My friend lives with his older sister in a nice small home in the village. There are two bedrooms, one in which three or four people sleep so this room acts a little bit like a living room. I sat on my friend's bed with him in the lamplight with his teenage cousins, and his sister sat outside the back door at the fire preparing food.
As we were talking about whether he had been taking his medicine or if he had any left, he said that he was going to get a massage tonight. I thought "there's a masseuse in town?". We do have a small beauty shop where you can get manicures and such, but I had never heard there was a masseuse.
I don't always ask questions as I never seem to get a satisfactory answer. I don't know whether people are deliberately vague, or if it's a result of using a language that is much more limited in vocabulary than English. I've learned to be patient, observant and just let things unfold so that I understand what's going on. And if I'm still confused I can always ask questions later.
As we sat and chatted and waited, I found out it was a "Haitian" massage, and that he was waiting for a man to come. He said that it would help with any gas that may be causing him discomfort.
I finally clued in that it was probably a leaf doctor or traditional healer who was making a housecall. (This is not the same thing as vodou)
The man arrived and asked my friend to sit in a chair. He poured some oil and some klaren (alcohol) in a bowl and lit the alcohol on fire and let it burn for a minute or two, then blew it out. He used the oil that was left to give the massage. It's a tree oil that isn't really slippery like a typical massage oil would be, and it absorbed easily into the skin after a few minutes. Apparently, it's also used as a hair tonic.
He started by feeling the stomach, and gave the verdict that it had "fallen". I've heard the expression "vant mwen tombe" before so it's a common way to describe stomach problems. He continued on to give a very vigorous massage to the chest, upper arms, back and neck.
They were joking that it was my turn next, and though there are times that I'd love a massage, this isn't exactly what I have in mind, so I declined. It actually looked vigorous enough that it would give sore muscles.
My friend didn't say if it made him feel better or not, but he did take me back to the hospital because it had gotten late. He also took the opportunity to visit one of our doctors who is his friend, and went home with some good ol' traditional western medication.
I intended to walk back up to the hospital in an hour or so, but an opportunity arose.
There's a little dance club in a nearby village that has been mentioned to me a few times. I haven't danced konpa since the T-Vice concert in July and was afraid I was going to forget how. I certainly wasn't dressed for dancing (sport sandals?), but we decided to go anyway.
La Hexagone has a roof-covered concrete dance floor that is shaped like a hexagon, with coloured lights in the middle. They have a great sound system which they play loud enough to dance to but low enough to hear conversations - an abnormality. There are tables and chairs around the dancing area, and a small bar where you can buy beer or coke.
We danced some, I got traded off to a couple of other dance partners, and we sat and talked and had a Prestige. It was so nice to be under a sky full of stars, palm trees, cool night air, and to have fun music to listen to.
I was home in bed by 10:30. Even when you're having fun, nights aren't late.
The only cell phone I had in the US was an old, simple pay-as-you-go phone. I had no need for a plan or a fancy phone as I only used it for emergencies. My last trip home I bought a nice new phone hoping that I could use it in Haiti as well. It turned out to be locked to AT&T's pay-as-you-go service. I've spent some time off and on searching online as to how I can unlock it so I can use it here. Finally, last week I contacted AT&T through their chat support, requested the unlock code and I had the phone unlocked and my Digicel SIM card working in it within four hours.
It's irrational how happy this has made me.
Most of the cell phone service in Haiti is pay-as-you-go. When there's no mail service, or organized address system, or access to banking services, that's the only way it can function. In the past couple of years, cell phone usage has exploded here. The basic phones are inexpensive and you can purchase time in small increments simply by purchasing a scratch card and entering a code into the phone. The cards are sold by independents, so they can be purchased almost anywhere. Even on the mountain tops you will see little hand-lettered signs on gates saying "Kat Digicel pou vann ici".
When I buy cards I usually buy several so that if my service dies I can quickly add more money to the phone. To make calls within Haiti is about $.10/minute at peak times, less on evenings and weekends. That's still quite expensive for people with limited resources, so calls are usually quick. To call home to Canada costs about $.38/minute so I haven't been calling home very much.
Text messaging is available and used quite widely because it is less expensive than calling, and you receive SMS credits separately from the time for making calls. Even when you can't make calls you can still send texts. You can also receive calls even if you have no time left on your phone. Digicel allows the transfer of credits from one phone to another, so it's not unusal to receive a text message from a friend (or someone you barely know) asking if you will transfer some credit to them.
Phone service has transformed the way everything is done here. Logistically it has improved transportation and organization for our employees. Much more can be done now on trips to the city as everyone stays in touch as they are going to meetings and running errands. Even our pregnant women can call the hospital when they go into labour and we will send an ambulance to pick them up if they wish to come in for delivery.
No one knows what they would do without their phones now.
Poor to suffer meltdown as well
By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS
GENEVA -- The world's poorest people will be hungrier, sicker and have fewer jobs as a result of the global financial crisis, and cash-strapped aid agencies will be less able to help, aid groups are warning.
The charities that provide food, medicine and other relief on the ground say cutbacks have already started, but it will take months or more before the full impact is felt in the poorest countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
During global recessions in the 1970s and 1990s, aid spending dropped sharply and took years to recover, said Matt Grainger of the British-based charity Oxfam International.
Aid agencies face more than just the prospect of plummeting donations. Higher food prices and more joblessness are greatly increasing the number of people who need assistance.
Philippe Guiton of World Vision told the Associated Press that his agency plans to cut back hiring, which will have implications for delivering aid to the needy.
"What we are going to do now is to issue an order to reduce spending, to delay recruitment, delay purchases of capital assets, etc., until we can see clearer how much our income has dropped," he said.
