Friday, April 30, 2010

of security briefings and caribbean resorts

Apologies for the blogging silence. I was enjoying my family too much during a very brief break I had with them, on the way from Indonesia to Haiti.

And now, here I am. The country that has occupied the fancies and obsessions of the media over the last several months, the disaster which has harnessed more donations than can be counted, the tragedy whose stories have somehow touched each one of us in a personal way. And now I've joined the story.

Sitting on a balcony overlooking Atlantic flora to see the sun setting behind a hill up, about to enjoy a pricey and delicious meal at the hotel restaurant with its outdoor sofa seating and full-service bar, and taking advantage of the broadband Internet access to write this blog.

In the pre-arrival briefing I was warned to bring a sleeping mat and a mosquito net. What a contrast to the reality I now see. Our office here is lovely and we have a fleet of lush SUVs. I stopped in a supermarket at lunchtime today and saw pretty much whatever I'll need for cooking.

But then last night I had my security briefing. I was told of murders, rapes and kidnappings. I was warned of people's violent reactions to having their pictures taken. I was told that a delegation of American geologists predicts a 55-95% chance of another major earthquake here, within the next 3-12 months. If I prefer to sleep in a tent, one will be made available to me. Due to the is bits of information, it has been decided that we have a 9 o'clock curfew and, for now, I will never go out anywhere alone.

During my well-chaperoned and highly-secure rides through town, there are stretches in which easily 1/2 of the buildings are a pile of rubble. Favelas of tents fill just about every available public space. As I watch the people walking on the streets, I see figures who either do not eat, or eat too much of the wrong things, wearing tattered hand-me downs. I may be living on the other side of that fence, but reality is clearly there.

When I arrived in the airport, two images greeted me which I will try to keep with me:
- two men hugging each other warmly as if they hadn't seen each other since yesterday, and
- the airport staff passing around a guitar and occasionally playing a tune for us as we waited for our luggage.


Lani said...

Hi Katie,
I felt the hairs on my neck rise when I read some of the warnings....Please, don't ever walk around baltimore city alone...its not safe, we have murders, kidnappings and rapes here. And, you know, its just plain rude to take someone's pictures anywhere without their permission. Can't comment on the risk of earthquake, that one may be true. But I see kids here in Baltimore who are malnourished. Well, you get my point.

The situation in Haiti is awful, no question about it. But check out the pictures on Alec's page of the prayer weekend that occurred after the quake. That is the Haitian that I know...the hopeful, prayerful people who move on to the next thing and don't wait for someone to do the work for them. You will find them to be a remarkable people, and you will learn much about whats important in life if you let yourself. So take what people tell you and then just be smart about how you live. You are a smart woman, trust your heart and trust the voice of the Spriit. Don't worry so much about the warnings, I understand that its the responsibility of those who brought you there to keep you safe. But you are going to love the Haitians. They are a very wonderful people.

John Bersch said...

I was told don't eat the street food. I ate the street food.

I was told don't drink the water. O K so I drank the beer and the rum. Well o k some water, too.

I didn't get sick. Not once.

Go to Fermathe, to Wings. 4,000 above sea level. The people are good.The food is good. You should have seen my pictures before you left.

Oh yes, if you were down, out, no food, no water, living in a tent formed of scrap wood, cloth and sheet metal in the median strip of the road you wouldn't want your picture taken. Respect the moment.

After viewing 2,000 photos, I became immune. It is then that you can get beyond the shock and get on with living and helping. Get a ride towards the pier area and see some real devastation, the go to Leogane the epicenter, then to Jacmel. Its so very real. After being home for a month, I am still sorting it out. And yet the people survive. Say hello. Say Bo Jou or Bo Swa..and the people will smile back...and accept you

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