Sunday, December 31, 2006

And that's a wrap!

So 2006 has finally (FINALLY!!!!!) reached it's last day. Happy new year everybody else. I can only hope the same will be true for us here but there's no guarantee. L'espoir fait vivre...

I decided to make 5 New Year's Resolution but also (stole this somewhere) 5 New Year's Indulgences because I need some fun in my life (in case you hadn't noticed, not much of that in 06). So here we go:

5 Resolutions for 2007:
1- Eat more balanced meals (like have a real breakfast)
2- Get to work on time or die trying (what can I say, love my bed and my books)
3- Go dancing (or try to. I just realized I love dancing. Who knew!?!)
4- Exercise something other than my brain (that one's going to be tough. See 2)
5- Write the damn book, already! (No comment)

and now the best part, 5 Indulgences for 2007:

1- Eat more chocolate (it's good for the brain and for fighting headaches but who really cares?)
2- Music, music, music (even if it's unhip stuff like Fado or jazz)
3- Makeup is fun! And so is jewelry! (hey, it's a twofer!!!)
4- Mani/pedis are good for the soul (I'm positive that's true)
5- Celebrate the big 3-0 every chance I get (like, every month)

Let's see if a year from now, I' ve kept up more with the Resolutions or the Indulgences...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

In A New York Minute

Well, I'm back at work today. Couldn't hide my head in the sand longer than a day. Not that yesterday was completely blissful and ignorant but a girl can try, can't she?

Anyway, the bad news (and is there any other kind of news around here?) started pouring in the minute I got into the office.

First, my boss. He comes in, says Good Morning and then tells me that a bus full of kids was hijacked and the kiddies sequestered. Apparently, the kidnappers had warned the neighborhood that they would strike.

Then I hear from my mother that rumors are running wild about kids being kidnapped in every school in town. It seems that at least two little girls were taken from a Catholic school not too far from my house. That's not counting the kid they took last night from his own house.

The way my boss explains it, the kidnapping gangs wanted the major schools (most of them private catholic schools) to pay a "kidnapping fee" of $15, 000 USD each to insure that said schools wouldn't have to worry about any unfortunate incidents. Since the schools didn't know the rest.

According to the police, they are targeting grammar school kids between 4 and 9 years old. Vulnerable age, isn't it? I mean, if adults don't always survive the current kidnapping wave, how can children?

By 11h am, I need a break. Instead, I got the newspaper. The headlines : "Our kids are being taken while the Prime Minister "negociates" with the gangs", "The State Hospital smells like rotting corpses as the non-medical staff continues its strike" and "Cap Haitian jail overcrowded and unsanitary".

Well, so much of taking a breather. I don't know what Santa's going to bring since yesterday there was also a lot of violence and shooting in several parts of the country following the partial results of the municipal and local elections.

You see, somebody forgot to explain to the candidats that democratic elections mean the guy with the most votes gets the job, the car and the money, NOT the one with the most armed supporters.

For this very reason, the Electoral Council decided not to publish the election results for the capital. I think they're trying to let us enjoy the hollidays, whatever that means.

Except, the candidats don't care about us. They want their election results and they want them NOW!

Now, where did I put that bottle of rum, anyway?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Special Post : No Sturm or Drang...If I can help it

Today is my birthday so I thought "Why not spare them the ranting, raving, politicking etc.?" Why not indeed? So I google my bday to see what happened.

Well, let's just say it's a mixed bag. See for yourselves:

World History (and it ain't pretty)
1098 - First Crusade: Massacre of Ma'arrat al-Numan - Crusaders breach the town's walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants. After finding themselves with insufficient food, they resort to cannibalism (Yikes! No wonder I’m so bloodthirsty sometimes)
1642 : Abel Tasman discovers New Zealand
1799 : Napoléon Bonaparte is First Consul of France
1804 : Spain declares war on the United Kingdom
1870 : Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina becomes the first black U.S. congressman.
1894 : Japan invades Korea
1897 : Belo Horizonte, the first planned city of Brazil, is inaugurated.
1901 : Guglielmo Marconi changes the world with a kite and some copper wire.
1915 : German Hugo Junkers flies the first all-metal plane.
1941 : World War II: Great Britain declares war on Bulgaria. Hungary and Romania declare war on the United States. India declares war on Japan. (Busy day, wouldn’t you say?)
1952 : First French supersonic flight, aboard a Mystère II. (cool name)
1963 : Jamhuri Day, Kenya gains its independence from the United Kingdom.
1964 : Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta became the first President of the Republic of Kenya.
1979 : Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq conferred Nishan-e-Imtiaz on Nobel laureate Dr Abdus Salam.
1979 : Rhodesia changes its name to Zimbabwe.
1999 : The Erika brakes in half and dumps ten thousand tons of oil on the northern French coasts
2000 : The US Supreme Court says it’s Dubiya in Florida (Oh, Joy !)
2001 : Caribbean leaders recognize the Caribbean Sea as a commun heritage (Big whoop)

