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Archive for February, 2011

Duvaliers-Lawyers

Duvalier’s lawyers decided to call a press conference yesterday to discuss the case against their client, and here’s a quick synopsis of what they said:

1. Duvalier is innocent!
2. The statute of limitations has run out for him to be charged!!!
3. The courts have messed up, so he can no longer be charged!!!!!
(the number of exclamation points indicate how emphatically the statement was made)

That’s pretty much it, nothing we haven’t heard over and over again before.  Because of that, I’m going to leave to leave it at that, and just make this a “Picture of the Day”.

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Snoozefest

Soooooooo, Bumble Bea has been coming back to our house pretty much everyday since we returned her to her 4 year-old owner, but we’re not complaining!  Right around 10am every morning she trots in the back door like clockwork, wrestles with her mom, and then the two of them hop on a chair in our living room and zonk out.  They wake up around 2ish, wrestle some more, and then we bring her back to her real home.  She really is about the cutest thing in the world, and the fact that she also spoons with her mom solidifies that fact even more.

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Giant-Exterior

In an effort to promote free speech in the blogosphere, and open up a discussion, I’ve decided to post a comment I recently received regarding a post I did last September about Giant supermarket in Petionville (you can see it HERE).  The post was a satirical look at the economic disparity in PAP, and how this new grocery store seemed to portray that perfectly.  Secondarily, the post focused on the guilt that I feel by having the opportunity to shop at a place like that, all while over 800,000 Haitians still live in tents (some just blocks from this grocery store).

I think that’s pretty legit, but this commenter clearly felt I was wrong:

This article is utter BS!!! Frank..You must be a Lavalas supporter. That kind of logic has become all too familiar.

Every haitian who’s ever held a job in Haiti should be appaled by these moronic assertions. We all know Haiti has been, is and always will be a study in the greatest contrasts and disparities; however we should not remain a nation of NGOs, handouts and rubble forever. Ironically, this completed project symbolizes one the few positive steps taken in the Haitian capital since that cataclysmic day. Think about the dozens of people who are employed by Giant. The hundreds of relatives who rely on these meager incomes for survival.
Why should everything in Haiti be a s***hole?
Where’s the damn outrage in neighboring countries over these similar projects.
Shame on you Loser!!!
Haiti needs more entrepreneurs like these guys to create more jobs, not all-knowing a**holes like Frank who resent any form of progress in Haiti.

Yes..That beautiful Market will thrive in Haiti and it is not out of place.

245ynot@g****.com

Note: I went ahead and starred out some of the words…

So, there are a couple of points that I would like to make before I open this up to you guys.

1. Giant is awesome
2. Lavalas is the political party Aristide started (in case you didn’t know)
3. I agree with the commenter that Haiti “should not remain a nation of NGOs, handouts and rubble forever”.
4. Giant created jobs, which is truly great, but….
5. In my opinion, Giant is not an example of progress after the earthquake.  Construction of Giant began way before the earthquake, and “entrepreneurs like these guys” who are going to make gobs of money selling groceries to people like me, all while paying their workers “meager incomes for survival”, didn’t decide to open their doors to help reconstruct Haiti.  It was to make money.  Maybe they should give their workers a livable wage, that’s progress.

Other than that, I’m at a loss.  I’m assuming this is just a result of the commenter missing the point of the post, and for some reason concluding that my “article” was an effort to portray my hatred for progress in Haiti.  This comment is also likely the product of the fact that if you google “Giant Supermarket Haiti”, our blog is the first thing that pops up, and someone actually looking for information on Giant found this post joking about it instead.  Either way, they missed the point completely, and decided to send hateful comments my way as a result.

I know this is slightly petty, but I’ve posted this for two reasons.  First, I would love to hear if anyone else out there feels the same way that 245ynot does, as it would be interesting to hear a different side to this.  Second, this is just an open announcement that in the future I will NOT be allowing comments with language, and immature name-calling like this on the blog (unless, of course, I called you an immature name in the post:-).

I’m all for free speech, and I can take criticism with the best of them, but I also don’t start conversations with people who call me a “loser”, “a**hole”, and a “moron” when I meet them for the first time.  There’s a way to have a legitimate discussion about issues affecting Haiti on this blog, but comments like this are not the way to do it.

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Michel-Martelly

The headline says it all…Haiti might as well cancel the March 20th run-off because this election has been signed, sealed, and delivered now that Wyclef has endorsed Martelly.  I’m totally kidding, but it’s kind of a big deal considering a lot of the youth in Haiti really respect Wyclef for some reason.

Also in political news, campaigning for that same run-off began yesterday.  New campaign posters are up and campaign events are popping up around the country, some drawing crowds of thousands of supporters.  The big question is if more than 6% of the population will actually vote this time, as the constitution requires that a minimum of 10% of the electorate vote in a run-off for the results to be official.  As always, we’ll see.

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RaRa-Horns

For the past month, on Sunday nights, thousands of Haitians have been taking to the streets to celebrate Kanaval.  The yearly festival is marked by RaRa bands, floats, costumes and parades, and will culminate in a massive celebration in Jacmel on the weekend of February 26th, and another in PAP the following weekend.

Rara-Drummer

Rara-Drum

David and I went down to a Kanaval celebration in Petionville last Sunday to see what it was all about, and to be honest, it was just a HUGE block party.  Music blares on speakers large enough to blow out your eardrums, and Rara bands from local neighborhoods come to play their traditional Vodou music (except not all Rara bands are Vodou, I’ve recently learned).  Women pour glasses of homemade klerin (or sugar-cane grain alcohol), for those who don’t have the money to buy a bottle of Haitian rum, and the party goes on until the wee hours of the night.

