Max in Haiti

You want me to go where?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

On the road again

You guys remember when every rock band worth its salt, after a few hit records, would do a “tour lament” song. This usually involved lyrics about how hard it is to be constantly on the road, sleeping in hotels, dealing with groupies. Well, this entry is my “Man in a Suitcase”. Minus the groupies.

I am on the last night of my three-night tour of the Artibonite during which I helped local hospitals prep for their upcoming quarterly report. For the record, I have not spent more than three nights in the same bed in now more than a month. Anyway, if you are at all curious, here is how these site visits work.

We usually leave early in the morning from Port-au-Prince in one or more of our white Toyotas loaded with medical supplies and other things to transport to the field. Timing is important because the gangs of kidnappers have the run of the roads between nightfall and daybreak. Sometimes, though, some rudely break this custom and do something like abduct a BUSFULL of people in broad daylight (this after the nabbing of a senator and a van of schoolchildren). The bus incident actually happened two days ago on the road I will be taking back to the capital tomorrow (don’t worry Maman, I plan on sending this from the office, so if you can read this, I am home safe. Well, kinda.).

As I mentioned before the roads are pretty rough, especially when you leave the major thoroughfares and head to small rural communities like Gros Morne, where dirt tracks are the only connections to the outside world. The constant jostle makes digesting the copious breakfast (we usually won’t eat again until nightfall) a rather tricky affair. Speaking of breakfasts, I am quickly getting used to the local tradition of eating spaghetti in the morning (isn’t there a children’s song about eating pasta for breakfast? Jude? Jill?). For one, it tastes better than greasy eggs of questionable provenance, and it does fill you up nicely for a long day of work, though I am leaving the addition of the customary ketchup to the mound of noodles for my final initiation into Haitian House.

Once at a site, I usually sit down with the DRO (Disease Reporting Officer), do an inventory of the site IT equipment and personnel, perform data quality checks on medical forms and reports and then update the staff on new guidelines. I then meet back with the rest of my team and do a little motivation speech for the whole hospital staff (they’re totally not getting the “van by the river” reference). At that point our team will leave the site and go eat an early dinner at a local restaurant. Actually, not quite. First, we have to call the restaurant and figure what dish they are serving. I find this step quite unnecessary, since the menu will invariably consist of two of three things: chicken parts in sauce, red meat parts in sauce, fish in sauce. This will be served with rice (with or without beans) exactly two slices of tomato and a few leaves of lettuce. Sometimes fried plantains will be thrown in for good measure. Anyway, we have to call ahead with our order, because Haitian service is rather slow, kind of like the Sahara is a little sandy. I once waited forty minutes for a bowl of soup. (At the expense of breaking the spirit of insufferable petulance I have spent the last three paragraphs developing, I will say that the meals are usually quite good and more varied than I make them out to be thanks to variations in the sauces.)

After dinner, it’s off to the hotel, the very best in town. Of course that doesn't mean all that much in Haiti. As you can see from the pictures, the locals seem to favor the Malevich school of aesthetics. The plumbing, on the other hand, seems to be inspired more by the Homer Simpson school of home improvement. The rooms are clean, though, and have a/c. A good thing, too, since I end up spending more than twelve hours a day in them, as there is simply no place else to go after dark. Let me spell it out for the DC and Paris folks: THERE ARE NO BARS in the Haitian provinces. I know, I’m surprised to still be here too. One adapts, I guess.

And now some good news. I appear close to signing a lease on an apartment. I saw the place last weekend and liked it a lot. It is high in the hills above the cosmopolitan enclave of Petionville, far up enough that the nights are cool and air conditioning is unnecessary. I will be negotiating the deal on Friday. This being Haiti, issues to be ironed out include the use of the generator and the salary of the armed guard. I will update this blog with pics as soon as something is signed.

‘til next time,



Blogger lesvieux said...

je rentre en Virginie et decouvre ta vie on ne peut plus agitee. Mais vive la perspective d'un home sweet home et vite des photos pour qu'on imagine le nid de l'oiseau tropical.
Vivement les bons petits plats de Mom is not it ?
Skype nous voici

9:17 AM  

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