Famous (and Almost) People Born Today
1773 : Robert Surcouf, French privateer
1791 : Marie Louise, archduchess of Austria, second wife of Napoléon Ier and Impress of France
1821 : Gustave Flaubert, French writer
1863 : Edvard Munch, Norwegian painter (yes, I’m keeping it simple)
1893 : Edward G. Robinson, American actor
1900 : Sammy Davis, Sr., American dancer
1903 : Yasujiro Ozu, Japanese filmmaker (who actually died on his bday in 1963, cool)
1908 : Manoel de Oliveira, Portugese filmmaker
1915 : Frank Sinatra, American singer
1923 : Bob Barker, American television game show host
1924 : Ed Koch, Mayor of New York City
1937 : Roberto Benzi, French orchestra director
1938 : Connie Francis, American singer
1940 : Dionne Warwick, American singer
1943 : Grover Washington, Jr., American saxophonist
1957 : Robert Lepage, Quebec playwright, actor and film director
1957 : Sheila E., American musician
1967 : Yuzo Koshiro, Japanese musician and composer
1970 : Jennifer Connelly, American actress
1972 : Kevin Parent, Quebec singer and songwriter
1975 : Mayim Bialik, American actress (Remember Blossom?)
1977: Yours truly
1978 : Jason Wallace, Scottish Porn Star (couldn’t resist that one)
2003 : Keiko, the orca who played Free Willy and the sequels

You' ll notice the number of artists born on this day (yes, I'm including the big mammal). No wonder I turned out this way...

Catholic Saints (yes, those too!)
It's Virgen de Guadalupe day in Mexico. She appeared to Juan Diego in 1531. Ten millions or more pilgrims will travel to her church. Ay mi madre!

But also today is Ste Jeanne de Chantal (née Jeanne-Françoise Frémyot)who founded the Order of the Visitation in France. She was a brainiac apparently and a disciple of St Francis of Sales. And, even cooler, she's the grandmother of Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné, another writer. (It's a sign, I tell you! LOL)

Why do I add these two saints? Well, they were the only women associated with Dec 12th but, you' ll notice, they have/had clout and I like that.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Once more with feeling

I just got an email calling everyone to protest the gvt's choice of negociating with vs punishing the kidnappers and other criminals running amok in this country.

So grève/huelga/silent protest for next monday. Not surprising. Kidnappings continue though I haven't heard stories has traumatizing as the ones I reported here.

On the other hand, I did get a fwd'ed email accusing the Prime Minister of getting a cut on the ransoms. Hence he's...apathy?

In the words of my laundress : "verite a ap pale kounye a "

The truth is finally out...

Stay tune for the next episode of your favorite soap : "Haiti, trials of our lives".

Meanwhile, chaos in Mariani over the local elections or asec. I hear even buses didn't go through yesterday. In PV, there's a call for a recount because, allegedly, there were ballots already cast BEFORE the elections started. There were also student protests in front of the Primature and near the Presidential Palace.

It really is the season to be merry.

P.S. Forgot to mention it but about a dozen prisoners escaped the city jail by digging a hole in the wall. Who needs TV in a city like this!!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Plucking the chicken

Remember when I told you that Rinse Repeat was planning on paying thugs again to do nothing? I got a couple of emails from a friend who works in a public office that confirm that this is already going on, among other things.

I had to do some editing for clarity but here is what he had to say on different subject. [I'm the one commenting here] :

At work

My last boss what fired because he'd been named by the interm government. The new boss called back all the chimè that had been fired, some over two years ago, so they could claim the back salaries they had'nt "earned" in all that time.

