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.
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?
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 rnddh.org.
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.
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.
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).*
There is a GIANT inflatable Santa Claus on the roof of the Total station in Petionville.**
You can buy Christmas trees (read: tree branches painted white and secured into milk powder cans) on the side of Avenue John Brown.***
The larger supermarkets have set up real fake Christmas trees.
Crime rates go up, especially pickpocketing and petty theft.
Colored lights are everywhere, including our porch as supplied by our landlord.****
The fancy shops in Petionville have Christmas-themed window displays.
The expats with real salaries are preparing to leave for the holidays.*****
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.
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.
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: