Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Anger and Peace

Right off the bat I want to let you know this post mentions a little about politics.  I try not to say my opinion one way or the other on this topic.  I hope I do a good job, if not then please write your local congressman / senate representative.

I had a little confrontation with one of the sisters.  I don’t know why but Haitians can ask some very tough questions.  Questions that leave you wondering; are you serious? 

Sr. Martha is the embodiment of habit-wearing, phd-having, nun-awesomeness.  Teaching theology to students in Haiti is only a ¼ time job for her.   Being highly educated, she spends the rest of her time in Rome teaching “formation” which is the process by which a woman becomes a nun.  Above all else she is humorous about and considerate!  Example, after Joyce left she moved MY seat over to her table while I was up getting food so I wouldn’t sit alone,  did I mention she is awesome?

We were having a civil discussion about Obama.  I told her that he had made a lot of promises that have not been kept (like every president).  We are still in Iraq and Afghanistan and we have a brand new Health Care Bill that is just too long (read it here).  But I also said I can see him trying. 

Side Note: Senate Bill and Reconciliation Package. You can read it yourself if you don't think it's a little long!

Both Lincoln and Napoleon were people who were trying, and I’ve yet to see where he is going.  I never once said one way or another that I did or didn't like him.

How could anyone hate this guy cuz he's black?
Sr. Mary Karmel comes into the kitchen from another room and asks me “Ou pa remnem Obama paske li nwa?” (you don’t like Obama because he is black?)  If I wasn’t so angry at the time I would have said something funny and deflected the question, making her look stupid.  But anger has this way of seeping into every fiber of my being and making me seize up.

Well at the time I didn’t know how angry I was.  I don’t know what I said after, “You do not ask an American that!  You say that to an American and you are insulting them.”  I forget the rest but she left before too long.  I guess everyone else in the room knew how angry I was before I did.

But seriously, how dare she?  How dare she ask me if I am a racist?  How could one of my “friends” here at the convent think I was a racist?  On top of that it was one of the OTHER sisters who told her about the conversation that was happening in the kitchen!

Sr. Martha still in the kitchen with me allowed me to explain that we DO have racists in America.  We have people who judge others based on skin color.  America has history there and it is not pretty.  Yet I managed to explain this all to Sr. Martha and even did it in a calm voice.

I had recently talked to Joyce about the exact same thing.  The kids said that she liked Rosemellie best because of her lighter complexion.  I didn’t even know Canadians were allowed to say the word racist!

I almost didn’t go down and play with the kids that night, but I’m glad I did.

When I got down there they were playing, “American Idol.”  I walked in the doors and was immediately escorted to a seat.  I passed a line of girls “waiting to sing.”  I use the term line loosly…  Haitians haven’t quite mastered the art of line standing.

The girl who was singing stood in the middle of a large circle.  I guess that was the stage.  Even when a girl messed up the attitude was jovial.  Yet, I could still tell the girls who got up had a lot of gusto.  There was no music, there was no clapping; they just got up and sang.  If they sucked they heard the laughter before the judges got to them. 

The judges seemed to single out girls who sang in English.  Mostly because they forgot their words but it was still brutal.  One girl chose to sing Michael Jackson, big mistake!  But all in all it was a blast to hang with the girls.  It was nice to get a chill pill.

I’ll talk to Sr. Mary Karmel but not today. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The itsy betsy spider is cool as heck!

I’m going to try to tie two blogs in together Hurricane Thomas and the coolest spider ever.

Looks like a fly doesn't it!
Joyce left yesterday, two days earlier than planned.  It was a surprise to everyone because she changed her flight in the middle of the night.  As it turns out all flights for Friday (her original departure date) were canceled.

On her last day here I introduced her to my friend Betsy the fly-butt spider.  I first met Betsy as I was walking from my room to the convent and was like “holy Fly-Butt Spider Batman.”  She was munching on an unsuspecting fly that had thought her yellow butt was just too much to resist!

I like to think that I’ve found a new breed of spider so I studied her.  She tends to sit in the middle of her web waiting for unknowing male flies searching for a mate.  Then BAM gotcha.  Side note: we took IMMENSE pleasure in feeding her a few mosquitoes.  She may move awkward because of her over sized butt-weapon. 

I backhandedly mentioned that I was worried about my Betsy spider getting washed out the drain during Hurricane Thomas.  There was a momentary thought of Betsy sitting safely in my room within a glass jar, but I don’t like spiders that much… 

Then Joyce slapped me and said, “Eric there are 1.3 million Haitians who need a freaking safe place to stay and you are worried about a spider?”

Somewhat off guard I replied, “Well I don’t have a big enough jar for the Haitians…”

Even though it was light hearted it got me thinking about the Haitians and their insufficient tents.  In Haiti there are 1.3 million people in tents, 15% of the population.  Imagine if one day 1 of every 7 Americans were living in tents.  Go find 6 other people and draw straws…

A few weeks ago I went into a tent city.  Families of 8 or more can occupy a single tent.  The tents are packed so close together that it’s impossible to walk between them.  Some tents have beds inside but most don’t, and rain means that you’ve got to stand up or sleep in mud.

Imagine camping for 6 months, without any place else to go.  Camping with your kids, washing your clothes by hand, no running water, and the worst part, it’s hurricane season.  Honestly, I’m living like a king compared to these people.  Every time I get frustrated when the water is off for a day or two I just go for a walk.

It makes me wish I could had a 1.3 million person glass jar right now…
Betsy Climbing toward a mosquito.