The old boss had managed to turn a profit; the new one is giving away money to people who never worked a day in their lives, including when they supposedly "worked" here two years ago. Worse, current employees got in line to get the checks just like all those chimè and nobody even noticed!

And the ones who where hired under the interim govenment, and got fired after the elections, didn'nt get zip.

Let's not forget all the "chime" standing outside off the office who want to see their pal (I mean the director) and who start shooting when they feel they've waited too long. They're not particularly nice to the current employees either!

Meanwhile, six months can go buy and the real work doesn't get done. They say the new boss is putting some of the office funds in his own pockets. [quite possible and not surprising at all]

In the streets : the cops

When the police stop you, it is not to ask you for your papers or other items. But to ask you for some booze. [great! now we have to provide their drinks too? ]

In the streets : taxis

Did it ever happen to you? You're in a cab and two young guys get in and start asking people for money. There are guys like that on Delmas road : they always get in, watch the passengers, ask for money and then they leave whitout paying. The driver never says anything. [I wonder if that means he's in cahoots?]

I posted this as proof, not only that I am not a paranoid, neurotic freak (a feeling I get from time to time ) but also that there are several other people living here, who are witness to this mess and who are fed up!!!! My friend needed an outlet and you, my readers, need to know.

Urban Camping 101

Yesterday was election day. Municipal, local and even legislative (in the Artibonite, apparently).

But did I care? No. Did I vote? No. Did other people vote? I wonder. The streets were sooo empty, even for a Sunday morning that my mother and I were rather puzzled. My neighborhood was quiet, QUIET, for goodness sake!!!!

So if we didn't vote and didn't go out, what were we doing, you ask. Worrying, that's what! We're down to between 1h15 and 2h of electricity per day. And this does not make us happy.

Our fridge has turn into a pantry, the ants pantry specifically. We practically don't buy fresh anything anymore. Except certain vegetables like carrots or potatoes or onions that don't really need refrigeration. And since we can't save left-overs, we only cook what we can eat in one meal.

Milk isn't a problem since we've been drinking condensed milk for years now. But things like eggs or bread are surprisingly problematic. We now buy half-cartons of eggs, instead of the whole dz but the bread either goes stale or it molds over.

I have mold phobia, people. And it was EVERYWHERE at first. Now that we basically don't get electricity for much of the day, the mold has dried, we cleaned out the fridge and threw out the last 2 eggs.

Needless to say, I'm trying to use as little electricity as possible. So we don't watch tv/listen to the radio unless there's electricity. I don't know when my inverter is going to give out but I want to make what ever juice is left last as long as possible. So only the lights are on at night. Very depressing.

Very little ironing. Which is in itself a nuisance. You see, while knit clothing would be the obvious solution, my clothes are handwashed so they get scrrrrrubed out of shape by our laundress. So I only had regular fabric clothes. Well, cotton = ironing. I haven't figured out the solution to that one yet; don't want to get a wood-coal iron, ecological responsability and all that. Needless to say, handwashing is here to stay since a washing machine would be useless these days. So round and round we go...

Think that's bad? Rumor has it that the first trimester of 2007 (if not the end of 2006) will be completely energy-free. No electricity. Pa p gen kouran menm menm.

This is very depressing, especially when you hear that some neighborhoods already have no electricity at all, while others, such as Cité Soleil or Delmas 33 (nearer the airport, though) have 24h/7 electricity. I have a friend in Musseau who told me they get electricity during the week but not the week-end .

Now, I've lived through this sort of thing during the embargo so I know I can survive it but it's HARD!!! I just know the price of meat is going to soar. And bye bye yogurt, I'll probably have to change to calcium supplements.

All this brings me to Santa and my list. I used to joke during the embargo that we need everything is two sets : electric and manual. Well, here we go again. I call it Urban Camping 101.

As my mother pointed out last night, first thing we need is a solar-powered lamp. Then a dynamo FM radio. And maybe a dynamo flashlight. Oh, and the blender will have to be replaced (I already have a whisk but I'm thinking more along the lines of a meet grinder).

What else? Hum...I'll have to cut off the internet and the cable service so I need some entertainment. Scrabble and cards we already have. (This is the perfect time for me to learn to play poker, btw). I think the monopoly set is still complete but you could come up with a Clue or a Trivial Pursuit, always wanted one of those.

