Keeping DH Alive|How to write about Haiti

At a tent city in Fort Mercredi in Carrefours Feuilles, rainwater pools on the dirt ground and leaks through the woven plastic tarps.

Coming up on the end of my 6-week reporting trip to Haiti, I’m trying to figure out how to come back and how to keep this site alive.  It can’t work if I’m out gathering information, even worse if I have infrequent Internet access.  That was to be the topic of this post but then, last night, it rained.  Rain should be the most blessed thing in a land where sweat beads three minutes after stepping out of the shower.  It ain’t.

One morning after a hard rain a couple of weeks ago, I emailed one of my sources in Tapis Rouge (not the same camp shown in these pictures) asking her to explain what it’s like to live in a tent while it rains. And I don’t mean the lazy dazy kind.  When I’d asked for her email address the day before, she said that she checked it once a week at a cyber cafe more than an hour’s walk away from the camp.  I wasn’t sure I’d get a response but I did:

lapli a te vreman panike nou.nou te pase you bon pati nan nwit la debou .epi nou te tann dlo a bese pou ranje tapi pou n donmi .mwen ak fanmy m nap viv ak anpil espwa nan ke nou paske nou kwe nan Bondye . … mpanse diw tout mesi paske w panse avem.msalye ak  fanmy w m espere nou kenbe kontak…..olivia.

The rain truly frightens us.  A rough translation: Olivia spent a good part of the night standing up under a leaky tent with her sons who are 13 and three.  In another email, she’d explained that they slept on a carpet. Odds are, “carpet” is a thin plastic or bedsheet spread on the dirt ground.  Just like “tent” isn’t the tricked-out Yosemite camping kind; it’s a woven-plastic (read: leaky) tarp hanging over a couple of poles.  Our living conditions communicate our social value.  What are Olivia’s sons learning about the value of their lives while having to stand up in rain, in their home, and sleep atop mud?

These tents in Fort Mercredi will blow like plastic bags in a strong wind

The measure of Wyclef Jean and the other presidential candidates is their ability to stop Olivia and her young children from having to stand in their home whenever it rains.  Their measure is their ability to stop visitors to Port-au-Prince from having to ask, Where do all these people shit? Their measure is their ability to keep the water running and the lights on in middle-class homes.  Whomever has a plan for disappearing mundane activities from center stage in daily conversation should probably be president.

I’ll write about the site later.

6 Comments to “Keeping DH Alive|How to write about Haiti”

  1. “water running and the lights on in middle-class homes”?
    I’ve been to Haiti four times and haven’t seend any of those.

  2. You did a great job posting from Haiti. Many great articles. I am looking forward to working with you on DH in the days ahead.

  3. Yep that’s great! Glad you liked it. Let’s skype when you are back home later this week (can use my mail to find me on skype)

  4. Hi Carla,

    I am in Haiti too, to film a webdocumentary on reconstruction, and at the same report on the multimedia blog where we upload interviews, voices and sounds etc. The project is called Solidar’IT. I share most of your thoughts and it would be great to meet you while you are here… if you have a few more days !

    Let us know, you find more info on http://www.solidar-it.net (bilingual in English end French)

    Take care and speak to you soon

    /Giordano

    • Giordano, I browsed for a few but I like what I see so far of Solidar’IT. I’ll put a link up, here, as well. And hopefully we can Skype when I’m back in NY? Take care.

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