Friday, December 31, 2010

Ushering in 2011

Tonight we will be remembering 2010, mourning its losses and celebrating its end,
and imagining a new year that is spirit-filled and life-giving.

Happy Old Year's End. Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Riding out 2010

Merry Christmas from Ben, Lexi and Luna!

(Bryan Thompsonowak and I built this bike early this past spring)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why I'm not quite feelin' the Christmas vibes

  • The US is resuming criminal deportations to Haiti this month. (!) 
  • We have had approximately 12 hours of electricity in the past 3 weeks. 
  • Missing family and our friends that aren't here. 
  • Despite evidence of election fraud (see here and here for examples), there are no official plans to annul and redo the elections. 
  • Uncertainty as we wait for the OAS to recount ballots and assist in legal contesting of the results (with no official date set yet to announce those results). 
  • There is still a cholera epidemic spreading throughout Haiti, which has now affected more than 120,000 people. 
  • 1 million Haitians are living under tents almost a year after the earthquake. 
  • It's been almost a year since the earthquake. As in, 3 weeks from now will begin the anniversary of a collectively traumatic experience for this nation (still ongoing in so many ways) as well as a number of the most traumatic days/weeks of my own life. 
  • Martha's got clots. 
    Sorry to be such a grinch but despite baking, decorating and celebrating advent, I don't think I've ever felt less Christmas-y so close to Christmas (which is usually my favorite time of year).

    While I can't wait for 2010 to be over, I realize that I'm terrified of 2011. It feels like this year has been a series of one reaction after another to sometimes life-shattering (earthquake), other times heartbreaking (flooding) or infuriating (election fraud) and often just inconvenient (no electricity) events. It's been difficult to live intentionally in the midst of so much upheaval.

    On a far more positive note, the lunar eclipse on Monday night was red. And spectacular. Did you see it?

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Christmas at our House

    Disclaimer: even though I am the one posting these pictures, all the Christmas cheer (except for the kahlua) at our house comes from my lovely creative wife...

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Home-eopathic Recipe

    1 cure for a cold, rainy, pre-Christmas-in-Haiti-without-my-family Sunday

    1 Ben
    1 Luna
    Homemade biscuits
    1 jar of Ben's mom's blackberry jam
    Christmas lights
    Nirvana playlist
    Wool socks
    Picasa album of old, old photos from Laura

    1. Mix the Ben with the Luna
    2. Make the biscuits while wearing the socks
    3. Top biscuits with the blackberry jam
    4. Add the music, lights and old photos:

    Top: Ben, Mom Depp, Tim, Caleb; Bottom: Caleb, Martha, Ben
    5. Cheer up.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Is No News Good News?

    For now, yes. Several people have noted that my blog rants have been less frequent in recent days, and even Ben has felt the need to pick up the slack. An analogy for you:

    Number of blogposts is to days stuck at home as number of cookies consumed is to Christmastime.

    Since the political protests have paused while tally sheets are (supposedly) recounted this week, I've been busy catching up on lots of work, restocking our supply of nonperishable food, drinking water and propane, getting in face time with friends, etc. I've also been consuming vast quantities of cookies as we deck our halls, bake and try to channel some Christmas spirit. All this is in wool socks because it's actually been cold this week!

    Our third Christmas in Haiti (already? only?) will be five days after the final election results for the first round are announced. I'm not sure that legitimate results are possible for an electoral process this flawed, but I do hope that whatever results the CEP announces on December 20th will be reasonable enough not to induce a flurry of blog posts.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    New President?

    A common joke here is that Bill Clinton is actually Haiti's new president since he co-chairs the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission that is mandated to approve all reconstruction projects and funds. Bill is championing the garment assembly and tourism as the industries that will boost Haiti's economy.

    I understand the market for cheap labor but who's in line to vacation in Haiti? These are actually both complex issues and for a good article by Alexis on the garment industry click here.

    Yesterday Clinton held a press conference with the Minister of Health to discuss his foundations response to the cholera epidemic. He also mentioned approving funding for an industrial park...