Did you get all that, Santa? Oh, and don't bother hohoho-ing when (if!) you come, I sleep badly enough as it is, a heart attack isn't a good stocking stuffer. So just come, do your thing and leave quietly. Beware of Sophie, next door, she's the bite-and-drag type.

As to wether or not I've been bad this year...well, I'm sure we can work something out for next year. See you when I see you, Nick.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Just like that...

Today is the first day of December, my favorite month of the year. Except it's been a while since December 1st was full of happy anticipation for me.

The last two weeks have been more and more difficult. Mostly it's the kidnappings/murders that have me down. Last week, everyone was glued to their radios, listen to this mother's testimony. Her 20 year-old daughter was kidnapped and held captive for nearly 10 days. The kidnappers wanted $300,000 USD for her release.

The poor woman "sells" phone calls for a living and couldn't possibly come up with this sum, even in her wildest dreams. After days of constant negotiations, and with the help of neighbors, she scrapped together a mere 10,000 gdes. Finally, they called her and told her to go to a certain neighborhood to find her daughter.

What she found was the girl's body. They'd broken her arm at one point and shot her. Probably in both eyes. They told the mother she shouldn't have tried to contact the police so they were "throwing [her] back [her] kid".

The day after this terrible interview, one of the employees at work was kidnapped near her home. Which is in the same neighborhood the girl was taken. Those kidnappers (although it could be the same group) asked for the same amount, $300,000 USD. The employee's family paid an undisclosed amount and she was released. She's since left the country.

A few days later, I read in the papers that the body of a six year-old boy was found in Cap-Haitian by his father. The man had paid the ransom twice, in gourdes and in US dollars, but still they killed his son.

Everyday, you hear a different kidnapping story. This Monday, a priest is abducted inside the parish school he taught at. Tuesday, at least six women were kidnapped in broad daylight; all were alone in their cars when abducted. At least four more people were taken that same day. Two high-profile victims were on of Preval's former ministers and a well-know professional.

Wednesday, Thursday, today, probably the same has already happened or will soon enough.

Meanwhile the police says it arrested six hundred people for the month of November alone. Meanwhile, the municipal and local elections are for this Sunday and so the candidats are campaining. Meanwhile, the President, the Prime Minister and nine Ministers are all currently traveling abroad.

The Prime Minister, before leaving, told the press that his government believes that dialog and negotiations are the way out of this situation. One senator thinks that the death penalty should be reinstated for murderous kidnappers. A LOT of people agree with this.

So, if right now, you're dreaming of egg nog and fancy diners, and cakes and decorations, of caroling and gift shopping, enjoy it.

Others aren't so lucky.

We won! We won! We won!

Some good news, people (enjoy it while it lasts). Our very own BélO won the Prix RFI Découvertes 2006.

Unfortunately, I only have links in French at this time. Those who wish to, can listen to Claudy Siar of RFI's Couleurs Tropicales. He does a two-part show from Douala, Cameroun around the contest.

For the record, this is our second win, the first being Beethova Obas, back in 88. And I'm sure it won't be the last...

Ayiti cheri, mete pou yo!!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hello, Is It Me You're Looking For?

So you clicked and nothing had happened in months. Where was I, you ask? The imp in me wants to say "Guess where?". Or the drama queen would say "I was hiding from the world" and toss her head tragically. Or better yet, the mysterious seductress (believe it or not, I have an inner femme fatale, I swear!) would murmur "Depends on where you were looking" and smile suggestively.

It's none of that. Reality, so prosaic sometimes I could cry, is that I just didn't feel like it. You see, once the excitement of the elections died, there was nothing to do but dodge kidnappers and weep over you food bill.

I did both, religiously. And then the summer vacation came and the city died. The streets were empty, except for those lucky few who have jobs and have to drag themselves everyday to work, no matter what. This is what I did for weeks and weeks.

Then school opened again...except, the streets were still empty. Where were the kids? The first day of school, I saw a total of 4 kids. On a street were there are dozens of schools of all kinds, it was rather shocking, to say the least.

Even that is past, parents must have found the money to send their kids. This is the no 3 priority for my fellow denizens, right after food and lodging, I think.

