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Archive for August, 2010

Nick-and-Jillian-Wider

I’m not sure how I let this one slip by the radar screens here at On the Goat Path.  For those of you who may not know, Jillian is my fantastic wife, and when she’s not busy dealing with the emotional roller-coaster that is me, she spends 10+ hours a day working at World Concern.  Well, apparently Jillian was here during the earthquake, and she had an interesting story to tell, so they did a profile on her on their website!  You can read it here:

http://humanitarian.worldconcern.org/2010/07/staff-profile-jillian-thorps-story-of-survival/

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Barbed-Wire

Ben and I took a trip out to Corail last week, which is that miserable “model” tent city out in the middle of nowhere.  It had exponentially grown, but the miserableness of it has changed only slightly, with little shops popping up here and there.  Near the entrance to the camp an organization had begun growing plants in old tires, a great idea to teach those with nothing else to do how to grow their own food.  The problem?  They were securely guarded by razor wire to keep people from stealing them.  It’s practically the only green in what is usually fields of white tents, and the people can’t access them.  Just perfect.

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(Photo by Ben Depp – www.bendepp.com)

Just over a week ago, Wyclef Jean was denied the chance to run for President of Haiti by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) because he hasn’t lived in Haiti for the past five-years consecutively, a clear constitutional requirement.  Wyclef conceded defeat the next day, writing a letter accepting the CEP’s decision, and moving on: “Though I disagree with the ruling,” he said in a statement posted on his blog, “I respectfully accept the committee’s final decision, and I urge my supporters to do the same.”

‘WOW!’ I thought to myself, ‘What a stand-up guy!’  Not only did he respect his country’s constitution, but he also asked everyone to not protest in an effort to stop violence!  This was a perfect example of how someone should act, a clear model for how things could be done here in a safe and respectful way.

Until

Wyclef Jean – Prizon Pou K.E.P.A. by user2508181

As if he wanted to hammer the final nail into his own coffin, Wyclef released this song to Haitian radio stations, entitled “Prison for the CEP”, as a (somewhat stupid) last-ditch effort to appeal his exclusion from the race.  The song is in Kreyol, and throws accusations at both the CEP and President Preval (you can read the English translation, courtesy of Newsweek, by clicking on “Continue Reading” below).  In it he claims that the CEP is controlled by Preval, and that Preval is the devil, so as a child of God he cannot be excluded (duh…):

The CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] disqualified me.
Don’t forget my father was a pastor. The God who is with me is stronger than Lucifer.
Lucifer is in control of the CEP. The Satan disqualified me. The children of God cannot be barred.

He also calls his supporters to mobilize, to continue the fight against the CEP and Preval, as if we need more social, and/or political, unrest in Haiti.  I’m not sure what Wyclef thought he could achieve with this song, because I can tell you for sure that Preval is not going to all-of-a-sudden hear it on the radio and change his mind (if it’s even his mind to change).  The people of Haiti already don’t trust the government, and this song disempowers an already floundering system.

Before this whole song debacle I had drank a little bit of the Wyclef koolaid, thinking maybe an outsider might be the right thing for Haiti, but now it’s blatantly clear that this rapper from the United States does not belong running this country.  In the song, he defends his ability to speak Kreyol, a criticism that has been cast upon him since he announced his intention to run for office.

While there are conflicting reports about whether he actually can speak Kreyol or not, it is 100% true that he does not speak French, which is the official language of the government.  Imagine a new President Wyclef Jean, meeting with the Haitian Senate to discuss the rebuilding effort…and he needs a translator.  Give me a break!

But the bottom line is that Wyclef wants the government to bend the rules of the constitution so that he can become president of Haiti.  That doesn’t set a very good precedent, if you ask me.  If you think the constitutional rule that’s barring you from running is unimportant, then what stops you from ignoring the rest of the constitution once you’re in office.  Haiti needs someone who is going to respect those rules, from start to finish.

But don’t take my word for it.  If you haven’t already, watch the interview he did with Wolf Blitzer to announce his candidacy to the world (yes, he announced his candidacy for president of Haiti to an American news show):

After 8 minutes of listening to Wyclef refer to himself in the third person, I pretty much decided to throw out the rest of the Wyclef koolaid we had in the fridge, and focus on more important things…like Olie.  It pisses me off that what seemed at first to be a really great way to keep the spotlight on Haiti turned out to be yet another circus making the country look woefully inadequate.

The CEP has no mechanism to appeal their decision, so for Wyclef, this is the end of the road.  While the government has dropped the ball in almost every conceivable way after the earthquake, this is not one of those instances, and Wyclef needs to realize that.  If he decided to write a song about how the government has yet to address land tenure issues, or has continued to allow land owners to forcibly remove those living in tents on private land, I would be all for it.  But this song seems so self-centered, so petty.  Haiti needed someone to say “we can be better”, not “look how bad we are.” And unfortunately for Wyclef, he’s taken himself off the list of those attempting to prop this country up, and instead is now doing his best to bring it down.

