Friday, September 9, 2011

Political bashfulness, the intuitive struggle

The more I was being questioned, the more I began to ponder and reflect on the subject.  However, I looked at myself as politically introvert and started on to become conscious as far as why.

My political experience as a distant observer was more terror than restraint.  Growing up under the Duvalier’s regime as an onlooker and not as a participant was fearful enough to know that politic was reserved to a special breed and I at any time of my life would think of joining such club.  Of course, lack of pure knowledge, interest or perhaps knowledge of victimized parents, friends or families will certainly keep anyone away.    Like many Haitians I had, and I say it very loud, the opportunity to leave Haiti, seeking a better life and opportunities.  I left and had no plans to ever come back and the reason was more political than it was economical, it was in 1975 I recalled.  My understanding of Haitian politics was overshadowed by my own experience which I know was far less fearful and cruel than many other Haitians living abroad.  I knew subsequently and even now that politic was not for me and it meant something totally different than what it really is.  I did not want to think about it and often refuted these subliminal reminiscent recalls.  

I evoked during a recess in a Florida Teachers Conference in 1987, a “white” young female teacher who was outrageous to find out that I was Haitian, Chairman of a Foreign Language Department in a Southern school district, teaching “white” students instead of teaching in Haiti, helping my own compatriots.  She had such a compelling argument that I could not justify to her and those present my true motives to be in the US rather than in Haiti.  She sent me home to Georgia where I lived then, thinking and wondering about my own country to which I turned my back to.  I tried very hard to keep her out of my mind for many years and for that same many years I was not successful until that day in 1994, the year I finally saw Haiti as truly my home almost two decades later. 

I came back and now engaged in a totally different mission but politic.  I noticed however that I was running away from it while I was facing and skirmishing the reasons why I should be involved with it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Marie Carmelle’s near death accident

After the roguish actions of the Mayor and his staff fraudulently causing us the loss of our Head Quarter in Morne a Bateau, we temporarily settled in Leogane where we continued to establish ourselves as advocates for the needy.  It was indeed a demanding time for us especially after we suffered this great financial undeserved defeat.  This was also a time to realize that we were surrounded by loyal volunteers whom stood fast despite the calamity we endured.

On a search for a larger property one evening, accompanied by four of our staff members, we were driving eastward on the National Route # 2.  Our Tap tap hired driver apparently did not estimate the speed of the vehicle that was behind us when he made that heartrending left turn that could have caused us our lives.  Like all experienced driver, I immediately looked at the upcoming traffic for clearance and I saw that car coming straight at us like a bullet and had time to only scream “hold on” as I quickly grabbed with both hands the ceiling hand rails of the tap tap.  It was unfortunately too late for the other volunteers as they had no ideas what was about to happen.  Within seconds we were violently side strike with a big “bang, skidding tires and screams”.  Luckily the taxi did not overturn but severely bounced from both sides and was literally shoved into the opposite side of the road.  I was dazed and confused while I was trying to assess everybody’s condition.  Marie Carmelle was missing and some twenty feet away, a crowd was forming around an inert body in the street.  That was her, our Welcome Committee Director who was propelled out onto the street and whose body was   miraculously landed in a not so forgiven dirt road.

She was not responding, not breathing and apparently lifeless.  Something had to be done quickly.  In the mean time the crowd was getting larger and larger and nothing was making sense.  I called for help in an inaudible voice and began to hear the muffled mixed sounds of a non sense horde of curious people.     I began mouth to mouth resuscitation with the assistance of someone whom I do have a very hazy memento.  It was a man, someone from the neighborhood who thereafter helped us transport her in a pickup truck to the nearest hospital.  “Nearest hospital”, I said.  I was, facing with my own tragic case on a pickup truck, looking for a non existing “Nearest Hospital”, here I was experiencing what every single Haitian faces every day; the need for a near urgent care that we will never reached.

The driver of the pickup stopped at the Commissariat of Gressier and sadly announced that’s as far he will go, the police should take it from there...  In the mean time, I was watching this lady’s life fading away, caught in Haiti’s struggle for development and a better life for all.  Lucky should I say we were when couple policemen suggested taking us to Port-au-Prince conditionally.  By now, I understood all innuendos and was not about to discuss ethics.  Once again we moved her still body into the police pickup and began the emergency trip that apparently would have saved her life.  At mid way, with the siren blasted, going through in and out traffic in pot holes, on sidewalks and back onto the streets, her lips budged and few seconds later her eye lids began to release.  I looked at the sky, grateful and beseeching.

We arrived in Martissant where I noticed a hospital “Doctors without borders”.  She was quickly admitted and stabilized. I was thankful to these police officers, despite the unethical condition under which I had to accept their assistance.
Pledge not to dither

For some unexplained reasons, I became closer and closer to the Haitian people as I worked alone without the international or the Haitian Government support with those different communities throughout the country.  I travelled extensively in the different Departments and dispatched Mobile Clinic teams everywhere there was a need or a request.  I was focused in one or two target areas, mainly in the West.  However the more I travelled the mountainous tropical land from far North East to the South, the more I realized that the country was plagued with a striking poverty, killing slowly these resigned natives.