I do have one other good excuse for not writing, the usual one : Technical Difficulties. My phone has been working, or not, throughout the summer. In fact, last weekend, it didn't work for 24h, between two rain showers. I didn't realize I had an hydraulic phone myself until this happened!!! For some reason, at work was no better. So any little bit of inspiration I managed, died at the sight of Cannot find server!

My morale is as it always is: high for 5 mn, low the rest of the time, like everyone else around me. I don't believe people who say they are not scared or depressed or worried. How can you not be when OP (alleged popular organizations, whatever that means) are threatening "Operation Baghdad 2". Sounds like a b movie, right? Make that a b horror movie.

It started yesterday. They say that kidnappings will return to their 30+/day regimen, with assorted crimes and/or violent acts if the Gvt doesn't give them back the fake jobs they had under The Ex. And Rinse Repeat said yes, that whore! He's promised them 25,000 jobs in the public service.

Still, no matter how upset I am over this, I hope he keeps his promises because they're already burning tires and blocking the streets.

And so my stress rises. And I have no solution to this. Tomorrow and Wednesday are hollidays and I'm going to the beach. Yay!

But (you could feel it, right?) I'm sooo scared. Scared to leave my house empty for so many days. Scared to take the roads. Scared to sleepover outside of the city. But mostly scared to come back!!!

On the other hand, I do need a tan...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

You Give Me Fever

ETA: This post was drafted on May 31st but I never finished it and even forgot completely about it *gasp*. Since I'm going to come back on this soon, you can catch up on the history of this "situation". Have fun and watch out for the next installment! Sorry for the spelling or other errors. I'm giving it to you raw, LOL!

This month of may has been really hot. And I'm not talking about the weather or the political stuff. Oh, no! nothing so futile.

I'm talking about the cell phone wars. You read me, the streets of this city are all atwitter because there's a new kid on the playground and he doesn't play nice.

But before we get to that, I've got to take you waaay back, all the way to 1999, the year of the cellular advent.

Sure, before that there was the CB of the mid-eighties. How could I forget? I couldn't watch the Disney Channel in peace because the signal scrambled everytime a kid wanted to ask his mother if he could have his dessert. And there was a first cell company but only the lucky few, as far as I can tell, had them and they were HUGE.

Then, sometime during 1999, all the landline phones of the national company started going out of order. I recall quite clearly wondering how so many of my friends and family could have their phones busted when none of them lived in the same neighborhood. Lo and behold, Cell Co. No 1 comes out and everyone rushes to get one. I didn't. Not only because the prices seemed a little much but I thought it was a bourgeois fad.

Cell Co. 2 pops up. CC#1 isn't happy. They don't talk for about a month and then kiss and make up. I actually got my first cell phone because my office got a deal with CC#2 and I could pay it off each month.

Both hiked they prices. People grumbled but put up with it.
You see, that's how it works here: since almost everything is a monopoly (blatant or not), most people settle for shutting up and living with the situation as best they can. That is, until May 1st...

Fever when you kiss me...

After months and months of teasing, and enticing, and suggestive comehither stares, Cell Co.#3 finally launched its services. And then all hell broke loose. For a solid two weeks, all people could talk about was this new kid, bulldozing into town.

And believe me, no pussyfooting at all.

The number of stores alone had to make you take notice. And their colors: red and white. I think a blind man's retina would be seered by CC#3's trail of fire across this city. Everywhere you turn, a red store.

They have t-shirts, caps, lanyards, bracelets. It's like a giant tomato exploded on our heads over night.

Fever when you hold me tight...

And when word got out that CC#2 didn't want to talk to CC#3, the new kid took off the gloves and put out an ad naming CC#2 and offering free phones for all who wanted to defect from CC#2.

For two weeks straight, lines of people, from before dawn, in front of each and every store. And believe me, there are plenty of stores to choose from. I counted on the list they posted in the papers, 33 stores between my house and my office.

Now, all through this battle, CC#1 had been very quiet.

Friday, April 21, 2006

La parentèse Enchantée

It's been a while I know. I needed a break and I took it. I made a short trip to visit my aunt and managed to almost not talk about "the situation" with anyone.

Almost because, of course, the minute anyone found out where I come from, they wanted my opinion on all the news they heard about the elections, insecurity etc.

