This photo is pretty self-explanatory. Standing in the middle of Delmas, which is one of the main roads that cuts through Port-au-Prince, there was this boy selling balloon animals. Now, you can buy practically anything in the streets of PAP, from car chargers to clothing to blenders, but this, for me, was a first. I suppose he looked at his target group of consumers and saw a gap in the balloon animal industry, and then quickly pounced on the opportunity to sell clowns in Haiti what they desperately need to do their jobs. I kid, and it’s nice to see someone trying to spread a little joy around here, even if it is one balloon sword at a time. Now if only we could get him to smile…
Posts Tagged ‘Kids’
Today was surprising calm in PAP, with few protests or road-blocks. In fact, the only thing that I actually took a picture of in the city was the street kid above, and that was only because he asked me to take it. The rains returned for another day, and helped to wash the black soot, left from the countless tires that had been burned, off the streets.
Our dreams came true when we heard that a grocery store was open, and Jillian took it upon herself to pick up groceries for us and our friends who live close by. She got there and waited in line just to get in, and then once inside said the place was a mess, the counters were quickly becoming empty, and people were grabbing any food they could get their hands on. She waited another couple hours to check out, and then left after spending three hours of her day simply picking up groceries.
So the bottom line is that I think we can all agree that Jillian is our “Hero of the Day”. The winner of this award is given a prize of hugs and love, which will be evenly dispersed over the period of forever. Here’s hoping that the city will be calm again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…
Unfortunately, the elections on Sunday were a spectator sport for most Haitians. These kids peeked a view at a protest supporting Michel Martelly as it marched by their house in Village Solidarite. The campaign posters plastered to the wall are EVERYWHERE in the city, covering every flat surface that campaign workers could find. Now we wait for results, which will hopefully come out within the next couple days, and which will be plastered on this blog as soon as they are released.
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.
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.
My job in DC gave me the opportunity to meet a bunch of interesting people, and in Haiti, it’s no different. Samuel Dalembert is a Haitian-American NBA basketball player who has been doing work in Haiti since before the earthquake. He took some time out of his busy schedule of being taller than most of the people in the United States to show NBC around some of the child-friendly programs that he supports in Haiti.
I’ve never met an NBA player before, so for me this was a first. Samuel was incredibly polite, friendly, and talkative, but the first thing that you notice is clearly his size. It’s no surprise that NBA players are big, but when you walk up to shake his hand and he envelops your entire arm with his pinky finger, you notice they are just huge. Like, “how is it possible for a human to grow that large” huge. I caught myself thinking more than once, “Where does he get his shoes?”, as they are clearly larger than my torso.
So when Samuel walked up to the basketball court where he first learned how to dunk, he started to shoot some hoops with some of the locals who had been bold enough to challenge him. The match ended with Samuel winning, due largely to the fact that he could swat down almost every shot his opponents decided to toss towards the basket. And as he’s walking off the court, drenched in sweat after his dominating win, I yell to him, “How ’bout a dunk!”, thinking to myself, ‘there is NO way he is leaving this court without showing us what we all came here to see!’
He looks at me with tired eyes, his faces dripping with sweat, and responds, “You wanna see a dunk?” “Uhh, yea!” I shout back. Someone throws him a ball and he turns back to the court. “Alright, then…” he says, and then lunges towards the basket. He takes a few steps (as he can cross the entire court with only 5 enormous steps anyways), crouches down, jumps towards the hoop, and then….*BOING*…the ball nails the rim and flies in the opposite direction. He had missed!
There was an audible gasp before everyone realized that we should be polite towards this NBA player that is opening up his world to us to show where he grew up. We all composed ourselves and then the ball was thrown back to Samuel. Not one to quit after his first try, he takes the ball, rears back and approaches the basket again….*BOING*….another miss! I was shocked. I thought this was one of the prerequisites to being an NBA player, kinda like a NASCAR driver has to know how to start his car.
He looked around gingerly, clearly understanding the expectations that had been cast upon him, and then took the ball again. He goes up, smashes the ball through the hoop, and we all cheer widely. He had done it, he had dunked the ball! (finally…) He grabbed a water and then sat down for a quick interview before we headed out.
