…there was a small earthquake last night around 4:15am that had Jillian out of bed and by the door before I could even open my eyes. The scary thing about this one is that, while relatively minor, it lasted for almost 10 seconds, which is MUCH longer than most of the tiny earthquakes that made our nights sleepless during the middle part of last year. Jillian and I had our usual talk about what she needs to do (or yell) to actually get me out of bed, and stop me from just laying down in a daze wondering what to do next. We discussed for about half an hour, and then attempted to fall asleep again. The quake didn’t register on the USGS website, but it was enough to remind us that getting too comfortable here is, at times, not such a good idea.
This weekend Jillian, Ben, Alexis and I traveled down to the southern coastal town of Jacmel to see what this whole Carnival thing was all about, and it was pretty amazing. Hundreds of thousands of people were there to see what had to be thousands of hand made paper mache masks in one of the coolest cultural celebrations I have ever experienced.
Like I said before, Carnival was canceled last year because the earthquake had hit less than two months before, so many of the mask-makers still had the masks that they made for last year but were never able to use. In addition, many of them made a bunch of new masks for this year, so at times the streets were just packed with them.
The parade lasted for HOURS, with artisan after artisan showing off their creations. There was also a concerted effort to get out the word about issues that are currently hitting Haiti. There were a few groups that used their paper maching abilities to portray cholera, and show what people need to do to avoid it. There was also some political messaging as well, with some groups calling for the return of Aristide, and others showing Preval as an alcoholic devil. (All in good fun, of course…)
But Carnival is actually more than just scary masks, music, and dancing. There are a number of groups who decorate themselves symbolically in a way that portrays a time in Haiti’s history. For instance, there are the Chaloska, who “mimic Charles Oscar Etienne, chief of police who in 1915 killed the political prisoners which led to the fall of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and then to the American occupation.” (Thanks Christina Schutt!) Their enormous red mouths filled with large protruding teeth make them hard to miss, and they march down the roads acting out the prosecution of said political prisoners. It’s actually kind of creepy, but incredibly interesting at the same time.
Also there was the Lanse Kod, or “The Rope Throwers”, who take sugar cane syrup mixed with charcoal and cover their bodies in it. They are meant to portray the slaves that made up this country before becoming the first independent nation in Latin America after it revolted in 1804. The ropes signify their slavery, and they run around blocking roads with their ropes and asking for “ti-kob”, or a little money. They also run around terrorizing revelers, and spreading the black paint all over the place (I ended the day with a big black splotch on my face and arm).
There were a ton of other groups which I’m not really sure of their origin, or what they tried to signify, but it goes without saying that it was incredibly interesting and made for some amazing pictures. It was really nice to see the people here stepping back from the normal craziness of life in Haiti and just enjoying themselves and their culture. The country needed this, they needed to be able to celebrate something, and having Carnival has given them something to be happy about.
Ben and I are working on making a multimedia with pictures and video that we took from the festivities, and once that is finished (and hopefully bought by someone), I will throw that up here for everyone to enjoy. Until then, feel free to click the link below and check out some more pictures from the weekend!
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.