Wednesday, July 14, 2010

second-hand bling

There is something that has caught my eye time and time again since I've been in Haiti, evoking a chuckle or eye-rolling or bewilderment. It comes up over and over and has me truly fascinated.

I'm calling it second-hand bling.

Or things-that-could-not-possibly-have-arrived-in-Haiti-new.

Usually it's t-shirts. I figure they are the donations given to Salvation Army or Goodwill in the U.S. which don't get sold. Someone must put them on a boat and ship them to Haiti, where they add colour to the already-colourful life on the streets.

What makes these articles of clothing, hats, bags and other bling so distinct is their local nature. They speak of events that happened years ago in some small town in Iowa, or advertise stores that sell hardware in New Jersey. They are too obscure to make international commerce, and too locally-bound to have originated in Haiti.

The other day I was standing by the main walkway in one of the bigger camps in town. As I half-listened in on the discussion about needs and NGOs and communication and technical things like 'beneficiary accountability', I entertained myself by writing down some of the second-hand bling.

Here I copy some of the writing off of the bling I saw during one typical hour on a walkway in Port au Prince. Unless otherwise noted, they were on t-shirts:

- Pineview Cardinals (baseball team)
- Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (a brown cap)
- D.A.R.E. Woodlands Middle School Chapter
- Sexy (this was on a black cap and was decorated with white hearts)
- Bloomington Hockey, #60: Vandeville (this black and white shirt went with the Sexy cap)
- Val-U-Point - HomeRun, #90
- Fallon Community Health Plan (this was a bag)
- Kids Foot Locker (the shirt Foot Locker employees wear)
- Bahama Mama (the restaurant - this was the cap worn by Bahama Mama wait staff)
- NDC Golf Classic 2006
- I ONLY DATE RICH BOYS (bright green shirt, white letters, worn by a 12-year old girl filling her water buckets)
- University of Illinois (varsity shorts)
- Mickey Online
- I <3 Jesus
- Operation H.O.H.: Honoring our Heroes
- Newark Academy Hockey (this was a tie-dye shirt with hockey sticks)

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