Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Yes, you read me right. It's all their fault. They went and did exactly what everybody was afraid of: the elections have been posponed. Maybe until January 22nd. They'll let us know for sure any day now. Which means the anxiety of who/what/when will last at least that long.
I'm personnally anxious for us to turn a page. I don't believe there will be elections, democratic or otherwise because it doesn't seem like that's the plan. We're crawling with NGO types, military types, diplomacy types and for what?
When I registered as a voter, I discovered the office by happenstance, walking down the street. It wasn't written anywhere that I could tell. Ditto for getting the card back. My mother stumbled upon the line the first day so we went the next.
Is there a point beyond ridicule? If so, this is what it must be like.
Not that anybody else thinks it's going to happen, either. This canadian journalist doesn't believe so. Neither do most cab drivers I've talked to or any one else for that matter.
I don't even think we really care. We've had gas problems. Sure the streets are almost empty because school is out for the hollidays but the lines in and around gas stations last week were not fun at all.
And then there's the news that we beat Colombia for highest kidnapping rate ever. Rather hard to be proud of such a reputation. I'm personnally very scared to go out. Allegedly, we've gone from 30 kidnappings in Nov to 30 for the first week of December alone. Yikes! I'm also not convinced, like the Police seem to be, that this is purely criminal.
Take for instance this guy who gets kidnapped when he just made a withdrawal at the bank. He gets cornered and kidnapped by armed men. Logically, this is a set-up. Somebody at the bank tipped off the bad guys. Were the story takes a chilling twist is that the unfortunate woman on the sidewalk is taken too. And tortured, to hasten the ransoming process. That one smells like a crime of opportunity. Doesn't it?
I think it's a tool. Which is nothing new. In the past, whenever there's been talk of trouble here and foreign intervention, suddenly your phone or cable doesn't work and thieves are all over you. Can't be just a coincidence, can it?
Not with the UN reportedly renting left and right for an average of 5 years. Not with Mr Rinse-Repeat a favorite if not a sure thing for President. (So much so, he didn't bother until recently to talk to the press, or so they say)
A friend says that if he is our next president, she's definitely leaving the country. After what we've lived through so far, can I blame her? Worse still, with the current crime rate, can she stick around long enough to find out?
'Tis the season to be jolly, right?
Friday, December 02, 2005
I guess I treated this blog like I do all my writing. I think it sucks, basically. Not only was I voicing thoughts and feelings I wasn't sure I wanted to share with people I saw every day, but, true to my type A personality, I decided to do it in a language I'd initially learned from an animated rabbit.
But I needed to say something. Hence the title this post. It's from the Latin version of book of Psalms, and means : "Understand my outcry". Because this huge scream was building in me and it needed to get out. I couldn't share it with my friends or family because they were either in it with me or too far away to fully understand. Paradoxically, I needed a forum of people who were somehow virgin of all the stories and rumors if only to get my own story out.
I think I had an epiphany in spring 2002, actually. My official favorite artist, Barnett Newman was being showed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and I just was struck dumb by the power of his colors. I couldn't find my favorite "Outcry" but this one, the "End of Silence" (detail) ties in nicely, don't you think? (Of course the physical and emotional effect is lessened by the distance. The actual exhibit gave me chills)
So I blogged. And then, I started getting feedback. Not necessarily comments directly on this page, no. But a few people, some of which I didn't know at all, had linked from the only 2 sites online that blog rolled me (you know who you are, I think) and read my posts. Not only that, they said they liked what they read, were even touched by it. Who would have thought!?!
So I took my courage into my own hands and posted the URL on a group I belong to, inviting them to look at the pictures I put up. Yes, I was being coy. What I really wanted was for them to read the rest. It worked.
Predictably, this is not enough for me. I want to read blogs by others like me. I want to know that I'm not the only mouthy third-worlder out there. I want to see that other Haitian women are speaking out, telling their story.
So I'm putting out an ad:
One last thing. If you're not sure if you belong to the 3rd or 4th world, it's simple: check out your country's score in the UN Humand Development Index. I'm generous so I'll take anything under 0.80.
Women bloggers of the third wold. Must be opinionated, frank to the point of bluntness and unafraid. Haitian, Caribbean, Latin America and/or island nationals preferred. Please post link in comments. Transgender applications not received at this time.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
I was discussing this with my mother last night and I realized two things:
1) I can't remember the last Dec when I was actually looking forward to a new year. I don't think it was 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 nor 2004. Maybe 1999, because of the millenium hype? Though I might have been distracted by the bog anxiety.
