Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Leaving Fonkoze

Fonkoze’s Port-au-Prince branch office, resplendent in barbed wire :)

Friday, April 18, 2008

I’m not ready to leave Haiti!!

It’s my last Friday night in the country. No, I’m not out on the town… in typical I-live-in-Haiti fashion, I didn’t have a ride for an evening out, so I’m hanging out with Ramen noodles, garbanzo beans, and a good book tonight! I don’t mind, I need a chance to gather some thoughts, and a bigger bash is planned for tomorrow night.

There were times when I was ready for this moment of departure—almost counting down. And now it’s here, and I don’t want it. Even in the thick and the mess of the violent food riots, or on crutches, this is where I’ve wanted to be.

I just said goodbye to my boss. We both got teary. And I needed a hug. It’s in my genes—Mom cries just as easily! I wasn’t expecting the thoughtful gifts and kind words my boss left me with, and it set off the sentimental switch. It is an amazing feeling though, when a boss tells you, if things don’t work out in Cameroon… you are welcome back here any time.

And my Haitian colleagues. The chief accountant, who sits back-to-back from me with about 2 feet of separation in our cozy quarters, constantly cracks me up with her favorite emphatic expressions, so much so, I’m sure I’ll be repeating “MezANMI!” and “ohOO!” plenty once back in the States. The deputy director, who when he is nervous, makes an endearing high pitched “Eeeeeee!” noise while smiling and laughing. My accounting colleagues—the ample and patient help I’ve gotten from so many of them when at times I was feeling like a very impatient blan. I really appreciate them. Even the adorable kids of my colleagues, who often come into accounting and traipse around after they’ve gotten out of school—I just had to squeeze one of them’s pigtail puffs today!

I realize—well—I like to work. I like to contribute. I like to see that I’m making changes in an organization for the better. During my six months at Fonkoze, I had taken the place of one of their senior accountants, who unexpectedly quit just as I arrived. So I had ample opportunity to really get into the weeds of my work. Of course in DC I worked an insane amount, and here, it’s toned down toward normalcy, but I still comfortably put in ten hours a day on no salary. There’s a piece of me that knows I could really help Fonkoze and could contribute even more… if I stayed. I think my boss and I both know it, thus the tears, and feelings of mutual appreciation. In general, Haiti is a place that brings out the strong feelings in you. Life here is just more intense.
(Like, for example, the fact that I am going to work til about 1pm before my 4pm flight on Thursday! :)

But to end on a lighter note that gives you a little feel of my Fonkoze day-to-day, there is an ad painted on the wall directly outside the office. I see it everyday coming in and out, but never knew for the longest time what it was! A soccer team? no. Another friend had thought… a security service? Nope! The ads are so thoroughly ubiquitous, friends and I have even played a game of “how many Pantè ads can you spot?!” while driving through rural towns. So, mes amis, guess this product! The winner gets a cookie. :)


DC Mail Vigilante said...

I received some good guesses...

JKurz2008 said...

Hi Kate,

Sorry for posting a comment rather than emailing you, but I can't find your email addres. I was reading all of your posts and Haiti because I'll be going down there on February 28th. I'm looking for some good practical advice.

We're about the same age (I'm 23, a graduate student) so it'd be great to hear some advice from a contemporary. Would you mind dropping me a line at james.kurz@villanova.edu?

Thanks! Hope all is well in Cameroon.