    Monday, December 13, 2010


    Alexis embroidered this Arundhati Roy quote recently (I like the lungs) and it inspired me to watch this film last night. It was a good reminder of why the UN and Organization of American States are able to say Haiti just had a decent election. Its worth watching.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    Calm-ish for now

    Yesterday was more or less calm. I ventured to the market with Jillian in the morning, which was pretty empty but I bought eggs, tomatoes and a cabbage. The street was black from soot and there were still piles of smoldering garbage and a few tires. Not many people out. Later, Ben and I went out together on the motorcycle and we noticed a few new but unmanned roadblocks up and some downed billboards. I didn't see any Celestin posters that hadn't been torn down or defaced. 

    Last night we heard the sounds of more protesting, but it was hard to tell where or by how many people.

    This morning I went up to Place St. Pierre. Ironically, cash for work employees wearing the blue t-shirts from Wyclef Jean's Yele Foundation were cleaning the streets, sweeping up piles of charred paintings and campaign posters. The street in front of the CEP was blocked off by a UN tank, but the soldiers looked pretty relaxed. Most shops are open again and per our Saturday tradition, we bought breakfast at the bakery and have been working in our garden.

    Although it feels like things are sort of back to normal, Haiti remains at a political impasse. Supposedly, the UN, international community, President Preval and the 3 leading presidential candidates met yesterday (as AFP put it, for "backroom deals") and a recount of the ballots is also supposedly taking place. Final election results for the first round will be announced December 20th, but it will be the beginning of February before final results of the 2nd round are announced. My sense is that we're in for a tense couple of months.

    p.s. Sarah Palin arrives today.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    MCC's Perspective on the Elections


    "Voice," papercut by Nikki McClure


    Not only do UN troops continue to rain teargas and rubber bullets on protesters in Petionville, but it's also literally raining. An off-season morning rain is unusual on both counts. I can't help but wonder if the rain is intentional - Creator and Creation trying to keep things calm. The sound of the rain mostly masks the noise of a protest taking place in the Petionville market, about 500 feet from where I sit, also protesting. 

    I may not be out in the streets, but as a foreigner that cares about this country and whose job it is to advocate for structural justice, I protest too. From my couch and on my laptop, I protest election results that maintain the status quo in direct opposition of the will of the Haitian people. I protest the morning's headlines that read, "Haiti protests blocking relief efforts" and "Demonstrations in Haiti Crimp Northwest Aid Efforts," as if this story is about us, unable to fix Haiti because the Haitians that we're here to save won't stop burning tires. I protest the headline that reads "Supporters of losing Haiti candidate take to the streets," as if Michel Martelly is a sore loser; whereas from my perspective, this isn't about Martelly at all. It's about the right to vote. I protest the narrative that insinuates that it's somehow Haitians' fault that they have no voice. To be fair, I also protest the narrative that insinuates that the situation in Haiti is entirely the fault of NGOs and donor countries and multilateral institutions (not that we don't have a lot to do with it). I protest the perception that all of the demonstrations taking place are violent. I also protest that many of them are - and not just when provoked by UN soldiers - and this makes me sad.

    In the midst of all of this protesting, I feel pretty powerless. And yet, as a foreigner with a laptop that works for an NGO and has access to advocacy offices in DC, Ottawa and at the UN, I sadly have a hell of a lot more power than the thousands of people in the streets who are being disparaged by the international media while they face tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades in the rain to fight for their right to make their voices heard. And so do you.

    We need to try hear beyond the news headlines and join in these protests by demanding that our governments (who funded 3/4 of these elections) assist in efforts to review election fraud and pressure the Haitian government to release legitimate final election results.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    1:30 Update

    Ben just home to report on what's happening out there:
    • 10s of 1,000s of people in the street
    • No cars on the road
    • Roadblocks almost every 50 feet
    • Fighting at the CEP on Delmas, with people throwing rocks at UN soldiers and UN throwing flash grenades and shooting tear gas and rubber bullets back 
    • Tear gas into IDP camps
    • Carried guy to Red Cross whose foot was torn up by flash grenade
    • Fighting at the CEP in Petionville
    • Inite headquarters burned down
    • All of the paintings on Place St. Pierre have been burned
    • Gunbattle in Belair between Celestin and Martelly people 
    • Hard to gauge the momentum of the protests, so I'm not making any guesses as to how long this will go on 
    • There are people trying to protest peacefully 
    • Found the world's greatest moto taxi driver, who happens to know people at every roadblock
    Alexis: from the security of my living room (and we do feel safe at home, so don't worry!):
    • Avoiding listening to the radio, so I missed Preval's statement which apparently justified the election results
    • Glad to see this statement published by the US embassy
    • Understand that the largely marginalized Haitian population feel they have no voice, especially if they can't even vote. Ultimately this is at the root of the protests that are taking place. 
    • Most of the news reports that I've read so far have been surprisingly balanced, but I fear that if this continues, the story will become about violence and protestors' destruction of private and gov't property instead of about fraudulent election results.
    • In other (or more) words, concerned that violence will de-legitimize very legitimate opposition to these elections

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Initial Results

    Mirlande Manigat: 31.37%
    Jude Celestin 22.48%
    Michel Martelly 21.89%

    This means that Manigat and Celestin will be in a run-off election. People should be taking to the streets to protest these results! But, unfortunately, the situation is already degenerating.

    Ben came home and is worried, which makes me worried. He says people started building roadblocks with dumpsters, tires, broken down cars in the streets just a few minutes after the results were announced.  The streets of Petionville are full of protestors shouting: "We voted Martelly!" I've been hearing gunshots ever since the announcement. 

    We've turned out our lights and had to shut the windows to keep out teargas and the smell of burning tires. 

    God, have mercy.

    Rumors, reports and articles

    Sometime today Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) will announce the election results. Although it's widely expected that it will come down to a run-off election on January 16th between Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly, rumor has it that that the CEP may attempt to put the incumbent party's candidate, Jude Celestin, in the run-off (or even declare him winner of the first round). Other rumors assert that the CEP might include a third candidate (Celestin) in the run-offs.

    If Celestin wins the election, it would be in unmistakable opposition to the will of the Haitian people, as witnessed by MCC staff and partners’ nationwide observation of ballot tabulations on Sunday, November 28th. It would also almost certainly spark widespread rioting.

    Speaking of the elections, yesterday RNDDH released the English version of their 29-page report, with 12 pages outlining the irregularities, violence and fraud that observers witnessed throughout Haiti. It also explains why the international community's involvement in the elections has been an "embarrassing failure." Find it at

    Speaking of rumors, I thought that this article on the cholera situation was really very good: How Rumors Rule in Cholera-Torn Haiti. It also appears that the question around the source of the cholera, which the UN has seemingly tried to spin as a rumor, is rumor no longer: Haiti Cholera Outbreak Came from UN Camp. Almost 50,000 people have now been hospitalized.

    MCC is sending staff home after lunch.

    Praying for transparent and legitimate election results, Peace with a capital P, etc.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    One Pumpkin Goes a Long Way

    I recently remembered that on January 5th, back when 2010 still seemed to be on a somewhat normal trajectory (what is normal, though, I wonder?), I wished all of our readers a year full of pumpkins.

    Well, we got distracted there for a bit, but have since resumed our pumpkin eating ways. It's really quite amazing what you can make with a single pumpkin. For the purposes of this blog, we've documented the culinary life of this beauty:
    Mug included for scale
    In the States, we used to puree baked pumpkin in a food processor and freeze it. Since we have neither a food processor nor consistent refrigeration here (yep, we are this amazing in the kitchen WITHOUT much of a fridge), we skip the pureeing step and eat a lot of pumpkin in a very short amount of time.

    With the holidays right around the corner, pumpkin + nutmeg/cinnamon/cloves/ginger is a festive tasting combination: in pancakes, cookies, bread pudding and scones:
    The bread pudding was so good that it was almost finished before we thought to take a picture
    The savory pumpkin dishes sound better than they tasted. Next time we'll be sticking to soup. You can't go wrong with pumpkin soup.
    Pumpkin salad with lentils and feta
    Pumpkin and black bean "tacos"
    When we cut into it, about half of the pumpkin turned out to be rotten. I can't imagine how much pumpkin we'd still be eating if it hadn't been.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    You Know its Christmastime in Port-Au-Prince When