I have to say my most startling conversation was with this volunteer. She assumed I'd voted for Rinse-Repeat which shows you the level of spin people are spewing and ingurgitating. If the poor girl had had access to other sources of info, she'd realize I am truly not the person to assume this about.

I tried to explain my vote choices and my general position in a calm and rational way. Not an easy task, believe me. Especially since I tried and failed to blog about the election results for the first round.

I had to delete all of my first draft, and the second, and the third. By the fourth, I realized this wasn't going to happen. I just couldn't seem to say what I felt without using words that started with f-, c-, g-, m- or a-.

I'm still upset. Whenever I manage to forget that both Haitians and the Int'l don't believe we are worthy of and, actually, even need true democracy and laws and all that jazz, somebody reminds me.

So let's talk about the infamous results. I say infamous because I'm still violently opposed to handing out any blank vote like it's some damned bonbon.

I also cannot stand hearing about how grown up it was for the Haitian people to go vote and not kill each other all over the streets. Practically since the beginning of the registration process, I've heard people say that they were going to "sell" their vote. And just as soon, everybody believed that Rinse-Repeat would win!!!

So big whoop, we voted and no bloody massacre. One could tell from the questions of the foreign press that they were sooo disappointed, boohoo.

I'm still convinced the alleged "spontaneous" protest in favor of Rinse-Repeat being elected on the first round is manipulation. How else to explain that all this crowd would have brand spanking new t-shirt and posters of their dear candidate? In this dirty, no water country? Yeah, right...

As if that comedy wasn't enough, the second round for the legislatives was today. Logical sequences are also absent, you see. Every election will apparently have it's own special counting system. No wonder schools are rare here. Can't have too many people wondering why 1+1 doesn't always equal 2, can we?

Anyway, my mother voted. I didn't. Early numbers estimate that only 8% to 15% voters bothered to go today. My mother went with friends and it was the same site as for the previous round. Except no line, no crowd, nada. To hear he tell it, the whole experience was like a Sunday afternoon during World Soccer Championships.

Meanwhile, I was busy enjoying all the electricity we had. This was my second at-home day (thank you, temporary govt!!!) so I've been doing all the stuff I couldn't do during the terrible blackouts we've just had: ironing, sewing, blending, mixing, curling my hair.

As you can see, my self-imposed vacation is over. Can't wait to see how this latest farce plays out. [insert smirk here]

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ain't no mountain high enough...

Well, I voted and made it back in one piece. And I have the proof right here:

It went surprisingly well. I'm still in shock. I didn't sleep well at all. Even though I put my alarm on for 5h am, I was awake before that.

We all got dressed and ate a quick breakfast. We met our neighbors around 6h am but there were latecomers so I guess we got to the voting center around 6h30. Like I said in my previous post, we were transferred to a school, the Lycee Marie-Jeanne.

When we got there, the line was to the half point of the street. Around 7h, I left the group to see how far it was. It was up to 3 times that many. I'm guessing 100 people, easily.

So we waited, and waited. At around 7h40, the voting started. It was supposed to begin at 6h but they were late. At 8h25, there were 20 between me and the gates of the school.

While all this waiting was happening, the elderly and the pregnant got to cut in front. There were also the observers, the party mandated people, some press and the local police. I only saw 1 Canadian cop, which was a big surprise. My father says the police was in plain clothes.

At 8h40, my mother and the rest of our group got in but my brother and I, we were locked out. We got in 10 minutes later.

You were assigned a classroom by alphabetical letter and there was a bit of confusion. Lots of people lost their temper because they couldn't find their correct line.

I was out of there by 9h45 am. In the end, my mother, brother and I voted in the same room. They had to find our names on a list with the card number and a picture. You get checked, you vote, then you sign to get your card back, they paint your thumbnail and tada.

I have to say the biggest problem for me was that the only thing separating you while voting was this cardboard contraption: two pieces of carton fitted together in the middle. No real privacy.

And it was even worse for the couple of voting posts outside in the yard. Anyone could see what the voter was marking. Plus, school benches are NOT for adults, thank you very much.

We went down the line before we left for home. I estimate 200-250 people were in line. And there was at least as much at the center across the street.

My aunt lived in Petion-Ville, in the mountains actually, and she went at 2h30, got out at 4h30. Heard the same story from someone else, but she was at another center in PV.

