26 October 2012

And the rain came...

Living in a Western culture, I'm not sure we can really understand what an event like this rain means to people in Haiti.

Take my conversation today with my yard guy, O, for instance. I got a text from him around noon today. "I'm sorry to bother you, madam, but I wondered if you could pay me today. I'm out of food. I can come and get it if it works for you."

The rain affects so much more than just those displaced by flooding. Yesterday was payday, but he didn't come, probably because he couldn't find a tap tap (converted truck that serves as public transportation). Even today, I'm sure he had trouble finding one, as it's still been raining off and on.

Everything is closed today, because the government wanted people to stay home. But if everyone stays home, who sells food? And if I don't sell food today, what do I buy food for my family with tomorrow? Even if I pay O today, does that mean he'll be hungry until tomorrow?

I quickly texted him back that he could come any time today, then went to my kitchen to see what I had to give him. I still had some veggies sitting on my counter from last week's shopping trip that never got put in the fridge. They were going bad. My employee is going hungry, and I have so much food that I let it spoil. Opening the cupboard, I found a small bag of beans, filled a Ziplock with rice, and threw in some crackers in case he didn't have charcoal to cook with.

When he arrives an hour later, I slip him the bag with the money, using Kreyol phrases that try to pass it off as nothing. But I can see the relief on his face. He thanks me repeatedly, and I want to tell him that it's no big deal, that he's my brother--something they often tell me here, but I'm still uncomfortable with the intimacy of the word.

He offers to stay and work, but it's still raining and I can't let him, knowing he's hungry. We make small talk about the wedding he's going to tomorrow at our church, which lapses into a discussion about skin color. (Some people are clear skinned but still black, and others are just black. I fail to see the distinction.)

He turns to go home just as the rain starts to fall harder again. And I know hunger may be the least of Haiti's problems by the time it stops.

25 October 2012

Two Kinds of Flood

Right now, at 7:11 AM, I am sitting in my nice, dry, concrete house contemplating my day. My dog is crying because David just left for work. I was supposed to drive downtown with friends to do some Christmas shopping (family, you didn't read that), but that's not going to happen. The rain started yesterday and continued through the night from Hurricane Sandy, even though she's just skirting by us.

I have become a Twitter junkie, because information in Haiti is word-of-mouth and I don't have enough friends. Here's what I started to see:


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Flooding in Les Cayes, from the Twitter feed of @HopeforHaitiFL


Photo: had an hour break from the big rains and found this. This is the now collapsed entrance to the village through the river. Doesn't look like we are going anywhere soon. It's dark and creepy out right now with winds howling.  We are fine but soggy.  Pray for this amazing village.
Les Anglais, from the Facebook page of Shannon Kelley

Les Cayes, from the Twitter feed of

The hospital in Les Cayes is flooded. Civil Protection is reporting the water almost 20 inches deep there (you can see more pictures from them here), but reports of flooding are coming from all over the south coast. Airlines are canceling flights. Schools are canceled all over Haiti so that people will stay home...but it appears that home might not really be the safest place, either. Looking for more, I Google "flooding in Haiti," and am rewarded with two articles from June 2011 and several about Tropical Storm Isaac from two months ago. I am disappointed.

My brain starts wandering toward work. My airplanes don't have much time left on them before their next inspection. If we need to do relief flights, should I cancel on the people who'd made reservations? If their international connections are being canceled anyway, does it matter? How many bridges are washed out? Is going by road even an option for people? Are the boats running to La Gonave? Hopefully they can shelter in place and ride it out.

Then I stop--that's not my job anymore. I left that job on Tuesday. A whole new kind of flood washes over me, one I haven't really processed yet. For a year, this would've been all the focus of my attention, trying to figure out how to reschedule flights and keep our commitments and answer panicked phone calls from passengers wanting to get out of Haiti. But today, that's someone else's job. And it's a flood of sudden sadness because my job mattered and it's a flood of pure relief because days like this were stressful. And it's a flood of hands-tied helplessness because all I can do is listen to the water pouring off my roof. And it's a flood of private joy because it means my son is coming soon, God willing. It's a bit messy, too.

Just now, it's light out, and I get up to turn off our security lights and see who my dogs were barking at. It's my neighbor, George, looking down into the ravine. He's got family and friends down there. He's on the phone. I bet a lot of people are on the phone today.

Just now, I consider deleting this post, because it really makes no sense. There's no thesis. There's no happy ending, no resolution. But that's sort of where I'm at, right now.

12 October 2012