    Re-post from December 4th, 2008
    1. Some of the water trucks that play a synthesized version of the Titanic theme song now play a synthesized medley of Jingle Bells, We Wish you a Merry Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
    2. It's apparently cold enough for used-clothing vendors on the street to replace tank-tops with jackets. (To be fair, I have worn a cardigan a few times recently).*
    3. There is a GIANT inflatable Santa Claus on the roof of the Total station in Petionville.**
    4. You can buy Christmas trees (read: tree branches painted white and secured into milk powder cans) on the side of Avenue John Brown.***
    5. The larger supermarkets have set up real fake Christmas trees.
    6. Crime rates go up, especially pickpocketing and petty theft.
    7. Colored lights are everywhere, including our porch as supplied by our landlord.****
    8. The fancy shops in Petionville have Christmas-themed window displays.
    9. The expats with real salaries are preparing to leave for the holidays.*****
    10. Intricate luminaries made with colored paper are for sale on Bourdon. Vendors light them up at night and the street looks magical.
    * This year, we're eying those jackets. We've acclimated! Or maybe it's because we've moved 3.5 miles up the hill.
    ** Not yet. But, there are GIANT inflatable Santa Clauses to be found elsewhere. Like this one at the Coconut Villa Hotel:
    *** I bought one. Ben got a huge kick out of watching me "prune" it.
    **** Port-au-Prince has now entered the era of white lights. 
    ***** This doesn't bother me anymore. I'm not sure why it ever did.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    TIME piece on Haiti election

    I shot some b-roll and contributed some still images for this. The completed story is more pro-UN troops than I like. Often when you are just taking the pictures you don't have any control over where the story goes.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Clinging to Hope

    Oh God,
    We are waiting.
    We know you work wonders
    We know you work mysteries
    We know you choose the surprising
    We know you choose the unsuspecting
    We know you keep hope, joy and peace alive
    We know you keep your promises and your love
    Help us not just to know, but to practice believing
    While we are waiting. 

    November 28th, election day, was also the first Sunday of advent. What a day to celebrate hope! That day I was witness to how hope inspired people to walk miles to voting centers to cast their ballots for Haiti’s next president. I was also witness to the destruction of voting centers before their ballots could even be counted. On Monday, I returned to Port-Au-Prince tired and filled with a deep sense of hopelessness.

    How could an election that cost $29 million be executed so poorly? With the world watching so closely, how is it that voting center staff received so little training and so many registered voters’ names were left off of electoral rolls? How is it that none of MCC’s staff in Port-Au-Prince were actually able to vote, though not for lack of trying?

    But as we celebrated hope and expectancy on Monday night with some of our MCC community, I was reminded that the season of advent is all about finding hope in the face of hopelessness. It’s about looking towards peace, joy and love in a context of global oppression and injustice, even in post-earthquake Haiti and in the midst of a dysfunctional electoral process.

    All creation groans for redemption from the systemic evil that so dominates our world; and the first week of advent is a celebration of our expectancy for that redemption. On Monday night we read Romans 8:18-24 together: With eager hope, all creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. We know that all creation is still groaning as in the pains of childbirth. And we also groan, for we long to be released from sin and suffering.

    In the meantime, we’re also in Haiti because we have hope. We believe that we have a role to play in the process of redemption. We believe that there is hope for real change for this country and that we are helping to construct the Kingdom of God on earth, expecting that someday this will be brought to completion.

    One of my favorite Christmas hymns is O Come, O Come Emmanuel, which is traditionally sung on the first Sunday of advent:

    O come, O Dayspring, come and cheer
    Our spirits by thine advent here
    And drive away the shades of night
    And pierce the clouds and bring us light.
    Beginning prayer by Michelle Jentzi, 2003

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Elections in the Artibonite

    The Artibonite Department has a reputation for being cho (hot) during elections. This post-election morning we left Desarmes at 8:00 AM, heading to Port-Au-Prince via Mirebalais. We were greeted by a convoy of more than 5 MINUSTAH trucks and tanks, frantically motioning at us to turn around. It seems that a roadblock had been constructed ahead by protesters frustrated with yesterday's election. Not wanting to risk that things might turn ugly, we turned around to come back through Saint Marc. I was wary of being behind so many UN vehicles, because in my experience their mere presence incites the kind of violence that we were trying to avoid. When we got to Deschapelles, an angry group was constructing a roadblock in front of us out of tires and rocks but we negotiated our way through and made it back to Port-Au-Prince without incident.

    I was with three other election monitors from RNDDH, the Reseau National de Defense de Droits Humains (National Human Rights Defense Network), one of the most prominent Haitian human rights organizations and an MCC partner since 1995. We spent Sunday traveling through the Artibonite as election monitor supervisors - checking in on RNDDH election monitors stationed in voting centers throughout the Department, and also doing monitoring of our own in each center that we visited.

    In brief, the day was exhausting and discouraging.

    We began the day at 5:30 AM in Desarmes, where the voting center opened more or less on time. By the time MCC staff in Desarmes showed up to vote after church, though, the center had run out of ballots. From Desarmes, we drove far beyond Gonaives through five rivers on a rutted out road to Ennery and Savane Carée. There, I was astounded by the number of people that had turned out to vote. Because vehicles are not allowed to circulate on election day, many voters in rural places had to walk miles to reach a voting center.

    From where I stood in the corner of a voting station at the Ecole Nationale de Savane Carée, I could see the voters' ballots as they chose their candidates. The representatives of each political party (mandatè) were even closer to the cardboard partition that was an attempt to provide voters with privacy. Sporadic arguments broke out among the mandatè as they watched people vote.

    Approaching Gonaives around 12:00, we came across the first of several places where we would witness the elections end prematurely because of unrest. In Minguette, a small riot was taking place on the road in front of us as the police arrested a mandatè from Ayiti ann Aksyon who had apparently punched a representative of Alternative. Rock throwing ensued as voters who had lined up to vote left without casting their ballots.

    Everywhere we went, but particularly at the centers in Gonaives, registered voters were unable to find their names on electoral rolls. In Gonaives there was also a discrepancy between the electoral rolls posted outside of each voting station and the lists of registered voters inside. Although the situation was calm while we were there, rumors of violence throughout the day kept many voters at home. Flipping through the list of voters in one voting station, I noticed that less than 20% of the names listed had signatures next to them. While we were there, we received a call that a voting center in Cawo, where RNDDH had posted an observer, had yet to receive any ballots.

    Part of our mandate as observers was to monitor the ballot counting process, preferably in a voting center close to Desarmes so that we wouldn't be out long after dark. We decided to head towards Verrettes, where we hoped to be by 4:00 PM when the elections ended. Our plan was to stop in l'Estere and Desdunes to check on our monitors on the way. We were within sight of the voting center in l'Estere when we noticed a crowd forming. Suddenly the crowd started running towards our vehicle and away from rocks and police bullets. We heard that members of Inite, the party currently in power, were behind the disruption, but didn't stick around long enough to confirm.

    On a long detour through Marchand Dessalines, we came across an empty voting center scattered with ballots in Pont Benoit. The MINUSTAH soldiers stationed in front told us that Inite mandatè disrupted the ballot counting when it became clear that they were losing to Mirlande Manigat's RNDP party. We received reports of this happening in other parts of the Artibonite, as well.

    Our last stop was the Ecole Nationale de Seguy in Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite. Just as the ballot counting got underway, mandatè started hearing reports of incidents and violence elsewhere. We pulled away just as it looked like the agitated crowd was about to storm one of the voting stations.

    MCCers acting as monitoring supervisors in each of Haiti's ten departments report many of the same incidents, including many, many people unable to vote because their names were not listed on electoral rolls, as well as stealing and burning of ballots and cases of disruption and violence.

    Although I'm frustrated by what I've seen and heard, it's hard to tell at this point whether all of the irregularities, incidents and, in some cases, outright fraud, will actually change the outcome of the elections. My impression is that the country is tensely awaiting the results, which should be announced within the week, to know how to react to what were clearly not free and fair elections.

    Elections in Port-Au-Prince

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Election Day

    Ballots are thrown into a drainage canal in Port-Au-Prince. We'll post more soon. I'm off to bed now.

    THAT was an election?

