Saturday, October 13, 2012

Haitian Politics

OKAY. I'm about to tell you about my favorite day, so far, in Haiti. Because I'm a big Political Science/International Relations nerd.

There is a group here called the Justice and Peace Committee that is compiled of local people who work together for...well... justice and peace. So if some crime happens and the police aren't really doing much about it, this group will sign petitions and go talk to City Hall and things like that. And they had an all-day "Formasyon" or formation, and I got to go!

The very first thing they did was teach us a song. The song's message is something along the lines of, "God has given us a mission in life and it is to serve others... every person, whether a boy or a girl, is a gift..." We each received a booklet that explained the definitions of a "citizen," "nation," "state" and we broke out into groups to talk about what it means to be a good citizen. After my group found out I studied Political Science they were really interested in my opinions on things and what our government's role is in the U.S., so it was kind of fun to use my like-a-5-year-old Creole to talk politics.

The head of this committee asked me if I would like to help with other formations in the smaller towns around here AND if I would be interested in serving as a Special Observer in a Haitian election. I would get a free t-shirt. YES PLEASE! So more to come on that, hopefully!

And so I walk up the hill back "home" and Sr. Pat tells us she just found out the President is coming to Gros-Morne. As in President Martelly... the actual president of Haiti... and he was coming in an hour. I convinced Aileen to come with and we showed up to the Plas Piblik (Public Place) about an hour early. And here is what happened:

That's President Martelly on the left! Greeting people as he walked to the stage.

Because we're blans, we got to step over the rope and stand really close to the stage. Right behind security. With really big guns.

The Pres speaking. The color of his campaign is hot pink, hence the shirts. He spoke about making school free, eating local produce (like zaboka, "avocado") and not having too many kids.
And at the end - he started kicking out soccer balls.

Now, I didn't quite tell my parents this next part (sorry, Dad)... But when I say "Insane" I really mean it... 

It's something about Haitians and their soccer.

We were up at the very front and the entire crowd behind us started pushing forward, trying to get one of the soccer balls the Pres was kicking. They were running over the rope and then running past the big scary guards with the big scary guns. I'm not exactly experienced in situations where a huge mob of people stop listening to the guys with the guns... but I assume when the guys with the guns lose control, they use their guns. I assume if thousands of people are rushing toward the President, past the guns, then that probably constitutes reason enough to use them.

There was a short moment where I couldn't do anything but move with the crowd, holding my camera high above my head because I didn't have room to put my arm down, noticing that I was headed straight toward being smashed into the huge speaker and there were lots of guards with the guns yelling and I turned back to Aileen and yelled the magic phrase, "WHERE'S BOSS?!!"

Fortunately we had Barak, aka Boss, aka our protector, right with us and as we were pushed and pushed further up he grabbed us both and ducked us back under the rope, went against the flood of people, and out a side gate.

So no worries, Dad!

The President left at the same time we did so all turned out well. We got in Barak's truck and drove with the swarms of people who were following the President's convoy down the block. And I was going crazy with excitement having just "survived" my first "Third World" political rally. 

What a nice photo of the Pres

In the car I'm having a true "OMG" moment, saying over and over to Aileen "THAT WAS CRAZY!"

And she just says, "Eh... I've been in crowds like that at concerts."

But I'm still holding on to the reality that we were almost crushed in a sea of Haitians all trying to get a soccer ball from their President. You just can't have a closer encounter with the politics of the people!

And so I spent all day with local people discussing citizenship and practicing rights, and then being among them with their President. So. Cool.

Okay - enough politics. Here are some things I've been up to:

Aileen and I re-organized the artists' workshop. I'm sorry I didn't take a before picture, but for those of you who have shopped here, I hope you can appreciate our work!
The avocados are as big as my head.
I put my computer in a coma by letting it fall on the concrete floor. Barak helped me try to fix it; We followed a youtube tutorial on how to open the screen. The tutorial recommended a special tiny screwdriver, but all we had was a knife.
We spent a day helping construct a latrine that will be shared by 3 families. That's me sawing metal. Be impressed.
Aileen, Tiden, me, Gardyne, and Barak.

This is the local establishment, "Panic Beach" or more commonly referred to as "Kay Tiden." We were having a drink for Gardyne, who was leaving us the next day to start her senior year of college, studying to become a teacher.

Celebrating birthdays!
Our Creole teacher (there in his Casual Friday attire) took us on a "field trip" around Gros-Morne and unsuccessfully tried to teach Aileen how to eat sugar cane.


  1. Loved the lastest account of your learning the Haitian scene! Kudos to you and Aileen on the art center cleanup! Great photos, too. Have posted the piece on my FB. Think of you both and pray for you daily. Love to Pat. . . Bonsoi!

  2. That shop...brought a tear to my eye. I don't think I could've done a better job myself of organizing, and you KNOW coming from me, that's saying a LOT! :) I am glad to see you guys are continuing to get more and more involved, and more and more at home there. It's directly correlating to my becoming more and more jealous of your experiences! Thanks for the blogging updates so I can continue to live vicariously!