Max in Haiti

You want me to go where?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Taking a dive


Kidnappings on the rise? Check. People putting on coats because the temperature is falling under 70◦ Fahrenheit? Check. Broken animated Santa terrorizing kids at the Caribbean Supermarket? Check. It’s Christmas in Haiti!!!

Yes, the holidays have come to our little slice of paradise. The office PA system is now playing scratchy versions of “Santa Claus is coming to town” in French, English AND Créole. It’s a Christmas miracle! I have to say though, that my favorite Christmas song this season has to be this one.

So what is new? Well, I’ve been getting into diving as of late. For the past three Sundays, I have headed to the beach with a group of friends (two Americans, one Haitian, one Bulgarian and un fada de marseillais) to get our open water diving certificate. In most cases, this would involve a preoccupation with the actual activity of diving. However, due to the makeup of the group and the personalities involved, the weekends have turned into a series of highly competitive cook-offs, with each party responsible for getting the others stuffed and drunk the second we get out of the water.

At this point, I have to hand it to Jean-Jacques Cousteau. This s.c.u.b.a. thing is truly an improvement over drowning, or even snorkeling. I have no basis for comparison, but the reefs here are pretty much untouched and the sea life fairly amazing. It’s also a welcome escape from the traffic and pollution of Port-au-Prince, which gets quite ridiculous at this time of year.

Having said that, it is more than likely that this will be last Christmas in Haiti, and I’m sure that I will miss going to the beach in mid-December. As for the future, I am considering my options for my next move, but hope to have something worked out by the Spring.

So, dear loyal readers, what are you doing for the holidays? I for one will be going home for Christmas Eve then flying off to Bali on the 25th. I will be back in early January and hope to post tons of pics.

Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, November 26, 2007

More dull travels

Salut ya’ll.

Okay, so it’s been a little while since my last update. Well, this entry will make up for the long absence. It has it all. Daredevil adventures. Killer snakes. Roger Federer.

Let’s begin with Haiti. I passed the one year in country mark on October 31. And while the early months passed by at the speed of a lethargic glacier, recent months have flown by like a really, really fast glacier. I keep discovering new things about this place, like the few protected natural areas that show you what Haiti used to be like before all the trees were cut down to make charcoal. These pictures were taken at a biological preserve just 30 minutes from the noise and pollution of Port-au-Prince, an escape I plan on making more and more often in the coming weeks.

Aside from a few new discoveries and a rotating cast of friends (people and go on a very regular basis), things have fallen into a pretty decent routine here. Work, tennis, dinners, gym, pool, concerts, excursions, repeat. Not a bad life by any means, but one that needs to be interrupted by foreign travel from time to time.

Speaking of which, I have just come back from three weeks away. The first of which was spent in Paris and consisted mostly of me recovering from the flu. The jury is still out on whether or not heavy drinking may or may not have contributed to the speed of my progress. I did manage to sneak in a visit to the Bercy Masters tennis tournament. This is where Federer comes in. R-Fed got his ass whooped by Nabaldian. And I was there. I was THERE, man.

Then it was off to South Africa for a two-week long work meeting. For the few faithful readers of the blog, this was the same meeting that took me to Zanzibar last year. This time it was held in the city of Hazyview, just outside of Kruger National Park. But while we had frequent chances to escape the hotel last year, this time, we had few opportunities to venture outside, hence the shocking lack of pretentiously artsy photos.

I had actually been to South Africa and Kruger when I was four years old, but since I have a good bit of trouble remembering what I did on Friday, very few images come to mind. I recall much more reliably Lethal Weapon 2, especially the part where Danny Glover applies for a residency visa and the consular officer looks at him quizzically and says “but…but… but, you’re bleyk”. Also, that actress was hot. Whatever happened to her?

Anyway, we did manage one incursion into Kruger and saw a number of herbivores (that gray blur in the distance is an elephant. Or a large rock.), but sadly no badass predators. But who needs to see leopards when you can follow around a guy intent on personally irritating every poisonous animal in South Africa? This would be my friend and colleague Ed, South Africa’s answer to the question: “do we really need another Steve Irwin?” And yes, that snake he is handling is deadly. He managed to capture after poking it with a stick for a solid hour, hoping to coax him from under its rock. At some point, I started to pull from the snake.

