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Posts Tagged ‘Devon’

Giant-Exterior

As if Haiti needs another way to flaunt the economic disparity amongst foreign NGO workers and the people they are trying to help, a rich Haitian family has decided to open what is now the Cadillac of grocery stores smack dab in the middle of Petionville.  Just blocks away from not one, but two tent cities, the behemoth of a building aptly lives up to it’s name: “Giant.”

Meats

Produce

You walk inside and enter another world, one that’s filled with happiness and overconsumption.  It’s almost like when you walk in the doors you leave Haiti and enter Whole Foods in America, in which every item is priced 10 times higher than you would buy the same items on the street (if they are even available on the street).  The men stationed at the cold-cuts counter wear chef hats, the produce section is laid out like a cornucopia of vegetables and fruits that they decided to import from other countries, instead of buying locally, of course.

But the real reason this grocery store stands out from the rest is the sheer amount of choices.  In most grocery stores here you can usually get what you need, minus the hundreds of options we are allowed in the States.  While Jillian and I could not find refried beans for about 6 months here, everything else is cyclical, almost like every grocery store here lines up at the same shipping container every month and all of a sudden they all have Ginger Ale for a week or two.  But at this place they always have ginger ale…in about 15 different varieties.

Cereal

Chips

Soda

But you walk around with your little European style shopping trolley/basket and fill it with items that cost more than Haitians make in a day removing rubble.  “Oh!  Some brie!  That would be delicious with some brown sugar and walnuts!”  You pick it up, throw it in your cart, and bury your intense feelings of guilt knowing that the local population usually only enters this store to buy one item they urgently need because they don’t have time to locate it in the sprawling street market just blocks away.  At another grocery store I was approached by a man in the milk section: “Will you help me buy formula for my baby?” he asked.  “I’m sorry,” I awkwardly said and then walked away to go pick up pre-shredded cheese for Mexican night…bury, bury, bury.

Devon-Shocked

I went with Jillian and my’s friend, Devon, who was visiting the city from the country-side town of Jeremie, and she almost couldn’t handle the choices.  She walked through the store like a kid in a candy shop, realizing that if they had 75 different kinds of cereal, that was 74 more than the store has where she lives.  She couldn’t believe her options, and decided to shop simply to stock up on cookies and other things that don’t reach the rural outskirts of Haiti.

But as you walk through the isles you notice something, or the lack of it.  Where are the toiletries?  Where are the cleaning supplies?  Where is everything that is not edible?  Well, that’s easy, you see.  You simply take the ELEVATOR to the next floor!!!

Elevator
(Yes, that is Devon getting excited to go up the elevator…)

Now, I haven’t been in Haiti for long, but I know for sure that this is only the second elevator that I’ve EVER been on while living here (the other is in the US embassy).  This place has two, one to bring you to the second floor, and the other to bring you to the parking lot underneath the building.  (Judging by the recent history of this country I will not be parking our trusty chariot, Pinotage, in the garage downstairs…)

But you go to the second floor, and it’s just like the first, but with every non-edible item you would ever need.  You walk down the isles wondering if you are in a dream, until you turn the corner and see it…they have a wine shop!  As if they needed to add to the incredible ridiculousness of this place, they have dedicated an entire area just to wine and liquor.  It was here that I saw an employee bring a customer what appeared to be a piping-hot espresso…in a silver cup…on a silver tray…in a grocery store…in Haiti.  I could not make this stuff up.

Level-Two

Wine

So like a Nickelodean Toy’s R Us Shopping Spree, Devon and I barreled through the isles as fast as we could, grabbing what we could hold, and sprinted to the counter, hoping that we weren’t just going to wake up.  We checked out to bills that were far too expensive considering the country-context, and left feeling slightly overwhelmed.

And while getting excited about a grocery store may not make sense to many of you readers in the States, for those of you in Haiti, you will totally understand.  Like I said before, there are a handful of grocery stores here already that have the items that we’re used to eating, so it’s not like we were struggling before.  But this place makes all the rest of the grocery stores look like amateur-hour, and it could probably fit all the other grocery stores in it’s two stories of awesomeness.

