Back in Haiti - It’s officially rainy season now, but according to many people here it’s been the driest rainy season ever. When it rains, it feels like the sky is falling. While I was gone for my mandatory week off, it rarely rained in Haiti. My last mandatory week off was in the Dominican Republic. This time I took Diaspora self back to NYC. I needed it so bad. The month of April was very tough. Work wise it was hectic as always, but the ORG was going through some turmoil.
I got to spend Saturday and Sunday in PaP for mother’s day. Getting down to PaP from Cange was the hardest thing to do. I now know that when I am allowed to spend weekends in the capital to ask to leave on Fridays. Saturdays are impossible. When I was in the parking lot begging for a ride, this one girl who speaks English goes to me “You’re not a real blan”. “Blan” in kreyol means white person. A lot of people call me blan here because I am an American. Back in the day it used to upset me, but it doesn’t anymore. I am a blan. I’m a gringo. However, I don’t think I fall in the same category as the other “blans”. The reason this girl said that is because she feels that the white Americans who work for the org get whatever they ask for. If they need a ride to the moon, a NASA rocket ship will probably land in the parking lot. I guess she felt that the same rules don’t apply to me. You know a lot of the places I’ve worked for have had major issues in dealing with race. It’s always the same thing, not enough people of color on staff. Besides the Haitians that we work with, I am the only Black person. Not just Haitian American, but the only Black dude. It was brought to my attention lately and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I think the person who brought it to my attention wanted me be just as concerned about this as they were. I am and I noticed it the minute I walked through the door. However, I guess I am just used to it. Everywhere I have been professionally (school, work), I am usually one of the very few black people let alone person of color. What concerns me the most about this is that right here in Haiti, where my family, my people are from, this doesn’t enrage me. It bothers me. I bring it up to my friends and family all the time. But, I am not raising hell because of it. I wonder why? I personally think it’s because I am the rookie here. Despite my background, the majority of the ex-pat staff I work with has been here for at least 2 yrs.
Mud Cookies for Everyone
So in 2008 the global prices of food went through the roof and many people across the world were hit hard by this. Those from the poorest countries were hit the hardest. The news focuses these hardships primarily through the lens of Haitians. I wrote an article on this in Jan. 2009 for my last job. I mentioned how these mud cookies were the wave of US news. Anyway, the region I currently work in is where these mud cookies are produced. You can see them being made when driving down Route Nationale #3. In 2008 these cookies made front page of everything from the NYTimes to MSNBC. The common theme was “Haitians eat mud cookies to survive”. Let’s not kid ourselves; Haiti is an extremely poor country. When I visit certain parts of Haiti for work I ask myself, “how do these people survive?” Haitians are used to hardship and suffering. However, Haitians aren’t animals. Haitians don’t eat dirt cookies JUST because there is nothing else to eat. They way these cookies are sold are the same way anything else in the market place is sold. You can buy $2 worth of cookies the same way you can buy $2 worth of bread. The other day I was translating a document from Kreyol to English and one of the phrase said something like “Such and such makes me crave dirt”. So I didn’t understand the written word “dirt” in kreyol which is “te” (pronounced teh). So I ask one of the cooks at one of the sites she broke it down for me. So I asked:
Me: “People crave mud cookies?”
Cook: “yeah they do especially pregnant women.
Me: Wait, Wait…So wait you just want to eat dirt sometimes?
Cook: Not anymore, but when I was pregnant I did all the time.
Cook 2: (chiming in) yeah me too.
Me: So people don’t just eat it because they are poor and having nothing else to eat?
<Cooks look at each other; look at me and then response at the same time>
Cooks: I don’t think so
This article that I found in online and remember reading years ago (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22902512/ns/world_news-americas/t/haitis-poor-resort-eating-mud-prices-rise/) mentions how some pregnant women “The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium.” But then the rest is your typical poor ol’ Haitians rhetoric that everyone and their mama buy into.
This is idea of Haiti being nothing more than a poor and unsafe country I feel like is a theme that runs though certain NGOs. It offends the sh*t out of me. There are many NGOs here that go above and beyond in terms of helping. While Haiti is poor and at times not very safe it is not the border of the Israel and the West Bank. I think that certain NGOs view it this way and it runs down through the chain. But, then you have other NGOs that see Haiti as the Cancun of the humanitarian world. It seems as though all they take advantage of the night life in Port-au-Prince and the beaches of Jacmel. Absolute mess. The idea would be to strike a happy medium, but where you favor more to the side of good work.