Tuesday, May 18, 2010


A few glimpses of my everyday life here in Haiti (as if there is such a thing in such a constantly-changing environment)...

- Looking for a place that makes white rice with beans sauce, but settling for the beans mixed in to the rice - with a side of okra

- Entering the conference room in the morning and shaking the hands of the 3 new international staff who arrived since I was last in the conference room. And leaving the conference room in the afternoon ensuring I've said farewell to the 3 who are departing over the weekend.

- Discussions about mosquito repellent: everyone prefers natural, but which one really works? I somehow ended up with 100% DEET, which is poisonous.

- Calling 4 different drivers to get a ride home because we need to be in a convoy of at least two vehicles and two people per vehicle. Somehow all the switching of cars involved, and stopping in the street to re-organise the convoy at each person's house, feels inherently less safe than driving solo.

- Asking everyone else in the conference room wants to walk down the block to buy a coke or a sandwich, since we're not allowed to go there on our own. Field trips to Epi d'Or, the fast food joint across the street with an intriguing menu and an impressive track record for inducing stomach problems.

- The security guards for our office, our guest house and the Oxfam office next door playing dominoes on the street outside, until late. There's a bright light above them, and the table is 1 m x 1 m. The dominoes slap noisily on the table.

- Emails listing the off-limit destinations for the day. Then scrounging around google maps and interrogating colleagues to find out where those locations are.

- The constant stream of people walking through our guest house all day long. We're not sure who works here and who just passes through or why. But there's a huge church-sized coffee maker that always has a pot brewing for them.

- Calling for permission to leave town, calling for permission to re-enter town.

- Driving down highways with enormous cracks down the middle. Driving past piles of rubble and speculating about the number of bodies still buried.

- Using US dollars at local stores, since with all the humanitarian workers, it seems no one can be bothered with the local currency anymore. But outside the capital, local currency only.

- The Syrian and Lebanese ladies who look like they dropped out of a 70s soap opera, who manage the supermarket from behind raised counters.

- Constant discussions about the organisation, colleagues, management - when you live with colleagues and they're your only social circle, you seem to talk about work a lot.

- Snapple and Rice-a-Roni on prominent display in the supermarket.

- Mosquito net tonight or no mosquito net?

- Accepting without comment the airline t-shirt ("Tortug-Air Haiti") proferred as I boarded the airplane the other day.

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