But it’s funny, because when Jillian and I go to the States to visit it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choices and the excessiveness that is the
capitalistic U.S. of A.  After living in Haiti, that lifestyle is hard to swallow, but because everything there is like that it’s easier to accept.  But here, this store, with it’s choices and it’s sheer humongousness, seems so out of place in a country that is inundated with poverty.  It’s almost a good lesson to make you realize how ridiculous that lifestyle is, without the ability to write it off because everyone lives that way.  You cannot avoid the tent cities on either side of this place, so no matter where you’re going after you just dropped 50 bucks on fun sauces and cheese, you are forced to remember how bad it is for the people that can’t afford to shop at a place like that.

Starbucks-Ice-Cream

Now I’m not saying that I won’t be returning to Giant, in fact I’ve been there again since I went with Devon, but I don’t think that the guilt will be going away anytime soon.  It impossible not to feel bad buying such expensive food when others don’t even have a house.  But having this little sliver of excessiveness is nice in some ways, because it’s comforting to know that if you had a really really bad day, you can just head over to Giant and grab a tub of Starbucks’ Signature Hot Chocolate ice cream, curl up by the oscillating fan, close your eyes, and think about home.

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It was the middle of the night on the first day that Jillian and I had moved into our new house.  We were peacefully sleeping when all of a sudden, “THWACK!”, it sounded like someone had swung a baseball bat as hard as they could at our corrugated-steel roof, and hit a grand slam.

We looked at each other terrified. “What was that?!” we whispered to each other as we pulled the covers up to our faces.  I crept downstairs to see the damage, and to ask whoever was responsible why they felt the need to conduct batting practice at two in the morning.  But downstairs there was nothing but our still-packed bags and a gigantic spider walking in the middle of the living room floor.  The spider met its maker with the help of a falling Chaco sandal, and we went back to sleep with one eye open, fearing that our new house was nothing but a haunted mistake.

But the next morning it happened again, this time to the roof that protects the windows on the first floor.  We ran outside but saw no one, no baseball bat, nothing.  Then after looking at the ground, we realized that what had been terrorizing us this entire time was not the ghost of Ti Kay past, it was simply a Falling Nugget of Death! (or FND)

I can’t actually take credit for the name “Falling Nuggets of Death”.  When we had our friends Devon and Megan over last week, we experienced one of these seed pods plummeting from the trees to the ground first hand while sitting on the porch.  It smashed into the concrete, left a crater the size of a basketball, and then evaporated into the muggy Haitian air.  Megan looked at us and said, “Wow, that’s a falling nugget of death if I’ve ever seen one.”  The name stuck.

I think it goes without saying that being hit by one of these puppies would likely cause major memory loss, or at least an ugly bruise.  When they are ready to kill, they detach themselves from the branches just as you are peacefully admiring the nature surrounding you.  It then plunges to both its own, and its innocent victim’s, death, in a kamikaze mission from the heavens.

We approached the landlady about our concerns and she said that at least 5,000 Haitians are critically injured every year from FNDs.  When we asked her why she never told us we were at risk by living in this house she responded, “You never asked, but if you do anything, just remember to never….” and then she was hit!!!  Just seconds before giving us the critical advice we needed to stay safe from these monsters, she became the latest victim of FNDs right before our eyes.

Obviously this entire post has been grossly exaggerated, but there is a tad bit of worry that an FND could leave a dent in one of us.  Most likely it would be Jillian, as Haiti has tried repeatedly to do her in (ex: earthquake, moto-taxi accident, eating my cooking). We would also really prefer it if they would stop smashing into our roof in the middle of the night.

Two nights ago there was an all-out assault, and as we were sleeping, we were awoken to the sound of about 5 of these things smashing into our roof at the same time.  It never ends!  But of course, it will.  The trees will eventually run out of ammunition and we will be able to eat our cup-of-noodles on our porch in peace.  But if you think about it, it’s probably best it wasn’t Haitians swinging baseball bats…they’re way better at soccer.

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