Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's the little things

So now we are in the last days of the electoral campaign and things are getting interesting. The violence everyone had feared is starting to rear its ugly head and we are all bracing ourselves.

I confess I haven't been following the campaign as religiously as others around me seem to have. But that doesn't mean I don't have an opinion.

Instead, my days and nights and thoughts are full of my routine.

Let me tell you about my day. I woke this morning to the sound of the cola depot next door's generator. They had been stacking boxes since 3 am at least, as usual.

Then, at the evangelical church next to the depot, the prayer guy with the crappy voice and crappier bullhorn started in on his litany.

This was 5am in the morning.

I was happy to see there was electricity but I had prepared several outfits for the week, in case I didn't get any. This also meant my spaghetti lunch didnt'spoil, always a good thing.

So I got dressed and tiptoed my way throught the junk in the alley, up the stairs. The pigs were in good shape and the pile of metal scraps the local junker was amassing managed not to crumble on my head. So far so good.

I went up the stairs, dodging the dirty water pools and random litter to wait for my ride on street level.

Now, I do this every morning: I stand about a quarter of a block away from the bridge/ravine but it didn't work this morning. Some guy was already climbing over the railing with two pig carcasses. The improvised slaughter house in the ravine had been working seriously early. I'm just glad I missed the actual deed. I'm a meat eater but I don't want the details! Thankfully, he put them in a wheelbarrow, tied them up and promptly pushed off for the nearby market.

Lucky me, my ride was late today so I got to people watch: street vendors setting up their wares on little tables; moto taxis carting a mother and her two kids; what seems like hundreds of school kids in uniforms walking together, eating fried street food and drinking energy drinks; people talking on their cells, men wearing crocs and no helmet on their bikes.

Of course, leaving Petion-Ville at 6h50am means you get to enjoy a traffic jam all the way downtown. Thankfully, once you pass what used to be the school district, things clear up pretty much by the time you reach Champ de Mars.

The tent cities that cover all the squares have become part of the scenery. The prude in me is still a bit startled to see people bathing on the sidewalks, though, to their credit, people keep some form of underwear on while doing so.

The city is still busy. Junkers are still digging throught the rubble for scraps. You recognize them by the backpacks they wear. Of course, I'm not really happy to go to work. After the aftershocks on three consecutive days last week, I worry that some of the damaged buildings might be shaken loose. Nothing has happened yet but only fools drive idly under something like Hotel Nova Scotia. Of course, one is amazed by just how many qualify as fools...

Once I'm at work, it seems pretty normal. Except employee parking is now on the site of one of the fallen office buildings. And we still only have a handfull of neiboring businesses around us. But the streets are full of people.

I'm lucky that I can go on the roof and look out on the city. The view of the bay is breathtaking...until you look down. You can trace the Boulevard by the permanent cloud of dust that covers it. It intensifies further North to the point where I thought it was smoke at first.

Things are as close to normal as we can manage at work. Of course, all the electricity is from generators. But at least a number of phone lines have been reinstated by the telcom company. I stay in my office all day long but I remember going to the bookstore or the departement store fondly. Ah, the good old days.

At the end of the day, I pass by all these things in reverse and it stays the same: I'm shocked by the same things, inured to the same spectacles, worried about the same dangers.

If I'm lucky, and the traffic wasn't too bad, when I get home it's still light, they're not burning great heaps of trash in the ravine, the pigs are alive (for now), the church is quiet and Abner is leaving the colas alone for a bit.

I'm just not that lucky that often.