Mission Report Haiti: Nonsense

Everyone working on this project tried to put all the pieces of the puzzle together as best we could. And in an unexpected turn of events, everything went swimmingly. Better than expected. While this is obviously good news, there is a downside. From a markedly self absorbed perspective, it basically means that there isn’t much for me to do the next week or so until my departure. Time will eek along at a snail’s pace. A dead snail. When things would get slow in the past, I would drown myself in manual, unskilled labor. But all those jobs are finished. All of them, anywhere in Haiti. Mostly because this jerk-baby pitched in, to ruin the last week of my trip on purpose.

Taking this photo, I couldn’t help but think of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Kali-ma. I want to point out, for legal purposes, that this child was not forced to do this. Everyone else was hauling gravel, so she wanted to take a shot at it. Sniveling, entitled, youth of America take note. She actually cried anytime she didn’t have a bin to fill with rocks. Don’t worry. We would have fed her regardless of her contribution. Just less. Again, for legal purposes, I have to note that I was being facetious.

Actual bricklaying for this phase of construction began last week and will probably be finished in a day or two. The rest will happen in the summer when Edelin gets back from school in Port au Prince.

Other than the brick stuff I just mentioned, last was spent moving piles of gravel to other piles of gravel. These rocks were literally collected by hand from the surrounding country and then scattered on the property for accounting. This is where shit gets crazy. They have a unit of measurement here that I can’t pronounce. But it sounds like “diwali” the Hindu holiday. Maybe. Anyway, this measurement requires the type of precision that made CERN possible. Basically what you do is, you take a shovel, or your hands, or your feet, or a baby. Then you grab a bucket. Roughly five gallons. Didn’t really seem to matter if it was split or actually five gallons (see what I mean? precise.) And then you scoop gravel into the bucket using your tool of choice. Now the thing is, and this is important, you have to keep scooping gravel until the rocks have made a pyramid atop the bucket. And then you have to keep adding until the rocks can no longer be added, until they slide down. If the amount of arguments that took place over adequate vs. inadequate pyramidization of bucket gravel is any indication, this is the essence of diwali or whatever. Now here’s the kicker. That’s not a diwali. Five of those is a diwali. Or whatever. I have been racking my brain all week to try and decide if this is genius, a way to harness the law of averages in commerce, or if it’s just plain backwards, folksy, dumb. Regardless, it’s what works here. It’s how business is done.

As is my way, I wanted to run a little experiment. Americans have a tendency to think that if someone doesn’t speak English, that they’re dumb. Obviously this sentiment itself is dumb. So seeing how important the sliding rock completion of 1/5 a diwali was to everyone else (large groups of neighbors would divide amongst themselves and argue for or against a certain bucket every 6 minutes or so), I wanted to see what would happen if I made my diwalis erratically. We’re paying for it. And in the scheme of 400 billion tons of gravel that we made babies, er, I mean that we ourselves shoveled, I didn’t think an hour’s worth of screwing around was really going to mess up the accounting too much. So I filled some buckets with 6 extra scoops past capacity, shoveling long after common sense would dictate one shovel. And I filled some where you could still see the rim of the bucket. I never had the balls to do a halfsie. But I listened to the hushed murmurs of the crowd, who were clearly unsure of how to deal with this abomination. It was an affront to standards, decency, and their culture. But how they reacted gave me insight into what they think of me. They did nothing. After careful collection and analysis of sociological data, I’ve determined that these people view me as a common idiot. They didn’t even try to stop me. Like when I let my nephew eat mud. He’s 2. All 2 year olds are idiots. Just go with it. But my Creole is getting passable. They don’t know this, and I like it that way. I can eavesdrop. This is actually how I confirmed my findings. I heard one lady say something along the lines of “Aaaaawwww, look how cute. He thinks he’s people.”

