Haiti and me
I decided to write a story about Haiti and me. Its an everyday living story not an ugly story like so many non-Haitians write. White people’s Haiti is a poor victimized miserable Haiti with nothing going for it: corrupt politicians, floods, earthquakes, disease, violence, all sitting on top of a mountain of poverty and garbage. Of course, this has nothing to do with them. On the contrary, these white folks are in Haiti to SAVE and document all of the above. In this Haiti, no one laughs. There is no joy. Haiti is a life of misery. It’s a great way to make loads of money this poverty porn.
I’ve been going to Haiti for the past six years sometimes to visit for a month. Sometimes to write about what I see. Sometimes to make photo stories, sometimes just to live my life. I walk on the streets. Up and down, here and there. I take Moto taxis or tap taps. I especially like the markets along route Frère or Bel Air or Center Ville. The taxi drivers at the moto station near where I live call me Pernier 26, and shout to take me home for 50 gds. Sometimes I stop at Pernier 24 and visit with the beer seller. She gives me her chair, and I take two cold beers chat then walk home with a headache. I say hi to people I meet on the lane. I pass the woman who grinds the evening coffee which ma’Sè will buy, and we will all drink in the morning. It’s thick and black as a moonless night. Sweet like fresh hibiscus. It’s 9 pm and ma’Sè is still fussing with tomorrow’s coffee. She prepares it in a large pot in which she soaks the muslin filled with coffee leaving it to ferment overnight. The family come and go, sitting and talking around the dining table. We eat bread and mamba, or soup made with Maggie made by one of the young women. It’s more like saltwater with chili but it tastes delicious, and we slurp it up with bread.
Some sit outside or lie down on the concrete bench and sleep. Girls make hair talk, and music blares from the radio upstairs. I go up to the roof for peace and to speak with my lover. I lie down staring at the black sky or sometimes the full moon and WhatsApp to Brooklyn. The city lies to my right. I see the sea and mountains. On the left the hills beyond. Sometimes I hear drums calling the Lwa and imagine dancing and strong klerin, if you are lucky you might drink Babancourt. You can buy a quart Barbancourt rum for 100gds. I drink a few bottles a week, so I know it’s rough on the throat.
I hear the house moving around and eventually by 11 everyone goes to bed. I take a bucket shower and sleep. Someone is running water. It’s 5 am, kids quarreling. They leave for school, and I try to sleep. Eventually I leave my room for the patio and some breeze, grab a coffee and bread and turn on my phone. Down below people walk past the house off to school and work. My friend comes upstairs, and we chat. More saviors on the way. I dislike them. They irritate me with their silliness and ignorance, their eager beaver faces and endless oohs and ahaas. They eat fries, omelets and bacon. We eat breadfruit and sauce or labouyi mayi. The kids eat fried spaghetti with Maggi and fried hotdogs. Haitian food good, foreign food not good. They are killing us with their cheap non-nutritious food. Killing us with salt infested food.
I say my goodbyes and leave. I stand at the entrance to Pernier 26 and wait for a tap tap that has space next to the driver. It never arrives. This happens all the time in this spot, but I still hope. I jump on a passing moto to St Clair then maybe take a tap tap to Petion-Ville. If I’m flush or can’t bear it, I call Peterson or Francine or Patrick to pick me up. I start to walk to meet them on the way. I’m easy on the bikes now, relaxed. The dust sticks to my sweat ridden face. I’m shaded light to dark to darker. We weave through the traffic of cars, people and motos. It’s hot and noisy, but it’s fast. I’m going to meet Serge so we can visit Pinton at the clinic in the broken down mess that is the compound of L’hopital General, partially destroyed during the 2010 earthquake.
I walk from the cemetery bus station through Petion-Ville market to the Kanape Vèt stop. It’s packed with vendors and buyers, and traffic is often at a standstill as we all fight for ownership of the street. I stop and take a freshly squeezed orange juice from Wesley, the juice vendor. He smiles, and we greet each other. Behind him sit three women. One sells pistach, the other banana and bread. I buy some pistach and a banana, collect my juice and move on. I swear at some dude pissing against the wall. I want to piss too but I will hold it for hours.
There are random holes to the drains below the street so I must look down and up and down lest I fall into a dark hole or crash into a street vendor, and we both curse each other.
Serge is late, and I get pissed off. There is no keeping to time here you are either early or late. Better to be the latter. He arrives looking fresh, sparkling with a big smile on his handsome face as if I haven’t been waiting for 30 minutes. I say nothing, what’s the point as he will say sorry Soka but I’m here now and smile more. We jump on a minibus to go downtown. Hardly anyone speaks. The only interruptions are phones ringing and the occasional ‘mesi chofè’ when passengers want to dismount. We are crushed and hot, and it’s only 9.34 am. I am comforted by Serge’s presence.