Haiti: tales of a nearly perfect sunday.

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19/04/2011 by etiennefish

I woke up, far too early, and the world was dark and quiet. Quiet except for the rain pelting down in monsoon-like gusts. I love the sound of rain. I smiled, turned over, and went back to sleep.

I woke up a second time. The light coming through my windows was diffuse, and strangely soft. It was not quite 7 am. This, was a massive accomplishment. One of the latest mornings I’d had since arriving in this country of early risers. The rain was still marking the steady, staccato beat on the metal roof above my head, but for once no noise was coming from the streets below. As I believe it should be on a Sunday morning, far earlier than any decent person really wants to be awake. I spent a couple hours at my desk, looking out the window onto the empty street, and enjoyed stealing some peaceful moments to get some thoughts on paper (or screen, rather).
Most of the rest of the day followed in the same manner. There is a comfort, beyond almost all others, of passing a Sunday ensconced in comfortable clothes with a book and a cup of coffee (of a non-Haitian variety, of course. And yes, I am a coffee snob, fact), with the smell of rain filling your nostrils, while it pounds down outside, washing the world clean. Preferably this scene would also include a fuzzy, fuzzy cat (or two), and a cocoon of blankets, but really, we can’t have everything we want.

As the day progressed, the skies cleared, but they never really lost their grey, cosy feel. Meaning, of course, that for once it was blessedly cool, which was a fact made doubly exciting, as both the city power and our generator were out, meaning no fan action for us should we desire/need it.

When daylight faded, we made our way down the street. Some friends had just helped to build a park in an empty corner lot, and to celebrate, they were holding a bootleg film festival. So we watched Avatar, in French and by the light of the moon, projected onto a crumbling and abandoned façade, of what was once clearly a gorgeous building. Above the ‘screen,’ Orien and his belt danced across the sky, marking the passage of time. The moon was full, or nearly so, and every once in awhile I’d take a break from the moving pictures in front of me, and just look around at the increasingly large quantity of rapt, silhouetted faces, caught up in the action. It was a nice moment.

There were, of course, some technical difficulties. Nothing here progresses smoothly. That’s just a fact of life. The film had to be stopped a number of times, as the generator kept sending out vast (and clearly toxic) quantities of smoke in anguish and distress before cutting out, and the computer decided that in retaliation it would go on strike. Rara bands marched down the streets in waves, splitting the attention spans of the audience, and forcing people to their feet for a quick dance move or two. Cars, motorbikes, and people tended to wander through in front of everyone, hoot their horns, flash their lights, try to sell you things you didn’t want and/or generally be obnoxious. But this is Haiti, and it was to be expected, and so therefore tolerated with good will.  But it was sort of the perfect venue and ambiance for such a film (and what a huge contrast from seeing it in the dead of winter at an imax cinema in London, when if first came out), and I couldn’t have asked for a better evening.

We rounded it all out with a celebratory drink in a nearby art gallery/bar in what is left of yet another disintegrating building, much damaged by the earthquake. Some friends lauded it’s former glory over a beer, and I could see the ghosts of a time gone by flit past as they talked. A troubadour band played, their smiling faces flickering by the light of candles, outlined by moonlit doorways facing out towards the sea.

These are the moments that make times like these special.

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April 2011
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