Catching up

Long time, no see. You might think: “Is he still alive?” The answer is: “Of course I am!!!” (Un-)fortunately work keeps me really busy. There had been times when the opposite was the case (see: for further details).

Since the last entry many, many, many things happened here. I mentioned the elections and their results which again resulted chaos and in fact no result was published at all for several weeks.

In the meantime I spent Christmas at home, had some days over New Year’s Eve in the Dominican Republic, then went back to the “Nightmare Republic” as Graham Greene calls Haiti in his novel “The Comedians” and worked; until my next R&R which I spent with Andrea in Curaçao. I have to admit – there are worse places to work than in the middle of the Caribbean!

Well then I will come back writing maybe after the next election round. Or sooner. Or later. Who can tell… I will look for time and muse in the future more often, I do promise! But now enjoy lovely Curaçao!

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Haiti’s elections

People voted on November 28th. On December 7th at around 19:00 results were announced. They do not coincide with the predictions of the international election observers. They neither coincide with the wish of the Haitian people. Election fraud says the angry mob. The population is angry, we stay at home.

There will be a runoff on January 16th between former first lady Mirlande Manigat and Jude Celestin, a Preval (Haiti’s actual president) protege.

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How libre is Cuba?

This was the question we wanted to get an answer to. Off we went, Andrea and me. One week R&R after some intense working weeks. Time flies by but we were looking forward to take some rest.

Not sure what time exactly our flight departed we spent several hours at the airport in Port-au-Prince (different sources told us different times). But in the end we landed in The Socialist State of Workers, I once read.

First step: immigration. It took me a while until the officer was satisfied (Where are you coming from? What do you do in Haiti? Who are you travelling with? What do you do in Haiti again? Who is your employer? What do you do in Cuba? Who are you travelling with? Who is your employer? And so forth). Then, when we thought to leave the airport building we were kindly asked to a drugs inspection.

Our plan was to stay one night in Santiago de Cuba, travel by bus (freeeeezing!) to La Habana and so we were there: La Habana. Still fast asleep we took a taxi who did some phone calls and we landed at Raúl’s and Marta’s casa particular. The perfect spot: in the centre of Old Havana, close to the Capitol, nice terrace, nice people, nice coffee and the best food ever (as well in quantities).

So we enjoyed the charming capital, walked through the streets, sat down for a coffee when we wanted to do so, visited the Revolutions Museum, went to a bizarre concert with contemporary music (which we left before halftime) and had just fun. In the end it got a bit stressed as hurricane Thomas caused a breakdown of all public transport to and from Santiago. And on top a plane crashed down – the company we flew with – and we had no idea for a whole day if, when and how we could come back to Port-au-Prince.

In the end it worked out well and we arrived safe and sound in Haitian territory. It was strange but we felt happy to being back. And still we are…

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Let’s build some houses

Pilot phase of our reconstruction project: meaning many things to organise – such as construction materials. What else. But I figured that it is more difficult to get things like stones and sand to the building sites. Why? First of all, there is a steep inclination and not all trucks can mount there. Second: finding reliable truck drivers who appear after promising. Therefore I spent the whole week between Port-au-Prince, Fort Hugot, the spot where the action is going on, the river which name I forgot and Grand Goave where the trustless mine sells its sand. Our team worked hard and I am glad to have such great fellows around me.

Now it is time to breathe deeply for one day and then go back again to finish what we started. I am very much looking forward to it. There is not much to say but “Rock ‘n’ Roll”!

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It was time for me. Time for some holidays. Luckily I work under conditions which allow me to go on leave every 2 months. The original plan was to visit Fidel and his associates but the travel agency denied to do so. In the end I landed in the Dominican Republic – not the worst address either.

To be honest, I spent some 70% sleeping or eating or just lying around and doing nothing. The other 30% I enjoyed to walk around freely, visit some cultural spots in Santo Domingo (kind of an overload after no culture at all in Mozambique) and diving. Yesssssss, diving.

The guys from Hotel Atarazana in Santo Domingo (a place worth staying at!!!) recommended to go to Bayahibe, a small village in the east of DR. So I took a bus and had a flashback: being in Ecuador like some 9 years ago. Loud music, kids are selling chewing gums in the bus – only the air condition was new.

The ride was fine and fast until La Romana, a minibus (Guagua) took me to my final destination: Bayahibe is a very small village with nothing going on there. Few tourists (besides the crowds from the all-inclusive clubs who hop on the boats to Isla Saona) but the best reefs I have ever seen.

