I can’t believe it’s been five months since I packed Mittens and all my belongings onto an overloaded bus to Port-au-Prince, arriving 10 hours later next to the collapsed presidential palace in a hubbub of vehicles and pedestrians where a lone blan was waiting for me.
I’ve been bad about blogging, and the excuse I’ve given myself, at least, is that I feel like Haiti is a harder place to write about than the DR, because the story is always more complicated and so many people so often get it wrong. On the other hand, it’s much more interesting than the DR and the last five months have been no exception. So for my return to blogging, I’d like to offer you a Haiti news roundup that I hope will help you understand a little bit of what’s going on in the place I’m calling home, for now.
- Cholera spiked again this summer with the rainy season, and the death toll in a year is now more than 6,000. If you hadn’t heard, it’s been pretty well confirmed that UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal brought the deadly disease to Haiti, which hadn’t seen the deadly disease in a century. The source was apparently a leaky septic tank on the UN base that infected Haiti’s main river system.
- Deeping Haitian resentment of the so-called peacekeepers were the accusations that Uruguayan troops in the southwest coastal city of Port Salut raped a young Haitian man.
- These two outrages, coupled with Haitians’ existing belief that the UN presence violates the sovereignty of their country, led to demonstrations against Minustah, as the UN peacekeepers are known in Haiti. Some of these protests took place right outside the office where we work – David was out of town but my work day was interrupted by the sound of tear gas bombs, the smoke of burning tires, and people running down the street in front of the office to get away from the Haitian National Police.
- Meanwhile, in his third try, President Martelly finally nominated a prime minister that was approved by Haiti’s Parliament. This was a big step forward for the government because now all the other officials can be named, allowing projects and policies to get moving again. Keep in mind, Martelly’s election was now a full year ago and Haiti’s just now getting a government in place.
- Journalist and Haiti circles went wild after a magazine published a controversial piece by Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland, in which she used Haiti for a backdrop for her diagnosis of PTSD and, she says, recovery through enacting a rape fantasy. A group of women, including some friends of ours, wrote a letter objecting to the article’s portrayal of Haiti. Things only got worse for Mac when a lawyer for the rape victim she uses in the story revealed that Mac didn’t have permission to use the rape victim’s information the way she did.
- There has been some good journalism published about Haiti, including in Rolling Stone and by Pooja Bhatia.
- Most recently, Muhammad Yunus made his first trip to Haiti. I was lucky enough to attend a conference where he spoke on social business and then ride along for his foray into the Central Plateau, where he visited clients in the program David directs. Overall, we were really impressed by his story and his personality, which was friendly, humble, and funny. We also got to tour Partners in Health, which is ever-growing in the Central Plateau, with a fishery project to fight malnutrition and a huge teaching hospital that’s still under construction in Mirebalais.
Personally, life has gotten busy for me because of my now full-time communications work at the MFI where David works and my courseload of two classes that I have to work on in between blackouts at our apartment. We’re still hoping to get our fixed inverter back any day now! My Creole has improved enough for me to feel more confident talking to people, though our lifestyle still doesn’t allow for much Creole practice beyond chatting with the timachann (women merchants) we buy our vegetables from and the occasional chat at our office. Mittens is enjoying the freedom of being an indoor/outdoor cat, although a menacing boy kitty has lately been invading and eating her food. I think that’s about it for our news roundup. Thanks for reading!