    After the day we've had here, it's stunning to look at my latest headlines page and see "Bulldog fear after toddler death" but no mention of the elections in Haiti -- how voters with registration cards were turned away from voting centers because their names were left off of electoral rolls, how Inite party members disrupted the counting of ballets in numerous places when they saw they were losing to RDNP, how some voting centers never received ballots and others didn't receive enough, how protesters exchanged rocks with Haitian National Police bullets in the Artibonite, how ballots were stolen and ballot boxes stuffed, how 13 out of 15 candidates are calling for the elections to be annulled and how thousands have taken to the streets of Port-Au-Prince to peacefully protest.

    Equally stunning is the UN's announcement that the elections went well. I wouldn't even call what I saw today elections.

    I wish I had the energy to tell you more about my day of monitoring or even upload a photo or two (though Ben's pictures from Port-Au-Prince will be much, much better, I'm sure). I'm still in the Artibonite and, god-willing, will be returning to Port-Au-Prince tomorrow morning. More then.

    Friday, November 26, 2010


    ...for many, many things.
    Happy Thanksgiving yesterday.


    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Staying Sew Busy

    Lately I've been dealing with my conflicted emotions about living/working in Haiti by sewing up a storm:
    I prefer my storms to be made of fabric these days
    We are constantly trying to balance out the time we spend working with time that we spend doing other, unrelated activities. I think this is referred to as "self care" by people that write books about stress. It is also referred to as "fun." On weekends we make an effort to go hiking or swimming – we do live on an island in the Caribbean, after all; but sometimes just sleeping in on Saturday is our mental equivalent to hiking.  In my on-my-own downtime I make crafts, sew, cook, read, garden, or do yoga. Lately, I’ve been sewing more than anything else:

    Meanwhile, with one disaster after another and elections coming up, Ben's self has had very little care recently. Here's hoping he has the time to pursue his dream of building a waste-oil-fueled mango dryer before the next mango season rolls around.

    By the way, a BIG thank you to Kathy Troyer for scoring MCC Haiti an amazing sewing machine!

    Elections are a-comin'

    The hurricane, cholera and anti-MINUSTAH protesting have sort of pushed election news to the sideline this month. But, Haiti's presidential and legislative elections are still scheduled to take place this Sunday, November 28th.

    For months activists and human rights organizations have been monitoring and denouncing the pre-election process. Problems and corruption within the Provisional Electoral Commission, the body that is responsible for carrying out the elections (and that is considered illegitimate by many Haitians), the fact that names of earthquake victims have yet to be removed from lists of registered voters, the decision not to put voting centers in camps, the barring of Fanmi Lavalas from the election (which regardless of your position on the Aristide debacle, remains of one of Haiti's largest political parties), politically-sponsored gang activity, growing frustration over cholera and many, many other issues point to Sunday's elections being one big mess. Check out this article (and the photo credits).

    Frankly, I don't have much hope that the elections will be fair in any way. Yesterday on a walk through Petionville, Ben and I noticed that some of the voter registration lists posted in front of the lycee on Place St-Pierre (this is where people registered as living in the area go to find out where to vote) were torn down. We talked to a few people standing around and it definitely felt like I was more frustrated that the lists had been vandalized than anyone else - and I don't actually have the power to vote on Sunday! Most of the Haitians I know are so disenchanted with the political process and so convinced that a new president won't actually change their situation, that they won't be voting. I liked this perspective on the whole thing.

    As in April 2009, I'll be an election monitor, this time for RNDDH, and Ben will be out taking pictures, so stay tuned to find out how things go.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Mass Graves

    Workers from the Department of Civil Protection put the bodies of 22 cholera victims from Port-Au-Prince into a mass grave outside of the city. The workers have been burying cholera victims in mass graves since Monday, November 15th. Many of these deceased did not receive treatment and died in their homes or on the streets.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010


    Karl Michel LaFrance, 10, got sick at 1 AM and died at home at 10 AM this morning. His mother says she didn't realize the gravity of his illness until it was too late. After he died, she brought him out to the road to be picked up by the government. Workers, hired by the department of health to pick up dead cholera victims, spray the body with disinfectant. LaFrance is put into a truck with 14 other bodies and taken to a mass grave.