Woman-pouring-Klarin

Ben and I are planning on going to Jacmel for the big celebration just over a week from now to take pictures and shoot video of what is one of the biggest cultural events in Haiti.  Because around this time last year the country was still reeling from the earthquake, they didn’t celebrate Kanaval in 2010, so this year is looking to be quite the party.  We’ll keep you posted, and, of course, provide you with plenty of pictures.

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On January 13th, 2010, Jillian and I spent most of the day in the US embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti waiting for a chance to evacuate after the earthquake had just left the capital city in ruins.  Jillian and her co-worker, Chuck, had been injured after being trapped in the rubble of our house for 10 hours, and we decided that the best decision was to leave the country and seek medical attention.  We sat in the lobby of the embassy for hours, not knowing whether a flight would be leaving that day or not, but in the meantime we filled out some paperwork that the embassy workers had told us was necessary if we wanted the chance to be evacuated.

“This is a promissory note,” yelled one embassy worker as a crowd of people huddled around him anxiously listening to his every word, “If, or when, you are evacuated out you will have to pay for your flight.  The cost will be nearly equivalent to what you would pay for a commercial flight, and we will send you the bill later.”  We ran to the window where the papers were being dispersed and quickly filled them out, hoping that if we submitted ours first we would have a better chance of getting on the first flight.

While the idea that we were paying for the flight was slightly jarring, we weighed our options and decided that getting out and getting to a hospital was priority number one.  I filled out Chuck’s paperwork (as his injuries were too severe for him to do it), and Jillian filled out ours, we signed on the dotted lines and turned it in.  The flight manifest for the first evacuation flight out of Haiti was called without us on it, and after pleading with the embassy workers, Jillian, Chuck and I were added to the list and flew out on a Coast Guard plane that evening on our way to the Dominican Republic.  Later, in Santo Domingo, a US embassy worker there assured us that the flight, as well as Chuck and Jillian’s medical bills, would likely be covered by the US government, included in their emergency response to the earthquake.  Turns out that was only half-true…

State-Department-Envelope

While at home for Christmas my Dad handed me a pile of mail that had been accumulating at his house, which we use as our permanent mailing address in the States.  Among the pile was a letter from the US State Department, which I opened the day after Christmas.  The letter was the opposite of a Christmas miracle:

State-Department-Bill

Dear JILLIAN P THORP,

The Promissory Note, which you signed for the above amount, is due by the listed due date.

If remittance is not received on or before the above due date, late payment interest is charged from the date notice of the debt was mailed through the date of payment at the above listed rate on the amount due, or the unpaid balance when partial payments are made.

The charge for a one-way flight from PAP to Santo Domingo for Jillian and I: $1,682.22!!!

We were shocked for about a dozen reasons, but first and foremost because we were not expecting to see this bill.  Secondly, the charge was astronomical for what translated into a 45 minute flight ($841.11 each).  While I’m not an expert in the airline industry, I’m pretty sure $800 is not the going rate for a one way flight to Santo Domingo.  In fact, let’s take a gander at how much it really is (courtesy of Travelocity.com):

That’s right!  We could have saved a whopping $782.11 EACH if we would have flown with American Airlines.  Now, I totally understand that AA was not operating out of Haiti in the weeks after the earthquake, and that because of the circumstances the only way to fly out was through the US military, but still, $841.11 is not “nearly equivalent” to $59.  But I wasn’t an Econ major in college, so maybe I’m wrong…

We decided to delve further into the cost comparison game, and found other great deals in which we could have taken advantage of with that kind of money:

We could have flown home, one-way directly to DC, almost five times!  This is fun, let’s continue:

DUBLIN (Delicious Guinness would be waiting for us):

HAWAII (Laying out on the beach, drinking pina coladas and relaxing):

LAS VEGAS (With the $584.11 we would each still have we could head straight to the blackjack table):

VANCOUVER (We’d get there with more than enough money to buy lift tickets to Whistler):

BRAZIL (While it might be a tad over budget, I’ve always wanted to go to Rio):

While I joke, it’s slightly crazy, if not depressing, to see how ridiculous the cost of this evacuation flight was. And again, I completely understand that mobilizing the military and using them to operate the flight costs an enormous amount of money. I also understand that you have to threaten to charge people so that they don’t just use it as a free ticket out of a disaster area that you no longer want to be in (there were dozens of people on that flight who were not injured at all, and just wanted to go home). But the fact that the doctor at the embassy was only seeing the worst of the worst patients, and that the staff at the embassy would not give Chuck or Jillian so much as an aspirin until we found someone who snuck us one, makes me feel that this was different.  We needed to get out, and we relied on our government to help us do that.  Isn’t that why we pay taxes?!

Unfortunately, I think we have no other option but to pay it.  The bill was already past due when I opened the letter after Christmas, and now it’s getting to the point where we just want this whole thing behind us.  Not to mention, they don’t really give you a number to call to ask them what the deal is.  “Mrs. Clinton, I’m confused…” I don’t think so.

The reality is that Jillian and I are eternally grateful for the service we were provided that day.  While the embassy in PAP was a mess (and rightfully so), when we got off that plane in Santo Domingo it was like heaven.  They sat us down in the hangar of the airport, asked us if we wanted something to eat or drink, and let us use their phones to call our family members to tell them we were OK.  It was wonderful for so many reasons, it’s just a pity that, in the end, it leaves such a bitter taste in our mouths.

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Peek-a-boo

A child peeks around a support beam in a tent camp in Leogane, which was the epicenter of the earthquake.  90% of houses there were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake.

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