UN bureaucracy, solar ovens and lynchings

An entertaining piece of bureaucratic lunacy this weekend: Anna has a giant UN Nissan patrol car for the weekend, but we are not allowed to travel in it, so we drive around Port au Prince in two vehicles: myself, Benson the driver, and the two kids crammed into a taxi, Anna following behind regally in the monster truck.

Roadside relaxation

“Why am I not allowed in the UN car?” asks Dorian. “Mummy needs a piece of paper.” “When is Mummy going to get the piece of paper?” “I don’t know, we are trying to find out.” “But she can go in the car; why can’t I?” etc.

Hey there stranger

Saturday morning in the Karibe Hotel complex. Dorian meets a large red Digicel ball. Images of Digicel, the mobile phone company, are everywhere. Half of the roadside vendors are selling Digicel cards; clearly one of the major sources of casual employment here.

Dorian meets the Digicel ball

There is a Haiti energy conference going on at the Hotel. Someone is demonstrating solar ovens. They reminds me of one of those collars to stop dogs biting themselves when they have fleas.

Solar cooking

We shop in the ‘Caribbean supermarket’ – PaP’s mecca of tasty foreign tidbits. Half the UN is there. I snap a photo of a pickup truck full of young white nuns in a cage, who smile obligingly.

A pick-up truck of caged nuns outside the Caribbean supermarket

In the evening I am struck by the Caribbean’s clouds. Beautiful twirling shapes; they look like a cartoon. (I confess I am reminded of one of the great video games of all time – Monkey Island, which is set in the Caribbean.)

Sunday we head to a small expat birthday party. I meet some of the international fauna. World Bank, UN, etc.

Haitian gladiator

On the way we witness an unsettling scene of violence. I see a kicking pair of legs and a kid being dragged off the road. He escapes, and starts running for his life. We are driving alongside. A pursuer picks up a savage looking rock, and gives chase with a gang in tow. I watch the terrified kid’s face as he looks back, and runs harder – he misses the brute in front of him, who body checks him and sends the kid tumbling.

The kid falls, regains his footing and is almost surrounded. He limps into a side street. The last I see is an image of the rock wielding attacker gaining ground, darting after him.

Lynchings are common here. There is some debate about what to do if you have a car accident and knock someone over. Anna tells me the Haitian security personnel are adamant we should stop for nothing; and drive hell for leather. That said, in the UK the news over the past couple of weeks has been dominated by rampaging thugs. Violence is everywhere.

At the party the son of a Haitian gallery owner, with a dressed up Dominican girlfriend, hears word that Preval is dead. Some debate about this. Rumours are common here, here, but still… could Haiti’s recent stability be headed for rockier times?

Preval dead? Maybe, but we have faces to paint.

Pleasant party; delicious cakes from Haiti’s best bakery. We head home at 6pm – the streets are pitch black, but filled with people walking along the side. “Why is it spooky here?” asks Dorian. “It’s not spooky,” I answer. “But they have no electricity.” “Why do they have no electricity?” It’s a fair question.

Excellent music on the radio. Haiti definitely has groovy sounds in its favor.

That night Anna informs me that the kid’s bathwater has little wriggly red worms in it.

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5 responses to “UN bureaucracy, solar ovens and lynchings

  1. Great tales, Mark, and I am enjoying the pix as well. I hope you figure out soon what to do about the little red worms …

  2. Mark,

    I love your daily dispatches. I feel like part of your stories when reading them…Fingers crossed with everything.

  3. Probably Midge Larvae, not dangerous. If you have a Goldfish they will make him very happy.

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