(more…)

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Meet Muttons!!!

Jillian-with-Goat

Jillian and I just went on a trip to Les Cayes, on the south-western coast of Haiti, so that I could shoot some pictures for the World Concern Christmas Catalog. (Which will be landing on your doorsteps sometime later this year!)   WC does a program out in rural areas where, after taking classes, they give children a goat to raise.  The program is great, as it not only teaches the children responsibility, but it also gives them a valuable asset.  Each goat can sell for as much as $50, and because they are given females, that can exponentially grow that income when their goat pops out some kids.

WELL, Jillian found this little guy during our photo shoot and snagged him right up.  His mother had shunned him and would not let him feed off her teet, so the young girl who owns him now has to hand feed him just so that he survives.  The little girl saw the baby goat in Jillian’s arms and knew that they were a match made in heaven.  “Take this goat,” she said with tearful eyes, “you two were made for each other.”  Tears began welling in Jillian’s eyes as well, as she responded, “Thank you very much, little girl, I will name him Muttons!”

We tied a piece of twine to Muttons’ collar and walked him to the car, where he snuggled into Jillian’s arms and fell asleep. (He loves car rides!)  Muttons likes to eat tin cans and backpacks that are left on the floor, and will go on short 5k runs with us when we are feeling like being healthy.  He sleeps on a small bed of hay that we have made for him in the back yard, and can’t wait for his new Mama and Papa to come home from work everyday.  I think Jillian and I have finally found a pet that we can call our own…

Prepare-for-Liftoff

OH! Woops!  Haha, well this is awkard…Hi Olie!

So the entire story above is false, even though it would be pretty fun to have a baby goat.  Jillian did take a liking to the goat above, but we didn’t take it home.  His name is not Muttons at all, in fact, after asking all the children what their goat’s names were, they were all just called ‘Kabrit’, or ‘Goat’ in Kreyol.  They have no names at all.  Only a ‘Blanc’ would name a goat, and that’s why Muttons is the best goat in all of Haiti.

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IMG_4162

Feet Locker: Because you need a locker for more than just one foot…

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Mountains-Beyond-Mountains

Karen, Jillian and I took a hike in Kenscoff with Olie last week and the view was spectacular.  Of course, 15 minutes after I took this picture the mountaintop we were standing on was engulfed in a thunderstorm cloud, and we had to slip and slide down the muddy trails to our car as inches of water were being dumped everywhere and lightning was crashing all around us.  It would not be a day here in Haiti without you risking your life, one way or another.

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Richard-Dumel-Makes-Announcement

As you probably already know, Wyclef Jean was deemed not eligible to run for President of Haiti yesterday by the country’s electoral council (the CEP), a decision that everyone pretty much already saw coming.  In an effort to stop violent protests from starting after the announcement, and also to make the members of the council feel like they were celebrities for as long as possible, they held the list of candidates until 9pm Friday night, a move that totally ruined Ben and my’s dinner plans.

Waiting-in-the-Lobby

Ben and I decided to head over to the CEP earlier that day to see if anything was going on, and in the lobby was practically every journalist that works in Haiti, all anxiously waiting in the lobby of what used to be a Gold’s Gym.  The gym was confiscated from a drug dealer last year after police determined the building was actually just a front for peddling drugs, and was converted into the CEP just after the earthquake.  Now it houses some of the slowest election officials in the world.

IMG_4225

Ben and I figured that waiting all day in that lobby was a complete waste of time, so we went out and grabbed some lunch, drove out to a tent city an hour outside PAP, picked up Ben’s wife from work, arranged Kreyol lessons for me, and grabbed a beer, all before returning.  When we got back, all the same people were exactly where we left them, and then we waited for another 4 hours.

So the officials came out and told us to arrange around a table. “It was here,” they told us, “that we would be given the list of candidates!”  About 3 dozen journalists, most of them Haitians, flocked around the table, trying to get the best vantage point for the impending announcement.  And then there was a gun shot…

No joke, out of nowhere, someone ran beside the building, shot a gun into the air, and then ran away.  Many of the journalists, including me, ran to see what was happening.  I mean, in America, this would mean the building is shut down, helicopters are looking for a suspect, and the list of candidates would have to be released at another time.  But here in Haiti, the office workers looked at each other and laughed, the police shrugged their shoulders, and most of the Haitian journalists didn’t even leave their positions next to the table.

Waiting-for-the-Announcement

But after the gun shot, the whole idea of holding the results until late at night kinda made sense.  Wyclef’s supporters are extremely passionate, and have been known to get violent.  Unfortunately for them, the harsh reality was that their candidate was just not eligible.  Wyclef has not lived in Haiti for the past 5 years straight, a clear prerequisite in the constitution of Haiti for presidential candidates.  There are no if, ands, or buts about it, so protesting against it seemed futile.

