Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Usual

So I feel like I don't tell you enough about the "ordinary" things in Haiti - the things I see, do, experience every day. Therefore, I thought I would take this time to do that. (Although I will also share the story of the crazy guy who kissed me because I'm certain that you want to hear it.)

So. Ordinary things.

First of all, I sleep every night with earplugs in because of our rooster on campus as well as the "disco" (night club) that is behind Freres Campus and is SUPER loud. Luckily, I have become a master at putting them in and I don't even notice them anymore while I sleep. Good times.

I get up every morning at 6:30 a.m. because breakfast is served at 7. Yes, I am awesome and get ready in a half hour every morning. Also, sometimes my building is out of water in the mornings so I have to flip the switch to pump the water so that I will have running water and flushable toilets again. It should be noted at this point that just because the toilet flushes does not mean you can flush toilet paper. Yes, I have to throw my used toilet paper in the trash bin next to the toilet. It's lovely. Also, we live by the rule of, "If it's brown - flush it down. If it's yellow - let it mellow."

At breakfast, I am usually greeted by Claire, Marie Claude, and Belorne. Claire and Marie Claude work in the kitchen and also do some cleaning in the main Guest House. Belorne is the assistant manager who is in charge of the meals. Claire always says "Bonjou Beth" to me because she really loves hearing me speak Kreyol. I respond with, "Bonjou Claire! Ki jan ou ye?"

We pray before breakfast and dinner with whoever might be eating with us. Generally around the time that we start eating, I see Davidson waddle near the pool to draw some water from a water source for Donette and Ablamy's house. He usually smiles at me and says, "Bonjou Beth" before giving me a big hug.

Mire comes to clean the Swiss House (where I live) around 8 and always greets me with a smile if I happen to be in my room. She is one of the most lovely women I have ever met - and I say that even though I generally cannot understand a word she says. She is also the best cleaner and laundress at the Guest House. Basically, she is awesome.

The mornings and afternoons always seem to be different. Some days I'm mostly hanging out working on things - sending e-mails, creating documents, making phone calls, giving reminders, etc. Other days I'm out and about - running errands, picking up/dropping off groups, etc.

In the short time I have been here, though, I have seen progress in Port-au-Prince. I suppose the best example of this is the Caribbean Market. The Caribbean Market is walking distance from the Guest House and is a sight that we pass almost every time we come and go from the Guest House. It's a fairly memorable/recognizable landmark for most who have visited Haiti/the Guest House in the past before the earthquake. Now, it is just a huge pile of rubble. However, in the past week or so, folks have started to come and do clean up. A significant part of it is now completely cleaned up which is really neat to see.

What is not neat, though, is smelling the scent that you know is from freshly uncovered bodies. It was really bad for two days there, especially. We had to close all of the windows in our vans before passing and all the Haitians on the street were finding a way to cover their nose or plug it if they had a hand free.

Now, there are bad smells all over Haiti. Rotten garbage in the middle of the street or on the sidewalks is a big problem. On hot days, like today, the scent seems to get worse - like it permeates every molecule of air within two blocks of it. But the garbage smell is different from the smell of dead bodies and more tolerable - for me, anyway, it's mostly because I know the source of the smell. The pungent odor coming from the Caribbean Market makes me sad all over again.

Other sights on the roads include: people carrying things on their heads, a Digicel Pap Padap stand on every other block, folks selling clothes, shoes, food, toiletries, etc. on the side of the road, trying to sit under umbrellas for some shade, wild dogs, goats, pigs, and chicken, and people finding creative ways to go to the bathroom.

The evenings are always different. Most nights we eat dinner around 5:45 and then all retreat to our separate areas. Sometimes I stay in the office if there is work to do, but otherwise I generally head to the Swiss House to start winding down. Usually my boys arrive around 6:30 or 7:00 looking for some manje (food) as well as some hugs and smiles. Depending on how tired I am they're there for a few minutes to an hour or more.

All of them are lovely. All of them have big holes in their pants and shirts. Their sandals have holes through them. Some of the clothes they wear are actually made for girls and not boys. I don't laugh, though, because I know they wear it out of necessity - not because of a strange sense of fashion. Amazingly, though, they don't care. The only bit of clothing that they care about is their sandals because it makes it difficult to walk - as you can probably imagine.

After that I go upstairs for my cold shower to cool off and help settle in for the night. I come back to my room filled with mosquitoes that are eager to greet me. I've killed some by hand... but it's near impossible to get more than "some." Then I get online and post this blog or chat on Facebook with friends - that is, if the internet is working. Sometimes it does not.

And yes. That is the daily stuff. The ins and outs of living in Haiti. To add to these experiences I should note that I have also seen a small mouse scurry across my floor this evening as well as a green gecko on my wall. Also, joining my mosquito friends are small ants that like to crawl on my keyboard at night while I'm sleeping.

But yes. Life is good. Tres bien.

Lastly, I'll leave you with the kiss story and then go to bed. I'm a tired lady!

Yesterday I was riding in the front passenger seat on the way back from the supermarket with Belorne and Johnny (our driver.) We come to a corner where there is a slender, dirty man, with long unkempt dreadlocks dancing wildly to music being played at a CD stand. He turns around and briefly makes eye contact with me. I quickly turn around and look at Johnny and try to start talking to him so the man will stop staring at me. Within a few seconds though, Belorne yells, "Beth, roll up your window!" I turn back around to roll up my window and the man is at my open window, staring in. I grab hold of the thing to roll up the window with, but I tried to push it the wrong way. While I'm realizing this and trying to push the other way, the man leans in and kisses my arm. I jumped and inched away from the window while trying to quickly roll up the window at the same time. I thought he had tried to bite me, but Johnny told me it was just a kiss. Belorne then gave me the great advice of, "If you see a crazy man, roll up your window." We think he was drunk/maybe on drugs/maybe mentally unstable. He was definitely drunk, though, as Johnny saw him drinking soon after the kiss. Crazy times in Haiti!

Okay so I'm off to bed! Goodnight world!

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