The other truly memorable part of the trip had to be my first flight in a microlight (also known as a ULM). As you can see from the pictures, the device looks like the aftermath of a lawn mower getting it on with a hang-glider. But it’s an incredible way to see the world below, especially when it looks like the area around Kruger. The hell with diving! Obtaining a ULM license is the new endeavor that I’ll be too lazy to pursue.

I think I’ll end on that high note of sorts. I will do my best to update this blog more regularly and try to give you all a taste of the holiday season in Haiti.

Ya’ll come back, ya heah?.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Still kickin'

I have no idea where to begin accounting for the last month or so. Fortunately, many of you had the supreme privilege of seeing me in person in DC and can therefore attest that I am indeed keeping it real and have not let what would normally be considered life-changing experiences in Haiti alter in any way my outlook and behavior. If it ain’t broke…

Speaking of shallowness and immaturity, below is an actual timeline of my thoughts on Friday, September 14:

6:30 am: Huh? Who? Wha?

6:45 am: Okay, I don’t really need to shave today, so I can sleep ‘til 6:55 am

7:17 am: Huh? Who? Wha?

7:32 am: This toothpaste tastes terrible

7:33 am: Wait, that’s not toothpaste…

7:56 am: You are one good looking cat

8:04 am: Please please please don’t let the UN armed personnel carriers block traffic on Delmas

8:15 am: Need. Coffee. Now.

8:25 am: Oooh, I wonder if Goff updated the Soccer Insider overnight

8:57 am: Oh yeah, Blake’s bachelor party is this weekend, huh…

9:02 am: I wonder if anyone from Sewanee is going.

9:16 am: Man, it would be fun to go. But I just came back from a weekend in the States, so I can’t go right back.

9:25 am: Well, there no like, legal reason why I can’t go to New Orleans this weekend.

9:35 am: There’s no way that I have enough American Airlines miles to get a free ride.

9:36 am: Besides, there’s no chance that they can issue a ticket on the same day.

9:47 am: Huh, I stand corrected

9:52 am: Come on, Max, this is ridiculous. You can’t just leave Haiti today to go to a bachelor party in New Orleans. You’re not even sure if anyone else you know is coming. Besides, you should save those miles to get you closer to Bali for New Years Eve

9:57 am: I bet there’ll be some really hot chicks

1:05 am (next day): Hey Blake!

I came back today from this bacchanal. Though most of my internal organs deeply regret my decision, my brain’s reptilian core is giving me a golf clap. No pictures of the party exist, and I really don’t feel like writing a 1,000 words right now, but if you picture what the best party in New Orleans must be like you’re getting close.

So instead I will post pictures of the great times that I had just a bit earlier in DC. Jill put on a house party that rocked Kalorama to the early light and I at last got to wear a sombrero on my birthday. I really didn’t expect to be able to see as many friends as I did, and was very happy to have that chance. I have no idea when I’ll be back in the city, but there is a good chance that I might return for at least an extended period of time in the Spring. Or move to New Orleans.

p.s.: I should be doing a lot of traveling over the next few weeks, so I really hope to return this blog to somewhat of a showcase of Haitian people and culture as opposed to the exercise in narcissism into which it has evolved

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Parties in the PAP


This is going to be more of a pictorial again, as I very little interesting to say. Life goes on in Haiti, despite Jamie's departure for the DRC (she is the girl in whose honor this bash was thrown).

A lot of the locals and expats are on vacation at the moment, so things are fairly quiet here. As a matter of fact, I will be leaving tomorrow to spend the weekend in Miami. The good news for you DC folks is that you will have the pleasure of my company over Labor Day weekend and possibly for a few days afterwards. And I still haven't given up the idea of a big group trip to the DR, and indeed Columbus Day weekend is the new target.

At this point, as you have surely noticed, I am sort of running out of things to share on this blog, so let me know if there are topics you would like me to cover. Local culture? Music? Friends? The UN peacekeeping mission? I'll write about anything.

Vaya con dios, ya'll.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More Jacmel

No guilt trip this time. Just more pics of Jacmel taken my much better photographers.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

RAM, Jacmel and Bastille

Hello faithful readers,

Who am I kidding? No one has been reading this for weeks and this blog is quickly turning into a secret diary. On the plus side, I feel that I can now express myself freely. For example, I’ve always wanted to tell someone that I’ve always wondered what Pandas taste like. Is it gamey like bear or is meat marbled like that of ruminants? Have Chinese people eaten Panda? Is that why they’re endangered?

I guess that a few fun events have taken place since my last entry. I finally went to two of the must-see destinations in Haiti: the RAM concert at the Oloffson hotel and the city of Jacmel.