But this debate is what everyone has been talking about in PAP for the past couple weeks.  A celebrity candidate who actually had a chance to become the president of a country!  It was scary and exciting at the same time.  You can liken it to the idea of Bruce Springsteen running for president in the States.  Almost everybody loves the Boss, and crazily enough a bunch of people would actually vote for him, but in reality would he be a good president? Probably not.  (I can just see the campaign ads against him…”Do you really want a “tramp” in the White House?”)

And whether Wyclef’s exclusion from the race was done as a political move because the opposition thought he could actually win, or because the elite just didn’t want a president who wanted real “change”, the bottom line was that he didn’t qualify.  On one side it’s a pity, considering no matter how inexperienced he is politically, there’s really no way for him to do any worse than any of the presidents prior to now.  He would have come in, already a wealthy man, and shook up a system that needs it SOOOOO badly.  It would also keep the international community interested in what is now a pretty lack-luster election, which is now full of a bunch of usual suspects running to have the chance to steal billions of dollars from people who really need it.

Richard-Dumel-Making-Annoucement-Different-Angle

So after they moved us to yet another room with another blue table, Richard Dumel from the electoral board sat himself behind about two dozen microphones, and just as many cameras, and announced what we had all been waiting for.  Of the 34 candidates that had applied, 15 of the were deemed ineligible, and Wyclef Jean was one of them.  That was it.  The entire thing lasted about 3 minutes, tops.

Once the press conference was over there was an incredibly anti-climactic feeling.  It was almost as if you had been on a 10 hour flight, knowing that there was a 99.9% chance that you are going to land safely, but there’s always that chance that something else could happen.  This plane landed, just like everyone knew it would, and then everyone went home.

Ben and I left the CEP and headed back to his house, where we were supposed to eat dinner with Jillian and his wife, Alexis, earlier that evening.  We grabbed a quick veggie burrito and then drove through the streets looking for some semblance of protests, which everyone had been expecting once the decision was made.  But there were none, the streets were bare except for the usual prostitutes that perch themselves on the street corners, chatting with the local police forces.  We headed home, disappointed that the day had ended with such a fizzle.

As a journalist, I can say that this whole election story is not off to a good start.  For me, a Wyclef ticket on the presidential ballot would have made this election so much more interesting, and garnered a bunch more attention from the States.  Now expectations are lowered for yet another sketchy election in “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.”  Whose going to win?! Could it be Aristide’s old Prime Minister?!  Preval’s old Prime Minister?! Any of the other 17 candidates?!?!  Either way it’s kind of a snoozer, and means another five years of the same old politics in Haiti, which makes the decision to leave Wyclef out of it that much more depressing.

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Just Hanging Out

Just-Hanging-Out

This is Amelio’s best friend, Patrick (not his real name).  Patrick listened to his parents and did not get pregnant like his BFF did, sidelining him from the games they used to play together.  Now Amelio’s feet are too swollen to run around with a ball, and Patrick is left to just hang around on this pole.  Just a few short weeks from now Amelio will give birth, adding a third to what people used to call “the terrible twosome,” and creating yet another victim of teenage pregnancy.

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Olie-Running-on-the-Beach

Sitting in the living room, I look to Olie and get an idea…

ME: Dude, we need to get you a chick!
OLIE: I know man, I’m totally jonesing for some lady action…
ME: Alright, let’s put together a personal ad for you, what kind of things do you like to do?
OLIE: Hmm, I like to chew on chicken bones I find on the street…
ME: I think you have to think bigger, like things that chicks like.
OLIE: Well, I like romping around in the water at the beach.
ME: Long walks on the beach…CHECK. Anything else?
OLIE: I like to drink gallons of water and pee almost every 15 minutes.
ME: Likes to go out and get drinks….CHECK. Ok, one more.
OLIE: I’m interested in jumping on furniture that I’m not supposed to jump on…
ME: Uhhhh…Interested in interior designing.  Perfect, I’ll put this up ASAP.
OLIE: Awesome! Thanks man, I owe you one!
ME: Then please stop peeing in the house.
OLIE: Not going to happen…

Olie-out-to-Sea

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Teen-Pregnancy

Everyone knows that there’s a lot of teenage pregnancy here in Haiti, so when we saw this it wasn’t shocking.  Amelio (not his real name in an effort to retain his privacy) here just wanted to play a simple game of basketball, but because he had a little too much fun with the ladies one night he has found himself pregnant, and sidelined from the game he loves.  No one knows how many teenage boys are pregnant here in Haiti, but just by looking at the discomfort in Amelio’s face, we know that it’s an unfortunate fate.

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