2) I'm so glad I don't have children!!!! Between the fact that our exchange rate is stagnating at 43,50 gourdes for a dollar, which means every time I get to the cash register at the supermarket, I fear imminent myocardial infarction, and the fact that all those shootings, murders, kidnappings, mutilations and rapes have left me so rung out, I can't even listen to a jingle or a hymn without sneering, I just want this nightmarish year to be OVER.
So if I had kids, I'd have to go through all the Santa, carolls, tree trimming ritual. And to do that I'd have to be drunk for 40 days (including the first week of the New Year, of course, since school children here don't go back until after Epiphany).
Alas, 2006 isn't going to be much better. How do I know this? Simple. The government has announced that elections will be held January 8th, and inauguration February 24th at the latest. That's, respectively, the first non-holliday Sunday of the year and the Friday before Carnival.
In other news, I'm decided to do a blogging blitz for Advent. So between today and Christmas Eve, I'm challenging myself to post something every day! (don't hold your breath). I'm also "improving" on my blog content, as you can tell from the side bar's growth, to your right. Suggestions are welcomed.
And, before I go, a word about today, World Aids Day. While the UNICEF's statistics, for example, can be staggering, there is some good news available. Starting with the fact that initiatives like PIH/Fonkoze in the fight against AIDS has won a prestigious prize, to the real deal : research in Haiti shows antiretroviral drugs work even on us!
So maybe some things, like human life, are really worth fighting for, even when it all seems relative.
Monday, November 14, 2005
My favorite milk drink/yogourt Lèt Agogo won the first prize in the CEPAL/ECLAC competition titled Experiences in Social Inovation. Read about it here and find out about the project here.
Oh, and their milk drink (20 gdes in local grocery stores) looks like this:
I'm so happy, I think I'm going to invest in the dairy project!!!
Friday, November 04, 2005
While I was working on my previous post, a protest started in front of my office building and I just had to give you the scoop. The front banner says it's the National Coordination of Cooperative Victims (see here and here for details.)
First, the group grew to fill the intersection, then it became a sit-in, which of course backed up traffic for the whole block.
And then gun shots were fired. Apparently, it was a police officer in plain clothes who was pissed off that his SUV couldn't go through. What I did see with my own eyes is two men in t-shirts and jeans with their black handguns drawn.
Of course, the crowd panicked. My own heart skipped a beat when the first shots were fired because I sit with my back to the window. Anyway, no harm to anyone that I can see. The protest is regrouping as I write this.
A sampling of the signs and chants: "We don't want of live like animals, we don't want the IMF", or "We don't want to be hungry, we don't want the IMF", and after the incident, they chanted "Latortue stole our money, now he's shooting at us".
That last one is rather inaccurate (Latortue "inherited" the problem) but then again, it's not like much has been done in favor of these people.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Jodi a se Jounen Entènasyonal Lang ak Kilti Kreyòl. Sa vle di tout moun ki pale kreyòl sou latè ap fete bèl lang sa a ak moun ki pale li.
[translation: Today is Int'l Creole Language and Culture Day. This means that everyone worldwide who speaks Creole is celebrating this beautiful language and its speakers.]
I was very happy to watch a debate on Guyane's television around this celebration. I was surprised to see how well I understood what the 7 participants were saying, except, of course for the use of "ka" with verbs which always confuses present and future tenses in my head, but that's another debate altogether...
I was also rather discouraged. It seemed their problems with Creole are almost the same : French is considered a 1st-class language, Creole isn't. People think using more Creole in daily life will cut us off from the rest of the world. Creole is still not considered a "real" language by a lot of people.
One guest, the owner of the local television station we were watching, said that 10 years ago, the station was even stoned because he aired the news in Creole. Things have progressed yet he still has to fight with his guests to get them to interview in Creole.
This situation fits in well with my previous post. Most candidates are using Creole and Rasin music to get the vote. Yet walk into any public office and everyone wrestles with French, all the forms are in French. In fact, I sometimes feel things in Creole are ID and the Constitution.
I hate that this language that all Haitians communicate with is so politically charged. You're "smart" when you speak French, and "dumb" when you speak Creole. And yet, if you actually analyze what most people say in French, was comes out and what they mean are two different things. So it's a means of control and, well, oppression. If you say something only in French, you're guaranteed to filter out almost 95% of the population. This is a good way of making sure people only understand what you want them to.
Our former Prezidan, a great actor in his own right, took to making all his speeches in Creole. Smart man to communicate directly with "the masses". Yet, when he was away, I wonder what stories he told in French and in English...