Today I sit and watch not knowing where to help.  I continue to work on my work which has “long term” benefits.  The one solace I have is the last verse, “the itsy climbed up the spout again.” 

Keep climbing Haiti.

Alright so that’s where I should leave off for this blog but I’ve decided to keep a farewell promise to Joyce.  In lue of an Ode, she requested that I post part of our conversation about Betsy.

Joyce, hard at work or hardly working?
Joyce and I were sitting around the table talking about the dangers of genetic engineering in combination with the marvel of fly-butt spiders.  What could (and would) humans do with such a thing?  I mean it’s dangerous enough that we have lions, and tigers, and bears, but what if man made the deadliest weapon of all? 

GIANT Human-Butt Spiders!

Can you imagine the horror?  Of course they would be created first by the US for military applications in dessert warfare (to be followed shortly by China, Russia, India and strangely Cuba??).  Of COURSE proper safety protocols would be enforced so as to “effectively” neuter them… But we’ve all see Jurassic Park, we know how this ends! 

The spiders reproduce and become man’s deadliest enemy.  Luring unsuspecting males to their webs with their seductively mermaid like hind quarters!  Inter breeding with the Chinese, Russian, Indian, and Cubian Spiders creates multiple species:

  • ·         The “maiden in distress”-butt spider,
  • ·         The “I’m locked out of my car”-butt spider,
  • ·         The “old lady trying to cross the road”-butt spider, and
  • ·         The “little girl who’s lost her mom”-butt spider!

Betsy in "Come to me" mode.

 I don’t understand people who are afraid of zombies when this could actually happen!

Be careful who you vote for because they could secretly want to produce a breed of genetically engineered super smart man-butt spiders.

Now that’s scary!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Using your horn doesn’t make you a safe driver…

Road rage is a killer.  Especially when you’re trapped in a tin can, flying down the roads of Haiti at upwards of 80 miles an hour, and YOUR rage is directed at YOUR driver. 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to O Kay.  The drive to O Kay is gorgeous.  We wove through the mountains, drove through a multitude of small towns and villages, and hugged the coastline during our almost-pleasant 5 hour drive from Port-Au-Prince.

There was a pleasant bit of conversation between me, the head nun of Haiti, 2 of the girls, the driver, and his wife. 
I added this pic because it was Gorgeous.  The lake of O'Kay
Even this drive was tainted with a sprinkling of the road rage to come. 

The first sign came at the downed bridge (which was perfectly serviceable just covered with a mound of dirt???).  We took a 1 lane bypass around the bridge and THROUGH the river.  Many of the more polite cars pulled off the road to connect their 4x4.  If you haven’t ever seen this, older 4x4 have a locking mechanism on the front two wheels which must be manually engaged.

Butt Face (our driver) did not bother to pull off the road.  Instead he decided to sit in the middle of the road, while cars in front and back are honking, and change the locking mechanism, on BOTH sides of the river.  It would have been a minor inconvenience to us to let the 4 cars behind us pass, but I guess shrugging is easier…

Second Sign, I even kicked a pile of horse crap with my flip flops.  Luckily, there was a leech infested pond right next to the poop for me to wash off my foot.  Yeah that sucked. But at least I wasn’t in the car with the chauffer.

On our drive we passed many of the most beautiful locations I’ve seen in Haiti.  The ocean, a river flowing into a damn with irrigation trenches, beautiful mountains, the descent into O Kay from the mountains. 

After our drive and sightseeing Sr. Mary Clair stayed in O Kay and we made our way home.

After she left, the chauffer made the most dazzling show of ego, self importance, and disrespect I’ve ever seen.  For example; instead of throwing his waste sugar cane out the window he would put it at my feet.  This could have been a cultural difference and so I wasn’t angry… yet.

Lucky for me the anger would come, as the ride home that drove every nail into the figurative coffin.   I’m just glad it wasn’t mine. 

He sped. I checked and we were going 80 miles an hour at one point.  These are not highways; they would be the equivalent of American back roads. Pedestrians walk on the road, because there is no side walk. 

We even encountered a funeral procession.  The gentlemen in the procession had to stand in front of the car so that the driver wouldn’t PUSH THROUGH THE CROWD. Even with that he tried a few times.

We stopped here to get ocean water.  Again Gorgeous!
An argument between him and his wife ended with us stopping so they could collect salt water.  Awkward turtle!

To make up for “lost time” he would pass cars while blazing down the road.  We’d pass car without caution and twice we had to fit 3 cars on the crowded road.  

Then the sun set.

Haitians misuse their brights and it really chaps my hide! They turn them ON as they pass other cars, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this causes night blindness.  But this isn’t what really scares me.  In Haiti there are many cars that don’t have lights…  I counted 3 in the course of 1 hour.  Imagine passing at 80 miles an hour then seeing a car without lights drive by 5 or 6 seconds later.

At one point he scared a kid crossing the street because OUR lights weren’t on.  Our horn was the only warning the kid got of our approach, which made the kid jump out of his skin. 

After that, he almost hit 1 pig, 2 dogs, 30 people and at least 4 other cars.  OK so I didn’t count how many people he almost hit but it was a lot!  One person was hit with the mirror.  We weren’t going very fast but obviously he wasn’t driving very well either.

If I’d had money I would have gotten out and taken a taptap (taxi).  If I’d had my license I’d have asked to drive myself.  If I make it back to America I’m going to kiss the first police officer who pulls me over. 

When driving with a mad-man bring: cash, your wallet, and pepper spray.

Lesson Learned.

This is the man to look out for.  Just get out and walk!