Posts Tagged ‘Video’


On Friday afternoon I was drinking a coke while lounging around the UN Logistics Base restaurant, discussing an interview with the UN’s spokeswoman I was going to shoot for the International Federation of the Red Cross.  In the background was CNN reporting on how terrible the republicans are for not voting for some bill, and above us were oscillating fans spraying cool water mist down on the patrons drinking espressos and eating the daily lunch specials (on Friday it was grilled lobster).

The sky above us was clear and blue when we arrived, but 15 minutes later the clouds rolled in, the winds picked up, and the rain started flying horizontally through the open air restaurant.  I looked at the UN spokeswoman, and she said to me, “This is not good…we had been so lucky until this point.”  And she was right, until now the rainy season had failed to bring a strong enough storm to cause any widespread damage, and every tropical storm that had evolved into a hurricane has turned away from the island of Hispaniola, almost as if they had sympathy for what Haiti has been through and decided to go pummel Bermuda instead.


But while the strong winds and heavy rain lasted only 30 minutes, the damage was already done, and the team from the Red Cross and I ran through the rain and jumped into the car.  We drove out of the UN Log Base and past the airport, avoiding huge billboards that had toppled into the streets.  That morning I had debated whether to bring my rain gear for my camera, and decided against it, so I asked the driver to stop while I ran over to some street vendors who had hunkered down to protect their cooking supplies from the storm.  I bargained down the cost of a plastic bag from 100 goudes to free, wrapped my camera in it, and we started taking video of the aftermath.

But rather than writing out what happen over the next 24 hours, I’ll just show you this video that I put together for the Red Cross about their response:

For those of you wondering what it is that I actually do here in Haiti (other than take pictures of Olie and write in this blog), that video above sums it up pretty well.  I shot the video, wrote the script (with Red Cross staff), and then voiced it over and edited it together.

The other thing I did that night was a phone interview with The Weather Channel.  They asked two questions. The first was a status update about the damage, and the second was one that I wasn’t expecting (but probably should have been…): “So what did the clouds look like during the storm?” the anchor asked curiously, “Did they come in from the North?  The West?”  OMG…I personally could not care less what the clouds looked like, or from what direction they came from, so this question totally threw me off.  “Ummm, the clouds came from the South (this turned out to be an incredibly lucky guess), and they came suddenly,” I responded, with my authoritative broadcast voice, “The storm came in quickly and left quickly as well. At one moment the skies were clear, and minutes later the winds picked up violently and dark clouds had rolled in.”


But the next day while the Red Cross assessed the tent camps that they oversee, you started to realize that most of the damage to the tents and tarps was not because of the storm at all, but simply from the wear and tear of months of sitting out in the hot Haitian sun.  The camp managers would explain that more than half of the tents and tarps needed to be replaced, which was completely true, but because it was not a result of the storm practically none of them would actually be replaced after the assessments.  The storm just acted as a way to remind us that life in the tent camps is miserable, hot, and borderline unbearable, but now you were just adding ‘soaking wet’ into the list of adjectives to describe these places.


The night of the storm we went out with a team and quickly were surrounded by a group of several hundred people chanting, “We don’t need you, we need a house!”  They were angry, and I totally understand their frustration.  The camp grounds are now almost completely covered in mud, and a musty mildew smell waifs throughout the tents and tarps that will now take days (if not weeks) to dry. We went back to the same tent camp the next day to shoot video of what was going to be a distribution, but things went badly and we were forced to leave.

Because the Red Cross was choosing to provide aid to those who had lost everything, the people who hadn’t lost everything, but who had structures that still suck, started to get upset because they weren’t getting help too.  While walking back to the distribution point a group of men approached us with angry eyes and asked, in Kreyol, why they hadn’t gotten bracelets (you didn’t get aid if you didn’t have one).  I explained I didn’t have bracelets, so he jabbed me in the arm with his elbow, got up close, and yelled something in Kreyol that I didn’t understand.  I yelled back, “WOAH!” and then we started to move a little faster towards the cars.  They stopped and threw daggers at us with their angry gazes, while one of them yelled “I kill you! I kill you!”  So we left.  The next day the Red Cross spoke with the local camp managers and negotiated security so that the distribution could be carried out.


In the end the storm had killed 6 people and destroyed nearly 15,000 family’s tents and tarps, and considering it only lasted 30 minutes it’s scary to think what a hurricane could do to this place.  They still have 1.3 million people living in tent cities, and if a storm produces sustained heavy winds, like what we experienced during this storm, for a day or more, this place is going to fall apart.  And while the storm has reminded the NGOs and others that the camps are still miserable, it’s just one more nudge to push the people actually living there closer to the edge.  Nothing has changed for so many of them, and a storm like this reminds everyone just how vulnerable they are.


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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.


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.


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If my post about the 6-month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti peaked your interest, and you have 20 minutes to burn in your cubicle, then I strongly suggest you watch the video above.  It’s an incredibly beautiful, yet depressing, chronicle of what the situation here is.  Done by Al Jazeera English’s Sebastian Walker (who’s a friend of mine), it makes even the worst of situations here look like art, and makes you upset that more hasn’t been done at the same time.  Enjoy.

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