Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 183: Easy Haiti...

Sometimes this country has a way of grouping together events that can challenge you or break you in some way or piss you off. These last few days have certainly been that.

Day before yesterday, early in the morning en route to the Port-au-Prince airport and then on to Pierre Payen to pick up some members of the BSF team, I saw my first murder victim. He was a man, maybe in his thirties, hard to tell, dead on the side of the highway. At first I thought he was a victim of a hit and run, but when I asked Edzner, our driver, he pointed out that the man's hands were bound behind his back. He looked roughed up, deep cuts likely from a machete all across his body. His skull was opened. Someone had tossed a tire on him. He was just there, on the side of the road, very much dead, very much not seeming to cause concern for anyone. We didn't stop. Some things you don't get involved in. Edzner told me he'd seen it many times before. "Haiti is a violent country. People kill each other here."

Yesterday spared me reminders of death, but brought plenty of frustration. Out in the field in the afternoon with the field team, we had a difficult time getting back to the base. First we were slowed by a traffic jam caused by a UN team from Korea trying to pull a torched UN dumptruck out of a riverbed. Seeing things burned by angry mobs isn't something new for me, but the stupidity of destroying one of only a few large, heavy-duty dumptrucks now in Leogane helping to clear rubble so people can rebuild got to me. Have a problem with the UN, or specifically, with MINUSTAH? I can understand that, to a point, but in torching a dumptruck, the community was only slowing down recovery efforts. It seemed short-sighted and ignorant. After finally getting past the wreck, waving hello to the Koreans, who looked worn down, we got stopped again. This time, some fool driver decided, that, since he had a flat tire, he would change it in the middle of the narrow street. The tiniest bit of planning would have made it possible for the road to be open for cars to get by, but no, everyone was blocked. I was frustrated enough that I let him have it in Kreyol. "Genius aren't you? You couldn't think to move your car five feet in that direction? Now nobody can get by, and you're taking your sweet time changing that tire. You're really not that smart are you?" As I wrote about in a previous entry my patience for stupidity is at an all-time low, even if I understand that this country doesn't teach people to think the way First World countries do for their citizens. Still, this wasn't a byproduct of a shitty educational system, this was someone just deciding to do things the easiest way at the expense of everyone else. You see that a lot in Haiti. People can have the tendency to do what will help them, so be it if others get screwed or inconvenienced. After my yelling at him, the guy just stood there with a stupid grin on his face, looking at me. Nothing. We turned the truck around, and took the long way back.

Thirty minutes ago, sitting here in the office, I got news of a terrible accident near School 19, the newest school All Hands is building. In front of 31 of our volunteers, a school bus and a dumptruck somehow collided on the freeway, plowing into numerous motorcycles full of people waiting at the intersection. A lot of them died or were knocked unconscious. A telephone pole was knocked down, bringing live power lines down with it, electrocuting the people caught in the mayhem. I can't image what that must have looked like, but the base is quiet now, with a lot of shell shocked people who witnessed and tried to help now trying to process it. It reminds me of when Chris died. It reminds me of how I felt the day after the little girl died. One of our BSF production team members had a cousin die in the accident. Caritas Czech, our current partner for BSF, lost their cook. Thankfully, we didn't lose any of our volunteers or staff, but it still has a chilling effect. I've waited, on the back of a moto, at that exact intersection many times before. Timing, as it tends to, has so much to do with how a life unfolds.

I don't share this to be grim, even though I know I can be fascinated by the macabre. I think, like I have before, that for me, when something truly sad or bad happens, it is important that it is remembered, particularly when innocents are lost because of it. These last few days feel as if they are deserving of being remembered.

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