|Day six, Leogane, Haiti
||[Mar. 22nd, 2010|07:16 pm]
Hello again all. This will be a tired update after a hot day demolishing a concrete house, but several people have asked about our living accommodations, so here you go. |
Hands On Disaster Response treats us, their volunteers, pretty well. We're housed in a building that was an under-construction nightclub before the earthquake. There's a basketball court-sized, open central area, with covered wings, some side rooms for an office and kitchen, and a roof. As of today, we have about seventy volunteers, sleeping on bunks under one wing, or in tents that are a bit scattered all over. In our orientation, we were told to pitch our tents in such a way that we wouldn't obstruct anyone's escape path if there were another tremor. There hasn't been one here in a couple of weeks, but it's always a possibility.
We have lots of things that most Haitians don't, especially those living in tents or crude shelters in IDP camps, don't. We have a roof, clean drinking water, running water from a well, toilets that flush (well, by pouring a bucket of water down them), bucket showers, a safe building, electricity from six to ten pm, satellite internet, a good first aid station and a hospital next door, a steady supply of propane for the kitchen, a steady supply of food. We know how good we have it. Our base is so good that people from several other NGOs or professional organizations have stayed with us in the six days I've been here.
The man who owns the property, Joe, is a Haitian who has lived in New York for many years. He came back here after the quake to see to his property, and see what he could do. Enterprisingly, he's opened an internet cafe in one part of the building we're in, and a bar in another. He's also let several hundred people stay on his property. Those are the people who's homes we're trying to clear first, and they're going to be some of the first to receive the transitional housing that CHF International, another NGO, is storing and assembling in our back yard.
The bar next door, and our electricity, shut down at ten pm, sharp. That's our curfew, violation of which is grounds to be kicked out of the program. This is for a few reasons. One, although we are building a very good relationship with the community here, personally and professionally, Haiti isn't safe. Street crime is present as assaults, robberies, and kidnappings. We don't walk through town after dark either. The second reason is that we get up really early—breakfast is at 6:30 am—and the last thing anyone wants is people stumbling in at midnight.
The other offense that could get a volunteer fired is drinking on the base. This wasn't always HODR's policy, but, according to the executive director, drinking caused nearly all of the serious interpersonal conflicts in their history, so no drinking. It's hardly an inconvenience with a bar so close by. Of course beers are half the price a fifteen minute walk away.
Our food is fine. It's pretty monotonous, but I'm not complaining. It's mostly beans and rice, occasionally spaghetti, with some kind of meat and salad. There's not much in the way of condiments, like spaghetti sauce, but ketchup and hot sauce go a long way. Today we had spiced hot chocolate, which was just about the best thing I've had in days. Breakfast is cornflakes, oatmeal, coffee, tea, and powdered milk.
We occupy ourselves with lots of small things that take a surprisingly long time, like doing laundry by hand, applying sunscreen or bug spray, or taking bucket showers. There are passtimes though. On a given night a few of us are going to the two or three bars that are open and within a few minutes by motorcycle taxi (a very exciting experience), one of which sells burgers, fries, and ice cream, so it's pretty popular. Last Sunday, our one day off a week, we made up a game, “HODR Ball,” when a soccer ball fell onto the camo net that's strung across the basketball court for shade. We knocked it off with long cardboard tubes that were lying around, and decided it was so fun we'd make up some rules, and a sport was born. The tournament's this weekend. I've been doing all of these, and reading, writing in my journal, trying to learn creole, and going to bed early.