    I'm getting the impression that when it comes to cholera education, most NGOs and the government are not reaching the most vulnerable. Somehow the text messages and radio spots aren't communicating to people how serious this illness is. This kid is the third person I saw dead from cholera on the side of the road today, all within close proximity of cholera treatment centers. 

    We've suspected all along that the death toll and infection rate has been under reported, but until today I had no idea how quickly the cholera is spreading in Port-Au-Prince.

    Ask your Senator to Demand International Financial Institutions Reform

    Action: Urge your Senator to sign a bipartisan letter to President Obama.

    Background: Low-income countries continue to pay high debt-servicing fees to the wealthiest countries through international financial institutions. For many of these countries, servicing such a debt means inability to provide social services for their own citizens. This problem has been exacerbated by the recent global financial crisis where we see debt burdens for low-income countries rising.

    [This is an issue that has had no small impact in Haiti, where until last year servicing the debt accrued by the brutal, 29-year Duvalier regime required a larger portion of government spending than education or healthcare. Most of the country's debt was forgiven after the earthquake, but despite international calls that further aid be given to Haiti in the form of grants, not loans, the International Monetary Fund has since loaned Haiti $60 million.]

    Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) are sending a letter to President Obama urging him to take serious steps in reforming the lending practices and policies of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other multilateral development banks.

    Faith Reflection: “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat””[Amos 8:4-6].

    Jesus condemns mistreatment of the poor and the needy. He teaches us to seek good and work for justice. Instead of helping them, the current lending practices of the international financial institutions are ruining the poor.

    Action: Urge your Senator to sign on to this critical letter.

    Based on alert prepared by Patrcia Kisare, Legislative Assistant for International Affairs, MCC Washington Office

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Loving the peacekeepers: A response to protests in Haiti

    Reports have been pouring in from the radio, security update emails and phone calls that there are ongoing violent protests targeting MINUSTAH throughout Haiti. The protests have mostly been confined to the cities of Cap-Haitian and Hinche, where four police stations have been burned and protestors have been throwing rocks and bottles and even exchanged gunfire with UN soldiers. Unconfirmed reports say that there will be demonstrations in Port-Au-Prince tomorrow and things are predicted to continue to heat up as November 28th, the date set for Haiti’s legislative and presidential elections, nears.

    MINUSTAH is the UN's Chapter VII Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti. It has been in place since 2004, with its most recent mandate issued on October 15th, 2010: to ensure a secure and stable environment; to carry out natural-disaster response; and to support the Haitian government in preparation for the elections on November 28th. Chapter VII of the UN Charter authorizes the use of military force to resolve disputes and so the mission is comprised of 8,940 military troops and 4,391 police agents.

    Some of my advocacy work for MCC in Haiti has focused on MINUSTAH, asking the UN Security Council to address the following concerns: numerous human rights abuses that have been perpetrated by soldiers; a lack of legitimacy since the mission’s presence violates the Haitian Constitution; the mission's military component, which MCC would like to see eliminated; and a lack of clarity with regards to the mission’s humanitarian component.

    A wall in Port-Au-Prince reads "down with the occupation"

    MINUSTAH is perceived as an occupying military force by many of MCC’s Haitian partner organizations. And indeed, insecurity in Haiti is not the result of war, genocide or crimes against humanity as is the case for UN peacekeeping missions elsewhere in the world. In a recent interview, Camille Chalmers, director of MCC partner organization PAPDA (Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development), states that MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti is illegal and has in fact exacerbated Haiti’s structural crisis.

    The protests this week have been sparked by the cholera epidemic that is spreading throughout the country. According to the Ministry of Health, 1,039 people have died and almost 17,000 are now infected. It's widely believed that the cholera, which matches a strain in Southeast Asia, was brought to Haiti by Nepali peacekeeping troops who have been documented dumping sewage in tributaries of the Artibonite river. UN officials are denying that the troops are the source of the cholera and have not launched an official investigation, despite requests from the Haitian government and Haitian civil society. Many Haitians, who have lost loved ones and fear contracting the disease, are furious about this and that anger is being fanned by some political candidates running in opposition to Haiti’s current government.