And as we were loading up the cars I approached Samuel to thank him for everything. I stuck out my hand to shake his and he took his hand and stuck it up as high as he possibly could. Without missing a beat, I crouched down, lunged up, and gave him the highest high-five I had ever given. He looked down at me and laughed, “Well I guess white men can jump…”, he said. “I guess so!” I responded, as I hopped into the car.
The next day I was tasked to shoot video of Samuel in the Petionville Golf Course Tent City as he assessed the sports programs they have there for children. When he arrived he was mobbed with kids, some knowing who he was and others just interested in meeting a humongous man. I was asked to do a short interview with him, and just as we’re about to start he looks to a man selling ice cream and says, “Ice cream for everyone!!!”
Well, there were about 100 kids in the general vicinity, and in a tent city nothing spreads faster than word of free food, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what happened next. The man selling the ice cream smiled nervously at Samuel and then the look in his eyes quickly turned from fear to anger as he became surrounded by dozens of hungry children. They start pushing and pulling at each other, each jockeying for the best position to grab their delicious free ice cream, and Samuel was forced to intervene, asking the children to line up single-file for the man. By this time the crowd of children had double, if not tripled, and the line stretched on for about 35 yards.
We did the interview and after finishing he walked up to the man handing out the ice cream and apologized. I looked at Samuel and gave him the “eesh” face, and he responded in kind, realizing that he may, or may not have just started a small child riot in the largest tent city in PAP. We moved along and parted ways, my time with an NBA player had ended.
And while this story taught me that NBA players are not perfect, it was nice to know that he’s just a regular guy with the best of intentions. Haiti is his home, and even if he spends his days running back and forth on NBA basketball courts in the States, his heart is always here. That says a lot for someone who made it out, and could have just decided to never look back. Instead he’s helping to get kids out of their homes (or tents) and playing sports. It’s a great idea, if you ask me, which I know you didn’t.
Jillian, Karen and I decided to take a break from the busy streets of Port-au-Prince and trekked out to Jacmel for two days to stay at our friend’s beach house. Jacmel is on the southern coast, a three hour drive snaking through the mountains of Haiti, a tough feat considering you are avoiding roadblocks created by fresh landslides along the way.
We were also driving an old Nissan Sentra, which is by far the WORST car to drive in Haiti, ever. Let’s just say it’s a good thing they don’t inspect the bottom of the cars at AVIS when you return them, as Haiti now has little pieces of our rental car scattered all over it. And while many of the buildings in Jacmel were affected by the earthquake too, it was nice to stay somewhere where there was no rubble, no traffic, and just total relaxation.
We spent almost all our time at the beach. The water was the perfect temperature, the sun wasn’t too hot, and the sand felt great between your toes. As you can see above, we set up a table on the sand in the shade of the coconut trees, and had breakfast delivered to us from a nearby restaurant. It was close to perfection.
There are actually two houses on the property, each with two bedrooms. They both sit about 50 yards from the beach, and you open the windows of each room to a view of the ocean. It even came with a dog, which we named Samantha, who protected us from all Haitian by barking at them, which was actually slightly awkward.
And as you all know already, you can’t travel anywhere in Haiti without throngs of children surrounding you. At the beach, there is a group of about 5 kids that just hang out on the property, and right when you are walking from the house to the beach with a hand full of snacks and beer, they ask you for food because they’re hungry. At this point you can’t tell them you don’t have anything, because that would be a blatant lie, and if you don’t give them food you kinda look like a jerk as you’re having a luxurious beach vacation.
I think they know this, and it works. They got food, and then came back for more, and more, and more… But it was actually really frustrating, as I personally had hoped that going to the beach would be an escape from these situations. I actually didn’t need a break from the rubble, I wanted a break from the begging, and apparently there is no avoiding it.
But the children did actually come in handy, as they have the skill and agility to climb up these huge coconut trees to get you coconuts. I guess you can’t hate them for that (except they charge you for it…).
Other than that, the trip was perfect. We ate a dinner of lobster and fresh fish with plantains, and played pinochle under the stars on the beach. But most importantly we got to spend some much needed time with Karen, and it was really wonderful having her here. Jillian finds solace in Karen in a way that is unmatchable, so it’s been nice to have this slice of home here in Haiti. Cheers, Karen!!!