Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Being True to Yourself is Not Always Honest

One Day, two Tent Camps.  Here is the story of my visit to the first one.
Holgen drove up in his little white soft topped Geo track her two minutes early.  We did not really chat, it was more like we got straight to the point and skipped the pleasantries that we knew would follow later in the day.  An agreement was accepted with a handshake, it was on.  When I sat in the royal blue felt covered passenger seat I looked up and saw an even lighter, like just darker than Carolina Blue bound Bible in the center of the dash.  Holgen pulled us away up and over, across the urban hill dotted with everything from colonial era Ginger Bread Mansions to slums left in rubble from the earthquake nine months prior with tents lined up in front of the destroyed property.  Leaning forward I picked up the small, thick pocket sized Good Book and simultaneously asked out loud, "May I?"  Holgen smiled, and shot back a quick non-rehearsed, "Of course Bill, it is The Bible.  The Bible is for everyone."  It was heavy for being so small, less size than a pack of smokes.  I opened the little Good Book randomly and was surprised to immediately notice that it had been printed in small, but completely legible French.  Somewhere in the middle of The Book According to John the first word of one of the verses was clear, Comment.  How?  I started reading desperately aware of the French nasal sounds that Madame Stuart stressed during AP required French lessons.  Holgen laughed at the sound of my French voice and commented that I read French a lot better than I spoke it.  "But Bill, do you comprehend what you just read", Holgen asked truly not sure of the answer.  "Not as well as I should", I spoke out loud over the sounds of the car's motor and the traffic jam around us coming in through the open windows and soft top roof.  We then had a discussion about French, Creole, English and other languages that each of us had heard in our lifetimes.  He and I determined that humans have the capacity to learn all of the languages of the world which are basically connected to the region that each of us, without choice or ownership as individuals were born to.  That means we are all connected and maybe, just maybe dropping barriers means leaving hate and baggage at the door and opening up.  At that moment I realized that if I read more French with a translation dictionary close by, I would learn and my education would be closer to being paid off.  That understanding would be hard to unlearn if practiced.

We parked in Petion Ville in front of a public School.  Then on foot Holgen and I turned the corner around the bend and saw a Platoon sized element of the Indian Sikhs representing the United Nations.  This was theoretically a UN run tent camp that contained several thousand humans left homeless from the earthquake.  Prior to the ground shaking, this small green space was a public park.
After walking the entire perimeter Holgen and I entered the inside of the camp. What do you think of this fellow's shirt?
The conditions were tight, the tents and flimsy worn tarps were anchored on top of each other in all of the open space lack the little foot paths created by the tents coming together at the front. 
Heat.  Scorching heat blasted the plastic and gave a molecular airborne transfer. 
There is the sound of small children playing with the American approved throw away option toner cartridge pieces and a squished plastic anti-freeze bottle attached to twine directly behind me in a tent alley.  They should be in school. When I asked why they were not, the translation came down to their mom not being able to afford a school uniform.  So much for anything about the public school system in Haiti being public. 
To my left there is a pot on top of a charcoal fire in the blazing sun.  Two pots on the coal smolder actually.  One is filled with water boiling yellow brown and rice visible under the surface.  The other is a brine of sorts with meat, apparently chicken carcass and all brewing hot in the middle of day. 
A monument at some point in history backwards when life was really good and milling about in the open air. Now, the magical instant before us transformed to necessity. 
Right after I made this image Holgen spoke up noticing the comparison and contrast of the tent roofs down low v. the Bujahideen in their pastel colored walls and running water up on the hill. 
Upon his recommendation I took another closely cropped shot.  I should have given him the camera at that point.  Later in the day I did and he took my picture being flanked by two Sikhs, one armed with a Kalashnikov and the other with a huge mustache. 
The boy with the dark pack in the white T-Shirt is working for The International Red Cross. Of course I made this image on the day that cholera took its first victim north of PAP some 48 hours before the story broke back here in the Toon. 
Charcoal. This is the image that got me in trouble.  As soon as I stood up a tiny little gangsta entered my visual cortex.  He was dark and angry and did not weigh very much at all.  His eyes bulged as he started his rap, his anger and his hate attached to his ego, the same as the rest.  He went on as if he were from Compton.  I thought to myself two things.  One, thanks to all of you hard core rappers getting out the message and two, I could see right through this little man's head.  What he was saying, I mean rapping about made no sense.  Hoglen spoke Creole asking what did he want from me.   The petite garcon exclaimed, "I can speak English", then went on with his almost Robonarc psycho babble.  Just then as it went on I noticed a semi circle of this anger ridden fool's piers form behind him, facing me.  There were 8 of them total, my heart rate went up for the first time since arriving in country.  His anger persisted and he started to point at my face, real close like with each voice inflection meaning nothing.  Then he did it.  He poked at me as if he were trying to get the gunk out of the corner of my eye, doing me a favor.  I turned my head and smelled something bad under his fingernails as they crossed under my eyes and nose.   Into the black pools of his irises I stared from inches away.  It was time, I got out of there and he and his little clan followed making sure the American who never chose to be that ran away.  I found the Sikhs, then Holgen.  The guns looked heavy weighted with 7.62mm ammo.
The 8 latrines supporting the crowded camp.   People relieve themselves in their tents using buckets daily. The youngest are usually responsible for carrying the buckets to latrines for emptying.
There appears to be the same number portable shower units supporting the thousands in this particular camp.  Check this image out, look for small nuances that make you feel, not think. 
Upon further examination of an earlier image I wonder about the manhole cover in the picture.  I mean, who is tapped into the lines below when the masses carry it away by hand. 

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