Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fun with Pictures: Happy New Year!

A couple really cool things happened recently. So cool in fact, I took pictures!

The first was the chance to host an amiga Americana, Ellie, who was in Haiti for a few weeks researching. She was an awesome exploring buddy! The combination of her presence here + the tapering-off of peak kidnap season was a great chance to get out! She and I took the sardine taptaps, enjoyed lots of street food (pickleeeeees! plus a few other unidentified things that looked tasty and made for mostly pleasant surprises,) and haggled with the street art vendors, (which I’m not good at yet—too nice!) We walked from one side of Port au Prince literally across town to chez moi—about an hour and a half of pothole-dodging, winding through the hills! When we got home it hit me how incredibly liberating it was to just be outside and walk—I hadn’t realized it until I didn’t have it.

What I really appreciated about Ellie’s visit was bouncing ideas off of someone who has been in similar situations in rough countries, being the obvious minority assumed to have lots of money. When I first arrived here I aimed to lay low, keep my head down, go about my business. Hide myself away and hope no one noticed me. In talking with Ellie and meeting other blan Americans she knows here, I realize it’s ridiculous to think that everyone and their brother doesn’t already recognize me as the sole blan of the neighborhood, and know where I live, whether I know them or not. So why try and hide when I’d rather embrace being here. In reality, I think I am safer this way, as the Haitians watch out for those they know, those who are a part of their neighborhoods or lives, even if that’s just a smile and bonjou as you go past.

From Ellie’s visit:

Ellie with our feast of roadside food (I realize it does not look like a feast in this picture. We were hungry!) She helped me discover some great vendors right out my front door! My apt, and Haiti map in the background (courtesy my friends at MCC!)

Are those flags flying in the background?! No no, just my undies in the backyard.

My neighbor Lovelyn’s Christmas present, babydoll Lovena, sitting on my clean laundry. Even white dolls can have dreadlocks!

Lovelyn (with cornflake dribble on chin), mwen, Lovena (her clothes were reportedly dirty at the time), Ellie

Other cool event: Camping on the beach on the southern coast, over New Year’s/my birthday--really not much explanation needed! It was ideal. Ocean stars ocean stars ocean stars. And cremas! You can already see the stars here in Port au Prince, but looking out over the edge of the mini-cliff that was our campsite and into the night sky is almost addictive, where you can just stand lost in your thoughts for ages, with the sound of waves crashing below. A new year + a change of scenery spurs plenty contemplation. And the cremas. J It’s certainly one of my new Haiti favorites: sweetened condensed milk + rum + a few other magic ingredients is good—dangerously so :) Just don’t spill it all over your black pants like I did and get made fun of for it for the rest of the weekend! Or consider bringing more than one pair of pants! My cell phone was also a victim to the festivities—lost in the revelry. So if anyone calls me and a Haitian man answers instead, just wish him happy new year!

I got to swim everyday. I can’t say I’ve ever been surrounded by as much quiet as when I’d dive under the surface and towards the blue deep. It’s so incredibly peaceful (especially compared to the non-stop rara and music of downtown PAP!) Coming back up to the surface to break through to fresh air and blinding sun—feels like entering another world.

The people make all the difference in any good celebration, and I wasn’t let down. J The crowd at the campsite was mixed Haitian and American, from different places and backgrounds. Like in DC, in Haiti everyone has opinions on politics and progress—but the variety of attitudes is more marked here. I lit into the campsite owner when he said that all NGOs are in Haiti for the money, and the average Haitian’s poverty keeps the NGOs in business. There can be truth to that statement, but I won’t stand for a blanket stereotype of the sort of institution for which I moved here to work. (He’s pictured below showing his sense of humor…) All said, I found buddies for soccer-playing (yippee!), book-reading, and more explorations!

Camping Pics: Pooja and me at the campsite, eaaaaaarly into the long New Years night!

My friend Charles the well-dressed pirate.

… but I don’t think real pirates wear yellow. Just out of range of this pic is a 40 foot rock cliff I jumped off of… :)

The campsite owner, a Haitian dude, is at least as much of a character as my Uncle Chris.

A deep last thought: Spotted on a T-shirt at a roadside market en route to the South: CAMPING: A great excuse to eat beans and not shave.


Now I go into super-rural central Haiti most of next week with one of our projects—like camping for work! I’m really looking forward to it. And the beans :)

So happy 2008 to all my dear friends and family—I hope you find what you are seeking, or at least learn from the search.



Sinclair said...

So you haven't gotten past leaving your underwear out for all to see yet? Ha! I have a picture of us at your apartment in France with the line o'panties behind us, waving in the airconditioning. Hehe. I hope that you're doing well. Miss you- write soon!

Love, Sinclair

Kate said...

hey those were Jenn Bunny's undies too!!! The dryer was broken!!! (We just didn't know our noble department head was going to come for a surprise visit that day...!)
miss you too :) and hope all is well chez toi.