Katie Update from Day 3 (backdated)

Some of these got hung up, so they are out of sequence.  Apropos for Haiti


Today was one of those days where everything that was supposed to happen, didn’t—and everything that did happen was…meant to be.  For example: the roosters were supposed to wake us up at 5 am; happily we slept till 6:40…I’ll conquer them yet!  The sun was in full force at 7 am and we could all tell it was going to be a hot day; and I’m sure I was not the only one secretly glad that today was our day off.  Philip and I were looking forward to going to the beach, and even though I was skeptical about actually going in the water, it would at least be nice to see something different and perhaps catch a nice breeze.

Sadly, there were not enough spots in the tap-tap, so we decided to take a meander into Leogane instead.  We corralled Ben to come with us and took off into the streets under what was now a roaring sun.  Along the way we met up with 3 guys who joined the group yesterday—all college seniors from St. Bonaventure who gave up their Spring Break to come to Haiti.  Nearing Leydi’s tent (I learned the correct spelling today), they yelled out “Philippe” as soon as they spotted Philip—it goes without saying that in a country of relatively short black men, the 6’6” white guy with a shaved head is easy to spot.  We thanked him again for his bicycle and told him to stop by the base later and went on our way.

Getting out of the “city” parts of Leogane was interesting—the homes were much more spread out, and though displaced, the residents had tents in their yards instead of on the streets themselves.  We made it to the end of one road where there were workers chopping down the raw sugar cane. By this point, we looped around to the main part of town, passing by the food and fruit vendors, various merchants, and taxi (motos, not cars) drivers. On the way back into town, we made sure to stop at the Unicef camps being run by the Sri Lankans and also the Canadian Medical tents as well—manned by volunteer Canadian doctors but guarded by their Naval officers.  After a few jibes about the hockey game this afternoon we were on our way.

A brief stop by the egg lady yielded egg sandwiches with onion and hot sauce, cold “Cocas” and a failed attempt to buy a Malta H.  Not only were the sandwiches delicious and well-deserved by this point, but since leaving the base Ben had been subtly, and then not-so-subtly, hinting at them.  If nothing else, the act of chewing shushed him for a while.  I am quite sure he made two subsequent trips back this afternoon.

Back at the base, it was unbearably hot—and just as we were headed towards an afternoon siesta, there’s a knock at the gate.  Laura yells out “Philip, you have guests.”  Of course he does…

In walks Leydi and his brother Reginal (who is the actual owner of our rented blue bike) who stay with us for nearly two hours, chatting, trying to teach me Creole phrases (we had to resort to stand up, sit down)—and it turns out his parents live not so far from me in Brooklyn (there is a very prominent Haitian community there).  In the midst of all this, Summer Olympics HODR-style were beginning.  Chris strung up a slack rope and began tightrope-walking between two pillars, inciting wide-eyed stares from most of us.  Soon, everyone was trying to balance on the line—some more successful than others (I blame my ear infections as a child for my pronounced lack of balance), and to the great shock of us all, Philip, having the least-efficient center of gravity for this skill, did quite well.  Meanwhile, lumber that was being used for bunkbeds turned into a pull-up bar and military style calisthenics began.  It didn’t take long for everyone to become sweaty and tired…and there wasn’t even a rubble pile in site.

Following a lunch of protein bars covered in peanut butter (our cook gets the day off), Philip and I were planning on going with a group of people to the Canadian military base down the road where we had been invited to watch the hockey finals (and hopefully score some Molson and real food).  Alas, we drew low cards (literally) on that trip too—and were once again left to our own creativity.

This time we grabbed Suchita and TJ and went the opposite direction down the road.  Immediately, the air opened up, a breeze came through and there was farm land on both sides of the road.  Not to be fooled, as soon as we remarked on the “beauty” we came upon an IDP camp—another reminder of just how wide-spread and vast the displacement and poverty reached.  Further down the road we met a man on a bike who said hi and wanted to practice his English—so we shared a few hellos and kept walking.  We ran into him once more as we looped around the IDP camp—learning that there was indeed a beach down the road (we had been told one existed).  Side bar: Philip made an excellent observation today: the Haitian concept of time, distance and how long something will take are just about as sensible as their currency (I was never good at math, and getting me to explain the value of Gougs to Haitian dollars to US dollars right now is about as likely as the temperature dropping below 90 tomorrow).

With the beach as our goal, we set off on a quick pace—passing by a GTZ water-filtration plant, a WFP camp and miles and miles of farmland.  It was the first time we could walk without garbage, feces or tents in the streets… Finally we made it to the beach, where a small fishing community exists—an entirely new level of poverty.  As if to summarize our experience, the stunning sunset was marred by naval carriers in the background and desperate children in the sand.  But they are impeccably and persistently wearing smiles—and an old man standing next to his boat, wearing an Ohio State polo, happily took pictures with us all.  Nothing made them laugh more than to have their picture taken.  As the sun finally began to set through the clouds, I snapped a quick photo of a boat named “Deliverance” and couldn’t help but wonder what that means to whomever stenciled the words.

To recap, we were all supposed to take a “stroll” before dinner and now, 3 hours, and 10 miles later we were tired and it was getting dark.  Even with headlamps, energy bars and water, the walk home was highly unappealing.  Thankfully, a few miles away who do we spot, but our friend with the bike, who we now learn is called “Uso.”  Uso hails down a taxi driver, who happens to be his brother.  So TJ and Suchita take it back to camp while Philip and I wait with Uso until he returns.  Uso has lived in Florida, has parents in Brooklyn, and was a driver in the US.  Now, he lives back in Haiti where he owns four plantain farms.  He admits that he would like help, and would like to stand in the UN lines, but doesn’t have the time.  He chooses to try and work during the day to make money—which is the only way he will be able to rebuild his home and life.

Back at camp, we do a quick turnaround to find some rice&bean street food…and find Leydi and his brothers, Reginal and Allan—who take us on culinary tour of Leogane—finding not only rice, but fried plantains, French fries, papaya smoothies and tripe.  With due deference to stomach illness, certain things were avoided, but no doubt it was an underground tour not afforded most visitors.  Leydi told us more about his job, as a policeman at the National Palais—and shared his experiences directly following the quake, what he thinks of the current climate, and what it’s like to see workers (especially females) doing work.

My day “off” was perhaps as physically taxing as any other—but oh so rewarding.  Though the Haitian sense of time is a bit too meandering for my own rigid tastes, it’s days like these, when all “plans” fail to adhere that the most is learned.  I would only hope that in some small way, Leydi feels his day was improved as much as ours was.  It’s nearly lights out here, so for now, it’s a simple good night.


1 Response to “Katie Update from Day 3 (backdated)”

  1. 1 Protein 90 5kg March 13, 2017 at 02:30

    Thanks for finally writing about >Katie Update from Day 3 (backdated)
    | Philip Kiracofe · Adventure Capitalist <Liked it!

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"beyond the fear of failure is the courage to explore new realms and expand your horizens - know no fear"

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