Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Haiti Report I: Nayson Zanj yo. Demons yo ak Mirak yo.

*Note from the Author:  My originally planned 8.7 day travel to Haiti was turned into a 6.3 day trip when Cholera arrived in the country four days after I did.  It was not the threat of disease contamination that had me changing my return flight plans, it was the fact that the international medical response left me with no 'safe' lodging after Thursday.  More on those details later.  In the meantime know that I feel more alive than when I left, more alive actually than I have felt in years.  Haitians are truly living in a pure conscious state which was completely obvious when I stepped out into it.  The following report will be the first(a day early) of many supported by pictures and my pages of notes.  These thoughts are mine and have been influenced by what I saw, and just as important what I felt while experiencing the conditions in the poorest country in the west. 
Nayson Zanj yo. Demons yo ak Mirak yo.  Is the Creole translation(made by my new friend Guerisma Holgen) of my one sentence impression of the country of Haiti.  Remember your French nasal sounds and say it out loud, the phrase sounds real. My notes came together by the end of the week concluding that what I was seeing, feeling, hearing and experiencing was that  Haiti is the nation of angles, demons and miracles.  As the world goes on towards tomorrow I realize that in other nations, poor or rich with different customs, language and culture that there are people who are actually alive and living in complete reality which creates the magical essence of beauty no matter the standards that have become my daily existence.  I had a thought, better yet a true realization a long time ago that even though I am human and can make choices, I never chose to be born in to this great life in America.  Just as an Iraqi never chose to be born in Iraq or a Haitian in Haiti.  It is by grace and chance that each of us come to the world where we do, by no fault or decision that is ours to make or claim to own.  For 250 years the beautiful Haitian people have been dealing with multitudinous problems on a scale that is as unimaginable as the size of the Himalayan landscape.  Until you actually see it.  Tragedy struck tragedy on January 12, 2010 when a 7.0 earthquake shook the entire Capital region.  Everyone who I talked to that was on the ground there that Tuesday afternoon described different perceptions of what it felt like.  However, there was one common denominator.  Thirty to forty seconds before the ground trembled and rolled violently there was a sound that came from nowhere and filled the air all around.  Basically I interpret what people heard as a sonic loud plucking of an earth sized guitar string.  The vibration from heaven came from all directions causing people to silently stop what they were doing, and look around in an effort to locate the source of such an energetic invisible explosion of noise.  A sound warning of notice that the landscape and everything attached to it was about to shift.  Then, in about half of one minute of time slowed down to each individual's own awareness, it did. 

In PAP I stepped off the airplane early in the morning on to the actual tarmac which was connected to the single runway my plane had just landed on.  The humid heat and a solid airborne layer of diesel smoke hugging the ground stacked a few hundred feet above my head hit me in the face like a frontal punch.  There were less than 50 people on the MD80 Series plane and as we disembarked we were instructed to get on one of the two waiting short buses for transport to Haitian Immigrations and Customs, only 50 meters, or half of a football field distance to drive.  Useless and completely unnatural adding to the release of carbon, rather than not.  We passed along side a row of clear plastic shrink wrapped pallets that contained several dozen large white boxes each marked USAID.  The humanitarian supplies looked like they had been out in the elements for weeks, some boxes were torn into and falling over out off the wrap dangling above the asphalt.  I wondered why this aid was just sitting there in the sun, pretty soon I would find out. 

At the end of the row of pallets was the entrance for the immigrations into Haiti. There was plenty of confusion happening inside the warehouse looking building.  Other flights had apparently just landed as well, coming from far and near.  Creole and French language filled the air echoing in little pockets from around the metal walled room.  I looked for a declaration form and when the wide eyed woman handed one to me from behind a dark wood counter I mustered an honest, "Merci."  There was a shelf along one of the walls that I gravitated towards to fill out my entry/exit form.  Thankfully the instructions were in Creole and French which reminded me of how much I actually learned in Madame Stuart's French class that I took for a few years in High School.  Even before that in the 6th grade I remember Mr. Berthiaume playing a French lesson vinyl record that instructed us to, écouter et Répétez phrases in both English and French.  Memories flooded back to my mind as I filled out the paperwork only leaving one box blank at the bottom thinking that whatever was supposed to go in that space surely was not important enough to keep me from entering Haiti.  The immigration official behind the half glass and wood that I stepped in front of did not seem amused when he saw my empty line.  He blurted out something in Creole, then French.  My eyes were locked with his and I calmly said, "I do not understand."  At this point he rolled his eyes and demanded in perfect English, "Where are you staying in Haiti?"  I couldn't tell him that I wasn't sure and did not have a plan at that point, that I was looking for an adventure without being confined to standard parameters for international travel so I smiled, took my form and said, "Merci" for the second time since arriving.  In my bag were various printed emails from a benefactor back in Charlotte with multiple contacts in PAP and the surrounding area that I was to try to coordinate with while in country.  I picked out one that seemed apropos and wrote the name and location of the school in the box.  Back at the counter, the same man grabbed my passport and declaration document and without further scrutiny stamped my arrival in the form of an entry visa.  Then he welcomed me to Haiti with a wide grin showing off his large ultra-white teeth.  I was in and completely clueless as well as a bit scared, but I knew that I was supposed to be there at that moment and that something amazing was about to happen.


Doug said...

Welcome back Billy! By the sounds of it, you'll be writting quite a bit over the next few days!

Billy Fehr said...

Bonsoir Doug, merci.

Jeff Botz said...

What a shot- insightful!

Billy Fehr said...

Thank you.

Pamela Murray said...

Glad to see you're back. I was worried when I saw the article about cholera in the paper. Looking forward to reading more about Haiti.

Heather said...

I can not wait to hear more! I got goosebumps reading about the sound before the quake.