Haiti- my week 5 update. Its fabulous. Fact.

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14/03/2011 by etiennefish

So I’ve been here for 5 weeks now, even though it feels like no time has passed at all. It’s been sort of a whirlwind. I was commenting to someone earlier today that 6 days a week of 12+ hour days really starts to mess with one’s social life. Things do a lot of blurring together, and there never seems to be enough time.

I do have some updates though. Which will have to be done sans photos, even though I have a million of them. And here’s why-  my computer is yet again broken. Apparently, my ability to disrupt the functionality of all things electronic knows no bounds of border or time zone. Sigh. As I have a mac, this means that it can’t be fixed in this country. Double sigh. Luckily, I work with some very nice people, who are currently loaning me a laptop for the time being (and who I owe many, many beers in appreciation for their good deed). Even so, I spent part of this week feeling completely lost and out of sorts. I no longer have any of the documents and files I’ve spent the last month compiling, and so it’s been both a relief and burden to have to start sort of from scratch. Although mostly, it’s just been a burden. A huge burden. As in I don’t have administrator rights on this computer, so the ever so important applications that allow me to for example, watch films, are unable to be installed. This takes away 90% of what I can do for fun in the evenings. Especially as I’ve now almost finished everything I brought to read with me. At least me and my housemate can still get our True Blood fix on his computer.

Work is going a bit better though. I’m still working on the in’s and out’s of this whole thing, but I’m feeling in a tiny tiny portion of my brain like I’m starting to make sense of things. I’m also finding some direction in what I’m doing. I’ve got some projects I’m passionate about and intent upon trying to implement during my time here. Let’s just hope I can convince my supervisors that they’re as necessary as I think they are.

Anyway, useful or not, we’ve been busy. We drove to the far end of our department on Monday with some other partner UN organisations, to check out the CTUs there. It was a good experience. Although long. We left before dawn, and didn’t get home to well after dark. Twelve+ hour days are becoming my forte.

So carnival has come and gone. I’m sort of sad to see it go, but I’m also excited to see what this town is like without all the tourists and bright masks, and loud sound-producing trucks that drive by my window at 2 am (although I have a feeling that may still happen, carnival or no carnival). Although, you know, I say all these things, but honestly, give it like 2 weeks and I’ll be wishing for it to start all over again.

Speaking of carnival though, the last weekend of it was interesting. It was less of the masks from before (we decided this was the real local carnival, as there weren’t many tourists), and more of large groups of people in matching t-shirts walking in circles around the city with various types of bands, most of which inevitably included a vuvuzela-type instrument of some sort. I myself didn’t entirely understand the appeal of it (I mean, they would walk around and around FOREVER. And they weren’t even dancing!), but it looked like everyone was having fun, which is really all that matters.

On Mardi Gras night, we wandered out into the streets with one of our friends, and I somehow ended up dancing with some old crazy woman who was creating a spectacle (I mean, you all know me and spectacles. Moth to a flame. Moth to a flame). I may have endeared myself more to the local people around me in those 5 minutes than I have in the month and a half I’ve been here. Plus, it was fun. I miss dancing. You see, carnival should happen more often.

In other news, chloroquine has proved itself to not be my friend. At all. I mean, while it appears to be doing the admirable job of protecting me from The Malaria, it is choosing to exact from me a large and unhappy price. Basically, my stomach feels like it has a pit of fighting worms rolling around inside of it intent upon ripping each other in half with their extremely sharp, and oversized, teeth. Or, I may be about to give birth to a giant alien baby with lots of claws and other razor-like appendages, who would like to force its way out of my belly button. Either way, I’m blaming the chloroquine. Which basically means I’m just going to have to deal with it for the next 3 months of my life. Sigh. I will try not to whine. Too much. Conversely, as these symptoms only increase with food consumption, I may just decide to give up eating… Although, somehow I don’t see that going well. I mean, what will happen if the alien baby gets hungry?

I’ve been learning a lot about new things these days, though. For instance, if you go to a Mexican Pizza place in a smallish town in Haiti, it will taste nothing like Mexican food or any kind of pizza you’ve ever had, but you’ll totally come back because it’s good all the same. And it’s different than the food that you eat at every. single. other. meal. Haitian food is mostly delicious(ish), don’t get me wrong, but it is more than lacking in the variety department, and even me, who generally prefers to eact rice cakes and cream cheese with fake bacon for every meal (yes, yes, I have sophisticated tastes), is feeling the need to shake it up a bit.

I’ve also learned that from now on, when I work in a country that speaks anything other than English as their first language, I will only use my last name. My first name only tends to produce blank stares and confuse people, and then they they start calling me all sorts of names that are horrible and only vaguely resemble my own. And besides, if I only used a single name, I could be like a rock star, but backwards. I guess. You know, like Madonna, or Prince, or any one of several single name phenomenons.  Yes. I choose this.

Also, since moving to Haiti, I’ve strangely become a morning person. I mean, I’m not actually any nicer in the mornings (sorry Crispin), but I sure do get up earlier. With no prompting from such antiquated devices of the past, such as alarm clocks. I mean, it would take me like three different alarms to force me to actually stick a toe out of bed in the morning in Geneva, but here, no matter how hard I try, 6 am seems to be my absolute limit in terms of sleeping in. It’s quite disappointing actually. I mean, sometimes you really just want to have a lay in. Oh well, like hot showers, and you know, a constant water supply, sleeping in seems to be a thing of the past. I will manage. And I will be buying a method of coffee making and decent coffee (Haiti is not so good at the delicious coffee thing) on my R&R. To MIAMI. That starts on Saturday.

On that note, I should just mention that the reason we don’t always have water is that the city doesn’t have enough petrol to keep the city’s electricity going. Yeah, I don’t understand that statement either. Apparently (at least in my mind), Jacmel is run by a giant generator in the sky, which supplies us with our daily power needs. As one can imagine, the petrol demands must be ginormous. Therefore, we don’t have enough. As such, they regularly turn off the power in the city. I mean, there seems to be no exact schedule or pattern to this that I can decipher, but it happens at some point pretty much every day. This means that the pump, which pumps the water from the cisterns that everyone has for water, into their houses is regularly not working. We live in a building with a number of apartments and one cistern. So yes, you are getting it, we have regularly been running out of water. It’s okay though. When I can’t bathe, I sometimes just imagine I’m living in a huge happy hippie commune. We may have to start taking bucket showers. Oh well.

Anyway, it’s Sunday night, and I’m listening to live music in the hotel bar that is the extension of our apartment, and I’m drinking rum with my housemate. I had a lot of other extremely interesting and intellectual things to say, but they have all fled my mind for the moment. So I will try to update with such amazingness and more photos as soon as I can.

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March 2011
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