There are several issues that need to be addressed by the candidates. Foremost is Education. School is mostly taught in French with French books. Is it any surprise that we get such poor results in the official exams? An expert said it best on TV the other day : Children here don't go to school to learn, they got to practise memorization skills.
I was taught Creole in school, in 3rd or 4th grade, for all of 6 months. Never again afterwards. In fact, I was forbidden to speak it even during recess. I didn't even have an opinion on Creole in schools until a few years ago I saw a documentary on Hawai'i.
There is a school on the main island there that experimented in teaching class entirely in the Hawai'ian language (I don't know the correct term). The only class they had in English was literally English. Those students ended up with the highest scores of SAT for that state.
Imagine what would happen if every single law, news article, movie, book or textbook was available in Creole. Every single Haitian would not only have equal access to knowledge, he would also be able to question what's going on around him.
The question now becomes : who really wants that ?
Friday, September 23, 2005
Seriously though, I do think a lot about my posts (which might go against blogging practises but...) and sometimes I change my mind about what I want to talk about. Or I have no electricity or no internet access.
But mostly, I'm just tired. Tired of thinking in a country where thinking isn't encouraged.
Tired of having my common sense taken for granted. Why did my parents bother to send me to school if everbody acts like I'm too deaf, dumb or blind to understand what the hell is going on?
Tired of being afraid to go outside past dark because I might witness something I shouldn't, get shot or out right killed?
Tired of accidently stepping into puddles of human blood. It's happened to me twice this month alone and it's disgusting. Plus, I watch CSI, that stuff doesn't wash off just like that, you know.
Tired of wondering why I go to work if I just get poorer and poorer every day. I got an inflation increase at work. So What? My buying power is lower than the couple of extra bills I got on my paycheck.
But mostly I'm tired of being disappointed all the time. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Why do I wake up in the morning if the day is somehow going to be worst than the last? School has started for three weeks now but the streets are almost empty before 7h am and after 5h pm. Where has everybody gone to hide?
So, for now, if you don't hear me, it's okay.
I'm just tired.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Surely it is too early for them to focus on that. But still, the questions beg to be asked. Am I the only one who's noticed that the world is getting a little agitated these last few years? I remember clearly being taught in school that we, the poor countries, were more susceptible to these natural disasters. Because, because, because. But this summer, countries in Europe I had never before heard of suffering from this, had flooding and landslides : Switzerland, people, was muddied up!!!
I saw a French panel of experts from all fields essentially saying that the temperature rise (1 degree/year) is at the root of this phenomenon since hot ocean waters cause hurricanes to begin with.
So I'll just go ahead and say it: the US, once they get over the shock, should reassess their environmental policies. They are notorious worldwide for refusing to sign the Kyoto accords on gas emissions and the hothouse effect. And they are one of the biggest polluters, being the biggest industrialized nation these days. If you only take care of the victims, you don't solve the problem, you perpetuate it.
All these images on TV bring me back to Gonaïves, last year. Some stories are so similar. People being surprised by the strength of the water, spouses being torn from their loved ones hands, house disappearing. If there are about 20 hurricanes forecast for this season, I'm worried about what is coming up. After Gonaïves, everybody in the Capital is a little anxious. We're the most populated city on this island, slums clog the canals, the slightest rain turns the streets into rivers.
The property line of the house I live in has shrunk over the years because of the rains widening the ravine behind us. It's family owned and no one thought to have work done when it was still time. My neighbours back wall fell last year, I wonder if mine will this time around.
15 more potential hurricanes to go. God help us all.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
I'm not writing about this the same way, instead let's stay on the island and let the lobbyists do what they do best.
The big news these days is the fact that our former president's party signed up on the last day of enrollment for political parties to participate in the election. There are now 63 parties in the run. Why did they do it? Why, indeed when all partisans of the ousted president are clamoring for his return to his legitimate, democratically elected post? Well, some of these party leaders are saying that one should differentiate between those who believe in the party's ideals (such as those who enrolled), and those who believe in their exiled leader's ideals. Whatever they may be...
As far as the temporary government is concerned, the elections are on. They've even extended the registration period until September 15th. Hordes of people are rushing to sign up for the National ID card. Of course, the government sold us on the idea by saying it could be used as regular ID for 10 years (sic). I had mine made in early July when there weren't any long lines under the sun. I could have gone earlier but I waited until an office opened nearby. Now, you have to expect a very long wait at every registration office. Some people still don't know what's going on, witness this man I overheard commenting to his companion that it must be "some check they're giving out". Because, of course, money is the only thing that will motivate people, these days!!!
