life today. I cannot even begin to imagine how they must feel, however, today I felt as if I made a small step closer to the wavelength of understanding the situation in Haiti today. Marc and I have really bonded throughout the days, he has been my translator, and after our walk we got a cold beer on the side of the road before continuing to work. It was a Haitian beer, Prestige, it was pretty tasty in 95 deg weather. While we walked Marc told me that he lived in Miami on a visa for a few years but stayed a little too long, came back to Haiti, and is not permitted to return the states for at least two years as a punishment. Unfortunately, his ENTIRE family is in the states. He is in his late 20s living in a troubling stressful time (to say the least) and he has zero family members accessible to him.
Another thing he shared with me was the prison situation. He said that the prison was destroyed and all of the convicts escaped. Marc is a bit of a bad boy, so he knows a few guys that escaped and he said, “One of my friends got caught again because he had real bad vision and he didn’t see them coming.” They have a temporary prison currently and are trying to capture the “bad guys.” Marc actually got mugged while walking at night near our clinic about two weeks ago. He said, “The guy had a gun so I gave him my phone and a few bucks.” Hence why he was so protective during our walk. The cops tried to find the bad guy but he got away. Marc said that he didn’t know why he would risk getting caught over a phone. He said that if he were caught the cops would just shoot him. Pretty steep penalties here.
Food shortage was a huge problem in Haiti before 1/12, now it is outright ridiculous what a broke Haitian must do to simply obtain food. There is at least one place that they can go to receive free food and there was a line about .75-1 miles long! UN solders acted as line guards but instead of a whistle they utilized AK-47s to assure that there were no line cutters.
To change gears, on a much lighter note I have mastered exactly one phrase in Creole! It is pronounced “Sock, Passe!” It is a slang, hip, way to say waz up, how ya’ doing, etc. They respond one-way, “mop brule!” (Spelling is way off I’m sure), translates to “I’m boiling.” I would say in “American” that would mean, “I’m on fire, I’m hot, ready to go, etc.”