I began to see the country somewhat differently than I did before and the people began to see me to some extent differently as well and the questions began.  Are you some kind of a candidate?  Only a candidate will go to the extent of doing what I was doing, I was often told.  Politic, I often replied, was not my strong suit, nor my interest, but social was.   

My social life as I see it was a calling, not a choice.  I could not possibly deviate from it unless it was a continuum of the wishes of the great divine.
My daughter’s first visit to Haiti and the indescribable fright she never knew

Like many immigrant Haitian parents, my wife can be best described as an eye witness of atrocities as she was growing up that will keep her of Haiti for the rest of her life unless major changes would happen in development, concept an attitude that would convince her otherwise.  Notwithstanding from this fact, I had a tough time convincing her of Joanne’s travel approval to Haiti and Joanne in her own way had to win the rite of passage.
It was during the summer 2005, my daughter landed in my country and what a thrill it was for me to have her as my special guest.  The Welcome Committee at Operation Hope modest Head Quarter gave her a princess welcome.  She was having the time of her life unaware of the ghastly and potent news surrounding Haiti at that time.   I was certainly confident but yet over protective as I will not let her of my site and kept her tranquil so she would have Haiti as the best and unforgettable travel experience while she played a small role in Dad’s life struggle to help the deprived.   I must admit that I could hear mammy’s voice at all times and never ceased to feel that I took an engagement that I could not fail.  So, in essence I had the fifth sense to take time off my daily trips to risky areas and never actually introduced her to anyone as my daughter except to a few closed loyal volunteers I could trust.  That was bloodcurdling; I was becoming my wife in thought and spirit. 
I took Joanne south of the country where we enjoyed walking in a river bank, wandering through banana fields, breathing pure country fresh air and talking and playing with the natives, cows and goats.  We drove up the mountains, a site we will treasure for ever as I wanted to soar with her to enjoy from above the beauty   
of this endearing land.  We ended up in Jacmel, a city full of history that reminded her of a cinematographic set in which I am sure she was probably actively playing a role only her could describe.  We left Jacmel at twilight as we were both fascinated in the picturesque views the mountainous outlines offered us at the horizon and at every turn.  By the time we reached Leogane, it was murky with only the stars in the sky and a few traffic lights with the estrange awareness that there was no night life in the country.  A few distances from us, there were a MINUSTAH check point and of course she wandered why.  As we passed, I identified myself and we were waved through as we did to maybe to three more check points before we reached our Head Quarter.  We were hungry but not too tired and decided to have late dinner in Pétion-Ville where I invited a Journalist friend to join us.
Night life in Port-au-Prince especially during these political crises and uncertainties is feared by all but could be safer than actual day time due to the heavy presence of the MINUSTAH forces and a few police officers.   The lack of or the absence of electricity, can have a terrifying effect on the not so familiar visitors.   The advised and the over protective guide I was, made me always ready to explain and pacify any possible stupor that could possibly ruin the moment.  Pétion-Ville offered her a totally different site she expected.  She felt in her mantle enjoying a beautiful night life under the dark skies of Haiti.
During dinner, my journalist friend confined in me and quietly of dangerous and kidnapping activities being brought about me by close acquaintances and even had evidence that she restrained to present.  However she was convincing enough that I had to make an onsite lonely and irrevocable decision.  Unaware of the dialogue that took place, Joanne undeniably enjoyed a perfect night out, a good meal, couple punches, dialect blunders and laughter.  The trip back to the Head Quarter was as normal as it could be to her as she understood and had hands on experience on the security the MINUSTAH’s and the police officers’ presence offered to these communities.  Mammy’s voice was getting louder and louder in my subconscious non fearful mind and I was getting silently frenzied as we travelled through the night.  My imagination was playing the better part of me.  It was a relief when we finally arrived.  Joanne went to bed comfortably and peacefully while I ordered my security team to double on its alertness for the rest of the evening. 
At dawn, I had it all worked out, I would have to literally extradite my daughter out of this country without trepidation or inconvenience.   The airline company was already advised of the change and a sit was confirmed.  Due to an unforeseen and urgent situation beyond my control, we had to cut short your vacation I explained.  She was disappointed but very understanding and compliant.  The staff was saddened to see her leave so unexpectedly.  She became in a short period of time a mentor and a friend to all of them.  Swimming in the ocean will never be the same and those “UNO “card games will never be as fun as when she was playing.
That morning, my phone uncontrollably kept ringing and for the first time, I had no intention to answer any of those phone calls.  The trip to the airport was unusually long despite the expected rush hour traffic.  My anxiety was at its pick when most of these phone calls were coming from people not too common to call me so repeatedly.  I was reading through the waves and was getting ready to face whoever it may have been, but first and foremost, my daughter would have to leave this land.  Finally at the airport, I checked her in and had time to have breakfast with her.  There was a sense of serenity as I know the chances for anything to happen there, was far more less than anywhere else.  I sought special authorization from the airlines to accompany her to the airplane and with great delight and contentment I watched the door close as I said goodbye to my sweet and charming daughter.
As painful it was to see her leave so early, as delightful it was to watch the plane slowly turning on the tarmac and positioned for a great take off to civilization and tamed free will.