When we forget the elections, there are the usual topics: security/disarmament/human rights violations; trading petty insults with our loving neighbor; the price of gas/government subsidies (or not!).
Meanwhile, people are filing the streets of the city once more. School starts over next month and many parents are out buying books and fabric for uniforms. We are all still wary and we do jump at the least little sound but not as much as before. Things are different but not resolved. We hear less of kidnappings and such but they still exist.
So Crime is lower but still very present. Case in point : A friend of mine had just gotten home when an armed stranger put his hand over her mouth and a gun to her temple. The story doesn't end tragically for once but being confronted by three armed criminals is not exactly reassuring. Also, a man and his wife were shot at while driving by in their car. The husband's brain exploded (sic) and the wife took a bullet to the neck. I haven't heard another version of the story yet so it's an unsolved mystery, still.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
The funeral is tomorrow and there is a march planed. The government declared it a national day of mourning. Today, radio stations had special shows about him. Fellow journalists and friends expressed their anger and bitterness over this crime. Fellow poets read Roche's work and their own, in memoriam.
But what about the other victims? I'm not talking about other people who have been kidnapped, tortured or murdered. What about the majority of victims, the survivors. Roche's relatives who came from the USA to bury him. The guys who played football with him. The people who live on the streets where his body was dumped. His coworkers who had to brave gunshots to identify the body. Us all, who heard the news, saw the pictures, read the poems.
Who cries for us? Who prays for us? When the dead are buried and gone, and we have to live on. And pretend we can make it without them. Who will save our souls from the black hole this irretrievable loss pulls us towards?
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The shocking part was the speed. In 10 mn, I walked there, answered questions, took a picture, had my prints scanned and walked back. Unheard of!!! Of course, you don't get the card until Septembre. Stay tuned for the sequel to this adventure...
Dearest Dennis' numbers are in: according to the officials it's 11 dead, 20 wounded, 3 missing, 15 000 homeless, 154 homes dammaged, 102 homes destroyed. Don't do the math, I couldn't figure it out myself. This assessment does not take into account dead cattle or flooded fields.
Meanwhile, the police has published a list of 300 "suspected criminals, actively wanted" (whatever that means) including their purpoted address and weaponry. Apparently, Wilmé's death hasn't meant even a slowing down of criminal activity in the capital. 10 people rumored to have been kidnapped yesterday alone. 3 funerals, at least, of former kidnappees (2 post-traumatic deaths, 1 suicide).
And to top it all off, the dominican foreign affairs minister is here to talk shop. Let's review what they have to discuss: import(us)/export(them) between the two countries, massive haitian illegals dumping on the border by the dominican gvt, the free zone thing planned around the border line, and, always, money (can't leave out that one).
Friday, July 08, 2005
But this week, hurricane season has officially started. It's always launched with the advent of summer but you know you're in it when the first storms hit. Dearest Dennis has swept by us, bringing rain, choppy seas and strong winds. The southern peninsula is probably a muddy mess as I write this, I haven't heard the news yet. In fact, I try not to read the news. I skim the headlines of the office paper and rely on my father for the analysis. He's really good at it.
Besides the weather, the other big news is the death of Dread Wilmé, one of the gang leaders behind the local chaos. He was shot during a UN troops-led operation in his stronghold. They nicked his femoral artery, bye bye Willie!!!! Of course, his followers/gang members have sworn revenge.
Is this good or bad news? I can't tell yet. On one hand, the USA has refused to send troops of Marines (the usual solution) to help the UN, despite Mr Annan's plea. So it's up to those mostly Brazilian soldiers of peace to clean up the cage. On the other, they have started cleaning since a number of prominent rats are now dead.
So, I'll do what I always do: wait and see.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Also, a chain letter, signed by a number of organizations, political or not, is asking people to stay home for three days. As I am both physically and psychologically wrung out, I'm staying home. So no new entries before Monday, at least.
What will happen over the weekend? Especially since the Minister of Justice is stepping down this Friday. Who knows?
We're just going to have to wait and see.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
The fear is heightened lately because this month is officiall exams month. 574 000 kids, spread over 4 different grades, are taking state tests all month. The department of education had to change exam locals at the last minute because those buildings were too close to the action. Or the bad guys (the BGs, let's call them) were directly targeting them.