I went to diving with the guys from Casa Daniel – worth a recomodation too! We were at Parque National I & II, Dominicus Shallow and to the St. Georges Wreck. A 85m long boat which sank 15 years ago when hurricane George blew over the island. Unfortunately there were not so many fish any more but the corals themselves were just awesome! And hey, I got my first wreck.

Back in Santo Domingo I went to a concert – every Sunday nights there is live music for free. Hundreds of people from 15 to 86 years (the guy next to me told me that he’s 86 years old – but still shouting and dancing like a youngster) gathering in front of “Las Ruinas San Fransisco” and enjoy themselves. And so did I!

Now work can start over again. I am relaxed and fully motivated to get some houses built.

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To be continued…

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I forgot something:

More pictures from Delatre. Claudia was so kind to let me use her camera for some shots and some of the pictures she took. Merci beaucoup!

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„Welcome on Russian helicopter“

Within a co-operation between Caritas Austria and Caritas Switzerland we delivered some school-tents to Delatre, a village far in the mountains South-West of Petit-Goâve. The road up there is in very bad conditions for the last 37km (with a normal 4×4 it takes you around 2,5 hours) so there was no other way to do the delivery but by flying them in. The World Food Program offers its helicopter for such purposes and Beat arranged two flights for the tents and Esperando (our logistician), Junior (the Swiss logistician) and me.

The first thing the pilot told me was: “If you have problem, show us!” He did not mention what kind of problem he meant and I wondered about his James Bond-bad guy accent. I figured where this is coming from as he told us as we got on board: “Welcome on Russian helicopter.”

The chopper was stuffed with some seven tents but we enjoyed the view over the city of Port-au-Prince heading to the mountains. Some hundred people already waited at our destination including Père Paul, who accommodated us for the next days.

The next morning we started early in the morning to assembling the tents. Our task was to train Junior and the locals there in order to enabling them to build up the tents by themselves. Some hours, four tents and a furious ride over hill and dale later we enjoyed some cold “Prestige” (Gold Medal-Winner in 2000 for the worlds best lager) and Barbancourt (the most important and best ingredient for rum sour and cuba libre).

On Sunday we attended the mass before we supervised the locals assembling another tent. And hey, they learned fast! So there was no more need for us as Junior too knew all he needed to. So we went back to Port-au-Prince – unfortunately by car, as the promised helicopter only flew in the following day.

Half way down we had a little accident: Claudia, our delegate for communications, tried to click the rear seat into its place. But both, her and me, did not see that my camera was right on top of the metal piece where the seat should shut. Display bust, lens does not open properly. But a new one is on its way so the drama has at least a happy end.

And they lived happily ever after. Or something like this…


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Muse, where art thou?

Last time I promised to show a little bit more passion for writing. And I already received some complaints. Here you go:

It has been now more than a month that I work here in Haiti and I really enjoy it. Compared to former jobs in other countries (see the other part of this blog) I run like a shift worker. As we work and live in the same building it happens quite often that we sit until late finishing some tasks. But finally there is an assignment for me – well there are several tasks – and I feel needed again. It is a good feeling!

So what do I do exactly? There is some controlling, some administration and some logistics. To be honest it is quite a lot of each. I do not want to go into details because there are too many. But it is fun and the team is great. This sounds like being brainwashed but it is reality.

When I first arrived the biggest impression was “rubble”. There is still a lot but I got to know the reasons, why rubble is still on the main roads: people carry it from the destroyed houses to the nearest main street where heavy machines remove the debris. Progress is on its way.

The political situation is interesting too as the most famous Haitian Wyclef Jean submitted his candidateship. He is very popular and has enough money to “motivate” some people. But his candidateship is unconstitutional as he did not live in Haiti for the last 5 years. There were some warnings of riots but he told his supporters to stay quiet.

Would have been “interesting” having a rapper as president; someone who does not have any idea of the reality of the problems and challenges. Someone who does not speak neither French nor Creole. But I just picture him rapping the national anthem… The tune concerning him is ambivalent and the most popular topic of the discussions between Haitians. And they love to argue no matter what subject (the other day during breakfast at a parish’s house the guys did not stop to shout at each other over the distance from “Champs de Mars” to “Pétion Ville”. I would say about 7km.)

Enough told for the moment? I think so! Below some pictures of our pilot project-area.

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Model house

Some time ago we finished our model house (we do some reconstruction in the area of Gressier, around 25km west of Port-au-Prince). And here are some pictures of it as well as some of a shelter-kit distribution in the same region.

Again just some impressions. Someday I’ll write more. I do promise!

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