1. Electricity: We don't have it. Or at least not enough to keep our inverter charged and the food in our refrigerator from rotting. We're told - and last year's experience confirms, that EDH (Électricité d’Haiti) starts withholding electricity at about this time of year so that they can provide the city with lights full-time for the week of Christmas and Haitian Independence Day (January 1st).
2. Luna: I never thought that I would own a cat, but our new 5-week old kitten (and future mouser) is just too cute. We have rats. Thankfully they have stayed in our compost pile and out of the house so far, but they're there nonetheless. So, when one of MCC's cats had kittens, only one survived and then happened to be looking for a home - did I mention how darn cute she is? - we gave in and bought a bag of kitty litter. I will post pictures soon so that you check out her insane-looking white eyelashes!
p.s. I am NOT going to become a crazy cat lady like my sister.
3.Work: Work has been a little slow for Ben lately, but that changed when the CLM program got funding for 84 new participants. Remember this? This week I’m in the countryside with him. We’re staying in Desarmes, I’m working from the MCC reforestation program office (where the internet is faster and more reliable than our internet in Port-Au-Prince) and Ben is commuting back and forth to Boukan Kare. A cat-loving friend in Port (and owner of Luna’s mother, Noche) is keeping little Luna for us. Incidentally, today is a holiday but Ben still had to work. It is Fèt Batay Vètyè, in which we honor the final battle of the Haitian Revolution - the Battle of Vertiers. I’m celebrating Fèt Batay Vètyè by making candied grapefruit peel with Sharon (see #6). Do we get extra credit for picking the grapefruit ourselves?
4. Sunshine: Although this may seem like a ridiculous problem to have in sunny Haiti, our new house has too much shade. Our nasturiums won't bloom, our radishes are getting leggy, and our parsley just straight-up rotted in the ground. Also, our laundry is taking two days too long to dry, leaving our towels and jeans with that stinky, took-to-long-to-dry smell. Our landlord will be cutting down one of our trees (whose roots are growing into our water cistern) and hopefully that will help.
5. Intestinal Trouble, which is a nice euphamism for diarrhea. I recently mentioned having spent a week + with dengue fever (read the bit about the rash - I've never itched so much in my life!). Well, no sooner had I recovered from the dengue, the "intestinal trouble" started and has persisted for almost two weeks. I'm open to advice for cures from you medical types (Tim? Caleb?).
6: Festive Spirits: Christmas lights and Santa Claus have already started making an appearance here. The funny thing about these lights and Santas is that most Haitians only celebrate Christmas for what it is: a church holiday that commemorates Jesus’ birth. We don’t have malls and greeting card companies, so Christmas ornamentation is pretty much limited to grocery stores and gas stations. Last year, the Texaco station near where we live now outdid the rest with a G-I-A-N-T inflatable Santa on the roof, not to mention a (fake) tree, lights, greenery and a snowman (also fake. Obviously.)
Last year was our first Christmas in Haiti. On Christmas Eve we put some candles on a cactus and on Christmas Day had a nice, low-key time with other friends that weren’t able to be with their families. But this year - and please keep in mind that it’s only November 18th - I am already sorting through Christmas cookie recipes and trying to figure out where to score a pine tree branch (I couldn’t possibly justify using an entire pine tree in Haiti, could I?). The reason? MY PARENTS ARE COMING TO VISIT! Ben and I have only spent two of the last five or six Christmases with family.* But, as Christmas in the Erkert tradition (along with birthdays, Easter, Mother’s Day and any other excuse to eat a lot and give and receive gifts**) is a really big deal, just knowing that we’ll be with my folks on Christmas makes me want to do it up right. CHRISTMAS 2009, WOOOT!
* It caused great alarm among Erkerts that Ben does not appreciate Christmas music.
** So as not to offend any family, I should add that the Erkerts have many meaningful family traditions surrounding these and other holidays. (We sure do love holidays).