A mild sensation of house arrest (I know, I know… hear me out before ye judge). The transport issue remains unresolved, so I have been getting two brief trips a day beyond these four walls – to deposit and collect Dorian from school. Tomorrow that will be reduced to one. I feel a little trapped.
There is a common emotional cycle amongst expats in challenging poor countries: elation (all those new sights and sounds!), slump (what am I doing here when I could be there?), then equilibrium. This cycle can play out repeatedly over multiple timeframes, and rarely fully disappears.
This is not entirely helped by finding oneself reading gossip on gawker.com about the latest celebrity bar in New York, and how fabulous it all is; although one finds comfort in snarky reader comments decrying said celebs as worthless.
In these moments of reflection, a nasty and dangerous parasite called regret can sometimes rear its ugly head. Regret is an insidious worm. It writhes in the creases of the mind, and casts pernicious shadows over past decisions. One’s better nature counters with rationality, with practicality and perspective (this too shall pass), but the worm slithers deftly past these defenses and burrows ever deeper.
Yet help arrives from an unlikely quarter. The traffic jam on Port-au-Prince’s Route de Freres is a permanent fixture, and as one settles into its unhurried rhythm one cannot help but contemplate – as an expat – how carefree one’s life remains.
Market stall women crouch all day on dirty patches of crumbling concrete, beside stinking mounds of vegetable refuse. Sweating porters struggle past with overloaded wheelbarrows, finding scant purchase with collapsing tennis shoes, most likely cast offs from the US. The radio blasts a steady stream of uplifting Caribbean tunes; Benson tells me how, since the day he was born, he never knew a president who did not eventually run away from Haiti carrying with him all his ill-gotten gains.
Benson is a trained network engineer; he has found no proper work since 2004 and is now driving expats kids to school. His wife, a university trained manager, has found no work either. It is an exercise in humility for intelligent people. Yet Benson finds genuine pleasure in playing the “sticky!” game with my three year old, and tells me of his struggles without any apparent resentment of the fact that mine are so minor in comparison.
At the school kids crowd round me while I cuddle Dorian goodbye, and I snap a shot of their fun-filed faces. I am looking forward to telling stories from this place, if only I can find an audience.