Robert Glasser, secretary-general of CARE International, said the agency has "a number of major donors who have invested heavily in the markets and have now seen their portfolios take a big hit."What that will mean on the ground could take months to gauge and perhaps years for a complete recovery, aid groups said.
In impoverished Haiti, funding for projects to rebuild from tropical storms that killed nearly 800 people and destroyed more than half the nation's agriculture hangs in the balance.
"It's too soon to tell yet because we haven't heard back positively or negatively from our major donors," Greg Elder, deputy head of programming for U.S-based Catholic Relief Services, said by telephone from the battered port of Les Cayes.
The group is waiting for word from the U.S. Agency for International Development on whether it will get $2 million for 10 new food-for-work projects, which provide Haitians with rations in exchange for building roads, irrigation systems and environmental projects.
That means problems across the board, said CARE's Glasser. Wealthy countries will stop investing in developing countries, and cut back on imports from poorer countries, leaving their governments with less money to pay for health care and schools, he said.
In Zimbabwe, a Red Cross food program for 260,000 orphans and HIV-infected people began last month to make sure AIDS victims have sufficient nourishment in a nation where millions are going hungry because of drought and land-seizures that have devastated agriculture.
HIV-infected people are especially vulnerable because without food they cannot tolerate their medicine."The farmers' food stores are depleted. There is no food available," said Peter Lundberg, country representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
"I spoke to a family a few days ago and I said, 'How are you coping?' Basically this was a poor farmer family. And they said, 'We used to have three, maybe four, meals a day and now we're down to one meal."
Medecins Sans Frontieres, which runs AIDS clinics in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha in South Africa, said it's "far too early" to determine the impact the crisis would have on donations.
"The money we're spending now was collected some time ago," said Henrik Glette, a South Africa-based spokesman for the group.
But Neil Tobin, an employee of UNAIDS in Sierra Leone, warned: "It is well documented that AIDS is a problem compounded by poverty. Thus the concern is that any sharp economic downturn may present increased challenges, particularly for developing nations in responding to the epidemic."
Top scientists meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, said they feared the financial turmoil would curb research into a new AIDS vaccine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said "the increases in the budget we had hoped for will not be forthcoming."
Alan Bernstein, head of Global Vaccine Enterprise, said the financial meltdown is "not good news for research in general and vaccine research in particular."
Associated Press writers Jonathan M. Katz in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Michelle Faul and Donna Bryson in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Clare Nullis in Cape Town, South Africa contributed to this report.
In case you hadn't noticed I've been having a difficult time writing for the blogs lately. I don't know what it is. I do think of things to write about, but when I sit down I can't think of an interesting way to put it or even to expand on the idea. So I thought I'd entertain you with a list of random things.
- I just had to rush to my bedroom to pull up my shirt and kill a couple of ants that had sneaked in and were biting me. I hate that.
- I learned how to eat an orange deyo (outdoors, meaning standing beneath the tree) without getting my hands sticky.
- People here can call their children practically the same name (for example Rosenie and Rosenia) but still think it very weird that my mother called my twin sister and I Ellen and Elaine.
- The treatment for hiccups in a baby is to place a thread from their diaper on their forehead.
- My friends think it's okay to ask me how much I weigh, and then guess all kinds of very insulting numbers. Just for fun.
Okay, enough of that.
Today was the major Haiti fundraiser at the hospital where I worked. All day I've been thinking about it and hoping that it went well, and missing all my friends. To everyone on the Haiti Committee I hope that it was a great day. I hope you're tired but very satisfied.
Diana and Deb, I think you'd be entertained to know that I'm starting an analysis of the menu and food budget for our little elderly home. And I thought I was getting away from all of that. Oh, and it has to be low sodium. Thought you'd like that too.
I was puzzled by this at first, until orange season arrived. I've come to the conclusion that the reason they don't call the colour orange "oranj" in Haiti is because the oranges are green.
Oh, and as the photo shows, the bananas are green when they are ripe, too. No wonder I have such a difficult time telling when the fruit on our trees is ready to eat.
These two vehicles attempted to cross and either hit holes in the road or went off the side of the pavement. We heard that two people drowned. This is why vehices are no longer allowed to cross.
It's important to remember that the end result of this is profound human suffering.
Note: The road from the National Highway into Santon, Fond des Blancs, has been improved significantly since the storms thanks to the road crews who have been working tirelessly the past few weeks. It takes a little longer to travel, but is completely passable at this time.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The official death toll from four storms that ravaged Haiti this summer has nearly doubled to some 800 people, authorities said Friday.
Civil defense director Maria-Alta Jean Baptiste said in an interview with The Associated Press that 793 bodies have been found so far, and authorities are still looking for bodies in the mud that swamped coastal settlements.
"As we're cleaning, we don't know what we're going to find," she said.
Crews have found 466 bodies in the hard-hit town of Gonaives alone, and government workers are burying the dead immediately to avoid contamination and the spread of infectious diseases, she said.
The four tropical storms that struck in late August and early September also wiped out at least 60 percent of Haitian agriculture and destroyed roads, bridges and homes.
The government had previously said 425 people died in the storms, which left thousands homeless.
International aid and food has poured in, but the U.N. World Food Program has so far received only US$1 million of the US$54 million it requested.
I finally made it to visit Jacmel. It was nice to go, but wasn't quite what I expected though for a tourist destination. The architecture was really interesting and it seemed like a fairly safe place. I had fun, ate great seafood and it was good to get away.
Beach at Hotel Cyvadier
Grounds and dining room at Cyvadier
Abandoned cane processing equipment. The locals who stopped to talk to us said that some Europeans had come to remove it to take to a museum, and had to leave it because it was full of "bad spirits". Makes you wonder what's still in that tank, huh?