All in all, it was a good day. A few casualties but no big drama. I don't get why the journalists at the official press conference where so negative in their assessment.

Ok, so the next step is the results. I'll let you know asap. For now, I'm off to bed, I'm dead on my feet. Who knew doing your civic duty was so tiring?

Monday, February 06, 2006

The View From My Window

I thought you guys would like to see what "reaching your voters" means here :

You can tell right away which candidates have a lot of money and which don't.

Nothing but good times ahead

Tomorrow, I vote. And I'm scared. No big surprise, my fear, if you've been reading this blog regularly. Except this time, past experiences seem to excuse my cowardice, if only a little.

Today, though, I stayed home. The government gave its employees three days off; schools have been closed since Friday. The rest made up its on mind on whether to work or not.

I was glad to stay home, though I couldn't find the energy to do much. I'm anxious. They say that is Mr Rinse Repeat isn't elected, the bad guys have promised to bloody and burn this city. They say that even if he wins, that will happen. That it has always been planned that way.

It's been very quiet lately. At night, I haven't heard anything other than airplanes and helicopters. Even the constant background of generators stopped since we've had electricity every night since the week-end. During the day, no news of kidnappings or crime, but it could be they are happening in secret elsewhere, if you catch my drift...

It wasn't quiet Saturday, though. It was the last day for campaining and you could tell by all the fresh banners, and posters, and balloons, and billboards covering what seems like every available inch of wall or lamppost in town. Saturday, particularly, saw several candidates rousing the troops one last time. Of course, it made for as many traffic jams since the candidates picked strategic points to rally their followers.

And ads urging us to vote where everywhere these last few weeks. On the radio, on TV, in the papers, in the streets, pushing, and pushing, and pushing. I joked with my family that printers and glue manufacturers will come out of this electoral season with beatific smiles. I'm not sure those who will have to scrape and repaint their walls will be as happy.

It's been an interesting campaign. Full of rumors, accusations, puzzling silences and even the death of a candidate. Rumors say that the winner has already been chose, that the irregularities were arranged during the registration process. This seems plausible. Elections, in the last fifty years at least, have not been known for their fairness or transparency, regardless of what anyone might pretend.

The government channels are also showing ads on how and where to vote. They put the reworked list of voting centers in the papers but I checked mine again online, on the website they set up for it. My original center was a block from my house. Then it moved to 2 blocks away, in a neighboring high school. Three days ago, I discovered I would have to walk 8 blocks to vote. So we changed our strategy. Instead of going each one in turn, we've decided to go with a group of neighbors. I've put out my clothes and made breakfast already. We're leaving at daybreak. I want to bring my cell phone but I don't know if I can; I'll have to check.

So tomorrow, I vote. And I'm still scared. I try not to think too much beyond Wednesday. Or maybe I should say Tuesday night, since the UN etc promised partial results for tomorrow night. This is what worries me the most : what's next?

The polls will be opened from 6h am to 6h pm. It promises to be a grand affair. The numbers a impressive. 3 millions voting cards delivered, 9 thousand UN troops, all the police force (well, those not dead, imprisoned or MIA, at least), 12 helicopters and an staggering 36,000 national and international observers plus the newly trained electoral security agents. No motorcycles, strict limitations on speed or vehicle access to centers.

We also made the news. This one is a given. We always get our 15 mn of fame when something big like this happens. It seems like every day, on French, Caribbean or Canadian TV, they have a segment or a documentary on our "situation". I haven't watched US channels but I imagine that even CNN Headline News found something to say about us. I expect to meet a few foreign reporters at the center, although the big agencies will probably crowd the more "interesting" ones like near the slums of Cite Soleil or at the Prime Minister's office in Musseau.

Most people want to vote, if only to deprive one candidate or another from winning. I don't know who exactly I'll end up voting for, I'm more sure of whom I won't vote for. I'm not convinced my ballot will matter one way or the other but I'm not willing to gamble on it. There are also a number of people who will not vote and say so. Either by political belief or lack of interest. The former group say that it isn't our elections, once again, but those of the foreign players. I agree. Those in the latter group just don't think it's important anymore. Most days, I agree with them. Except, I want to do something, not sit and wait as always.

I just hope...

Anyway, stay tuned folks. Surely, I'll have more to tell. Tomorrow.