Anyway, this view the adults have of me is perfect. Because now their tween aged children when they report the terrifying things I’ve been saying to them. The game is this. I sit amongst a group of the kids when they’re off school for lunch, looking like a common idiot, stacking rocks. They don’t know that I’m pondering the transitory nature of all thought and matter in the universe. They just think I’m dumb. They all talk about me. Constantly. Like, isn’t there any better gossip going on at school. Teen pregnancy is rampant here. But no. They just talk about me. So after about ten or 15 minutes of just stacking rocks and feeling like a zoo animal, I’ll look up, and in Creole, introduce myself with a flourish and tell them that in my country we eat people and wear socks on our hands. Only green. Only green. Only green. I lower the volume with each iteration to make it sound like I’m fading into the distance. And then I crab walk out of the crowd.

So that being said, it’s also worth noting that in a place like this, spring isn’t just denoted by decent weather and the reemergence of cleavage like in the States. It’s like in those books I read as a kid where they would talk about that one place that’s not the city. The other place. Where there are animals and stuff. So this is like that. There are animals everywhere. And spring means small animals. Like puppies. Except they’re the puppies of goats and pigs and chickens. It’s like, pig puppies are the cutest things ever and they run around playing. The perfect word to use for every one of these different kinds of puppies is spastic. Constant hilarity. I video tape goats on the reg. I’ll upload some of the highlights when I get to an internet connection that surpasses 14.4kbps. In the meantime, here’s this picture. It’s a dog and a goat. This might be a racist thing to say, but it’s impossible for me to tell them apart.

On Friday of last week we went to the border of Dominican Republic and tested security. It was found lacking. Passports or $5 are required to cross the border. Either or. Not both. I didn’t read the official document or anything, but I think the $5 deal is more of an unspoken thing. So my spanish speaking friend Nene and I go to the border cause we needed to go to the market to buy 40 lbs. of hot dogs. Duh. We get to the border. I show my passport. The guard looks at it. Really scrutinizes it. Something about the signature on my Cambodian visa maybe doesn’t look right to him. “Brussels, huh?” Waves me through. Nene doesn’t have a passport. But he just walks in with me like he owns the place (owns all of Dominican Republic). The guard disagrees and turns him away. So we walk back into Haiti, maybe 25 ft. Maybe. Not even around a corner. Not even to the guard’s peripheral vision. No attempt at utilizing the blind spot caused by movement of the optic nerve. Guard’s looking right at us. Nene takes my passport. We walk back up to the guard. Nene flashes it in his face. Not open. Just the front. And keeps on walking. That’s it. Guard doesn’t even bat an eye. Doesn’t seem bother him that the passport doesn’t look like a Haitian passport at all. Not a second thought. I guess there’s a certain protocol that I’m unaware of here. It kind of hurt my feelings that he cross examined me, but then Nene just waltzes in. Like we live in some kind of sick and twisted world where people are profiled by their appearance. Imagine! What barbarism! What if the LAPD operated in that fashion? Whatever. TSA could learn a lesson from this border guard. Super efficient. No one would miss a flight from a security backup and I bet the safety record would be exactly what it is now. My plan, if we got busted, was just to pretend like I didn’t speak Spanish at all. They’d think I was dumb. Then after about 10 or 15 minutes I would tell the guard that in my country we eat people and wear socks on our hands. Only green. Only green. Only green. Then I would moonwalk back across the border. Can’t do the same gag twice. Regardless of the possible consequences, it was worth it. Because in the DR, they have fried chicken.

So this is what you get for last week. Nonsense.

3 comments for “Mission Report Haiti: Nonsense

  1. Kare n
    05.02.13 at 22:31

    Perfect update for a Thursday night at 11pm. Thanks, Turalis:-)

  2. Cathy Higgins
    05.03.13 at 04:25

    May be nonsense but quite amusing…now excuse me while I go fold all my green socks. Love you!

  3. Tracy
    05.03.13 at 09:23

    I know not having much to do is really tough for you…I’m glad to see you are handling it well :) Love and miss you!

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