Yes, you read right. School kids are still being victimized in this mess. Some 12th graders have already had their exam passes (without which they cannot get in to take the tests) torn by armed BGs. The government intervened and those kids were able to get new passes asap. I know parents who've taken the week off just to make sure the kids are safe. For what it's worth, anyway.
Kidnapping victims were also in the news. They've started telling their stories. This one woman was kidnapped by mistake, not the first time this has happened. Except she was "stolen" by a second group of captors so her family had to pay the ransom twice to get her back. They hit her in the face and kidneys so she would cry out when they called the parents. More impressive that way, you know.
Another tells of dismembered body parts, supposedly of those whose relatives couldn't come up with the money. Of course, this serves as a warning to the newly kidnapped. Get us the cash fast or it's chop chop for you.
Feeling nauseous? I am.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Now for the headlines.
The Minister of Justice resigned. A lot of people say it was more than time. I'm not sure. I am biased, of course, as he was a teacher of mine in college. But we all know the truth, no matter how disturbing it is : we are the USA's pawn in this. After all, weren't there American congressmen/women asking for his resignation for the unlawful detention of Aristide's former prime minister? Thy will be done...
The radio was also broadcasting interviews with arrested young members of the gangs terrorizing this city. You hear these boys, some of them with high-pitched voices still, explaining how long they've been in the game, what weapons they've used, and what their functions are. Chilling.
And now the sprinkles : government employees are now the targets of the kidnappers . I have the dubious honor of being one of those. So far this week, two of my coworkers have been kidnapped near their homes. The first one, a woman with no clout or status whatsoever in the administration, was told they would decapitate her if her family couldn't come up with $50,000 USD [at least 4-5 years of her salary, no less]. The kidnappers settled for $14,000 since the family could not afford more.
Stories and rumors abound, of course. They say American Airlines will shut down its flights by the end of the month. They say the airport will also close. They say the kidnappers have lists, and access to potential victims' financial information. They say this is the beginning of a civil war [we can't seem to achieve that status yet].
They say a lot of things. Which will become true?
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
But then, why did I start this blog? Because I need to tell somebody. Because I find myself in the same place I was almost 15 years ago : feeling overwhelmed, trapped and with no one to share the burden with.
So, I'll risk it. I'll tell you all. Can you handle the truth?
At the end of last week, two of the owners of a well-known, very popular pharmacy were abducted in front of their store early in the morning. They were kept for a couple of days and released one after the other when the ransom was payed. This has become a daily occurrence here. You fear it but you get used to it. It may happen to you today or tomorrow but you're just relieved to get home each night until it's your turn.
Except for the stories the victims tell. Oh, it would be harrowing enough to be kidnapped by armed criminals in broad daylight. Only, these men, these creatures have taken to beating and torturing their prey. Those two victims I told you about? The woman was struck to the face with the butt of a handgun. Her brother's eardrum was pierced with a pencil. Just for fun, it seems. It's not like they were resisting.
Long story short, the criminals were paid, the victims returned home. Shattered, but alive. Maybe that's all we should hope for.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Worse, this sad state of affairs would have been the perfect excuse to insult those thugs who run our lives here in the Capital. Rumor has it that the severe power outages are due to the fact that the mazout that the turbines run on can't get delivered because the electrical company has to cross a really hot neighborhood.
Well, can't do any of that now. My mother told me the electricity came on around 10 pm last night and I left for work at 7h40 am this morning and IT WAS STILL ON!!!!!
I'm getting really suspicious. They're not planning on giving it [gasp] every day!?!?!
I can't bare the thought...
Monday, June 06, 2005
As I was being driven home, my father called on the cell phone. "They" were burning down a major downtown market and, as usual, shooting up the streets. I knew then that my vacation was truly over.
But (here's another one) I hadn't heard it all. Oh, no! I went to lunch last Saturday with another friend. And she started telling me about her insomnia. And things that had happened in the month I wasn't there. About the robberies, the shootings. And about this young woman who was kidnapped. And rapped by her four abductors. And about her suicide the day after her return home (against $5000 US, all they could afford). She hadn't told her husband a word about her detention. Would he really want to know?
I went home that afternoon and cried. And didn't leave the house againthat week-end.
Ignorance is bliss, said the song. I wish I were so blessed...
Thursday, June 02, 2005
The internet has changed my life. Now that I've bored my entire family with my rants, raves and impetuous declarations, I'm going worldwide. I'll tell you everything. What I think of my next election, how to recognize a ripe avocado, what the neigh-boor [pun intended] is doing. You've been warned...