    A few weeks ago I posted this prayer that those "whose lives are intertwined with systems that harm... violate, exploit, exclude, objectify, and dominate" would be inspired with "a longing for justice and the courage to break free from the powers that oppress." I believe that MINUSTAH's presence here helps to maintain a status quo that serves the economic elite and oppresses the majority of the population. I am categorically opposed to militarization and believe that the presence of more than 8,000 military troops in Haiti vilifies Haitians and does little to address the root causes of violence in this society.

    But, as a result of my faith I also believe that violence is never an appropriate means to redress issues of injustice. This is difficult because it often seems that the marginalized have no other means of changing a system that is deeply rooted in exclusion. For that very reason, there is a part of me that wants to root for the protesters. Instead I am trying hard to look to my ultimate example of a peacemaker.

    In The Powers That Be, Walter Wink reminds us that Jesus does not want the oppressed to give in to the power of oppression, but "rather, find a third way, a way that is neither submission nor assault, flight nor fight, a way that can secure your human dignity and begin to change the power equation. ... Jesus is not advocating nonviolence merely as a technique for outwitting the enemy, but as a just means of opposing the enemy in a way that holds open the possibility of the enemy's becoming just also. Both sides must win. We are summoned to pray for our enemies' transformation, and to respond to ill treatment with a love that is not only godly but also from God."

    That is much harder to do than throwing rocks, and so as I wait to see what happens in Haiti this week I pray and I long for the day that "they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

    Please join me in praying for a non-violent movement towards justice, dignity and peace for all of Haiti.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Food Days

    I love this season. Although the markets in Port-Au-Prince are pretty consistent year 'round, the harvest for Haiti's fall planting season begins around mid-November so the markets will be bursting with fresh goodness for the next couple of months. It's also citrus season, so grapefruit, chadek, mandarins, oranges (sweet and sour) and key limes (sitwon) are all readily available. Yum!

    We visited the Kenscoff market on Saturday, which is my favorite place to do our marketing because (a) it's closer to the source (much of the produce sold where we live in Petionville is grown near Kenscoff) and (b) we also get to go hiking when we're up there. Win and win.

    Cabbage for making sauerkraut and beautiful beets

    Also washing potatoes, green beans, carrots, leeks and watercress

    Ben bakes up some tasty, tasty pumpkin bread

    Roasting the seeds for a snack

    Ruby red grapefruit from Desarmes - I'm already saving the peels for candying!
    How could you not love November?

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    10 Things to Love

    1. The beginning of mandarin, orange and grapefruit season.
    2. We've had electricity for 2 1/2 days straight.
    3. MCC office has finally been repainted - in color. My space is yellow!
    4. Hurricane Season is almost officially over.
    5. The flamboyant tree on our street is blooming.
    6. The SIZE of the pumpkins we bought in Furcy last week.
    7. Leah Gordon's new book, "Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti."
    8. It's been cold enough to cuddle this week.
    9. Maurice Sixto audio stories in Creole.
    10. Cilantro is sprouting in our garden.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Tomas in Leogane

    Pretty terrible flooding in Leogane, a city that was mostly destroyed by the earthquake. Most large NGOs had the day off for safety reasons (other than PIH, who was set up in a large camp in Port-Au-Prince, ready to respond) but all of the major news networks and journalists made it out. Go figure. No need to fear the hurricane, though, because the UN had their tanks and guns ready.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Tracking Tomas

    It's been raining consistently since early afternoon and the wind is starting to pick up. We've sort of personally prepared (ie, bought food and candles and stood in line in the rain to buy propane until the pump broke at the station... so no propane). Ben's rain and camera gear is all laid out and ready to go, which sounds a bit opportunistic and dangerous but that's how he rolls. Although it's not looking good, we're still hoping and praying that Tomas will change course. For now, it looks like we'll be getting the worst of it early tomorrow morning - not we, per say, but the many many people that are in tents and flimsy shelters and were unable to evacuate because there's nowhere for them to go. (Read this).
    Please keep all of us in your prayers,
    A & B

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Seguin, Again

    Happy hikers and a rainbow at sunset when we reached the top:

    Our favorite way to spend a weekend in Haiti. Pictures from the last two times we hiked up here and here (taken with the Ricoh).


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