RAM is Richard Auguste Morse’s band. You can read all about him and the music here. The cliffnotes version is that he leads a sort of roots-rock band that puts on pretty damn amazing shows. It doesn’t hurt that most of them take place in the incredible Oloffson Hotel, a gingerbread-style mansion that was the setting of Graham Greene’s “The Comedians”. Also adding to the ambiance is that the band doesn’t begin playing until well past midnight and that the audience is already good and happy on rum punches. The band plays until well past three so the Friday after RAM is notorious amongst expats as very unproductive. I’m hoping to get pictures from my friends and will post them if and when I do.

Ever since I stepped foot here people have been asking me if I had been to Jacmel and quietly tsk-tsking me when I told them that I hadn’t. During the course of various conversations the image of the town shifted from a funky artist colony to a glam beach community to a debauched party town. So when a group of friends from all over invited me to join their weekend getaway, I jumped in the Toyota ambulance and headed for the South Coast.

Four hours later, we had covered the fifty miles that separate Port-au-Prince from Jacmel and I was able to discover the town you see in these few pictures. Whatever grandeur was there has long faded, but in a dignified tropical way. And while we did see many artists at work, and a few loud bars and some half-hidden signs of wealth, Jacmel was mostly distinguished by its safety. This was the first time in nine months when I felt comfortable walking the streets, even at night. The freedom to ambulate is one of the most underrated pleasures around and Jacmel made me realize how much I miss it in Port-au-Prince. Aside from the joys of strolling, we also got to spend an afternoon at a public beach alongside ordinary Haitian families. Well, there were some extraordinary things, like the MINUSTAH troops in battle gear patrolling the sand and the sight of our Italian friend Davide trying way too hard to organize his beach soccer team. You can expect to see more pictures of Jacmel before I leave this country, as I plan to return at least once.

Back in Port-au-Prince, I had to scramble to get registered at the French embassy so as to get the consular card that would get me in to the Bastille Day soirée at the Ambassador’s residence. That mission accomplished, I was free to celebrate le 14 juillet with my countrymen. With continued apologies for the lack of pictures, I can report that the day was properly honored and that I scored a dinner with the French Ambassador (who is a friend of my godfather’s) when he comes back from his vacation in September.

Well that about wraps it up. I will catch you all later.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It’s America’s Birthday! (And I’m not invited)

Happy 4th of July everybody. I hope that all of you (at least those living in or working for the USA) are enjoying our national holiday. Because I am not. As a matter of fact, I am currently at my desk sweating away another torrid PAP morning (our air conditioning is on the fritz). So in order to retaliate against this terrible injustice (I mean, shouldn’t everyone get off work on the Independence Day of the world’s only remaining superpower?), I will spend a good part of said non-holiday writing about pointless and trivial happenings (and abusing parentheses).
Speaking of the Fourth, the American Embassy, in an effort to better embody the policies of Washington, is not inviting the public to its celebration. Even resident US citizens are not welcome unless they are on some secret list. That said, there will be barbecues and parties all around the city tonight for those not invited by Uncle Sam.

Anyway, since coming back from Bonnaroo, I have been busy traveling to the North of the country where absolutely nothing remarkable happened, save for being fleeced by a priest and being forced to eat quite possibly the foulest dish in the Western Hemisphere, parts of which are known to enjoy Ambrosia fruit salad. That would be bouillie, a glooppy mix of flour sugar and water which tastes much, much worse than the sum of its ingredients.

Fun with other expats continues to be had, though parts of social life here resembles a very bad (or very good, is there a difference?) soap opera. It’s only a matter of time until a man with an eyepatch and a long-lost twin start showing up.

In blog-related news, I am happy to announce that I have successfully mated my new cell phone to my computer, which will allow me to post more pics on this space. For example, here are a couple of shots of PAP traffic, which is very similar to that of most dense urban areas, save for the presence of UN armored personnel carriers (though the folks behind the Hummer might have other plans). There’s also a shot of my friends Brian and Anne from the Netherlands, as well as a couple of leftover ‘roo pics (last two shots). I tried to send some of you the one of the burned out weirdo by text message as my “Greetings from Bonnaroo” gesture, but I don’t think that anyone actually received it.

Well, since I’m sure that unfocused, half-assed posts such as this one are bound to further deplete my shallow pool of readers, I will wrap up and wish you all a great time tonight.

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