Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas trees are for sale at the grocery store we frequent in Pétion-ville for $536.00 and $699.00:
Because we frequent this grocery store so frequently, when we stopped in to pick up coffee yesterday we were gifted with this 10 lb frozen turkey. It's from North Carolina (which is where we are headed in a few short hours) and will provide our neighbors, to whom we re-gifted it, with a Christmas feast.
Unfortunately, not everyone in Haiti will wake up tomorrow to a $700 Christmas tree and free turkey dinner. In fact, not everyone will wake up in a bed tomorrow. Or even in a house with four walls and a roof... 

We are exposed to extreme wealth juxtaposed by extreme poverty everyday, but still this article about poverty in Haiti's displacement camps this Christmas broke my heart. May it break yours, too, and as we celebrate this holiday remind us all that our planet is brimming with injustice, inequality and oppression. The conquering and redemption of all of that is what the season is about, no?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Solstice on the Farm

The winter solstice demonstrates the enduring cycle of the heavens by an event that has been directly observable, year in and year out, century after century, for millions of years. The new year begins with the turning point of the winter solstice, as it has down through eons-an unending cycle of dark and light, waning and waxing, ultimately representing nature's birth, death, and rebirth. The winter solstice is a time to affirm our spiritual ties to nature through celebrations and traditions that are thousands of years old. The season is a time to renew family ties, take joy in our natural environment, reflect on the events of the old year, and look forward in anticipation to the new. -- Lisa Hutchins

We spent our "new year" on the farm: making a solstice/Christmas wreath with found treasures, delighting in friends and nature, digging new garden beds and playing by a fire. The next day dawned just a little bit earlier.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Loquat jam

:the imperfect result of combining five pounds of loquats with three sticky hours in the kitchen. Ideas welcome for how we should use the copious amount of loquats that will be ready for harvest on the farm in January and February.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas branch

Ben's leg has healed up just fine. Our spirits are taking a little longer to heal fully, but in ten days we board an American Airlines flight to spend Christmas with our families. It will be the first time in six years that I've eaten my mom's ritual caramel pecan sticky buns on Christmas morning. We're excited. When we come back, we move more permanently up to the farm. We're excited for that, too.

Meanwhile, this lovely branch has been pulled out of our storage room to evoke the season. I do love the tradition of the Christmas tree. I love that it stems from an ancient practice of honoring life and anticipating spring during the winter solstice (the longest night of the year), now combined with elements that symbolize my own faith tradition - the lights that represent the birth of Christ. The side of me that rebels against the "institution" of church loves putting up my tree knowing that the Puritans banned them. I love that I bought this particular "tree" on the side of Avenue Pan-American, that it's painted white instead of green and that it's fixed into a recycled milk can with concrete. I love that my ornaments are all local and handmade. And I love the way it looks at night when all of the other lights in the house are turned off.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Morning After

In case you've ever wondered, that quote from 'The Sugar Islands' on the top left corner of our blog is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. We love being able to tell people that in four and a half years we've never had a security 'incident' here. Not one. Not even here in the "poorest country in the Western Hemisphere." Haiti is perceived by so many as a lawless, savage and dangerous place. That perception is fueled by the State Department, by the media (check this and this out for two especially over-the-top examples), by NGO and UN security restrictions and red zones. In reality, where I grew up in West Africa and nearly every other country in Latin America have much higher rates of violent crime - especially crime that targets foreigners.

We don't have a car -- I walk or take public transport to get around and Ben drives a motorcycle. We don't have a security guard. We try not to take unnecessary risks but we don't feel unsafe. Aside from unknowingly having my pockets picked a time or two in a crowd, we have never had any untoward experiences.

Unfortunately, that changed last night while Ben was driving a friend home. They passed a group of street kids fighting at Place St Pierre, across from the cathedral. One threw another one in front of Ben's moto and he wrecked on top of the kid. After they pulled the bike off of him (the kid was fine, more or less), five of them jumped Ben. His pockets were emptied and he gained a long razor blade slash in the leg while another one took off on Ben's moto. The moto came back, thank god, and Ben went to the police (stationed one block away). They shrugged.

(We've put a temporary block on Ben's phone number until he can replace his phone, so use email if you need to reach him).

It feels pretty icky. Hopefully, it won't also feel like tetanus.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

bits and pieces of a weekend on the farm





new rock pathway planted with mint and nasturiums // good morning // watercress // fog // fancy a wash? // honey and honeyhive orange // seren (dew) // pine firestarter // farm // horse shit makes great compost

Monday, November 19, 2012

Changes II

“I like to live in the sound of water, in the feel of the mountain air. A sharp reminder hits me: this world still is alive; it stretches out there shivering toward its own creation, and I’m part of it. Even my breathing enters into this elaborate give-and-take, this bowing to sun and moon, day and night, winter, summer, storm, still—this tranquil chaos that seems to be going somewhere. This wilderness with a great peacefulness in it. This motionless turmoil, this everything dance.” - William Stafford

Over the weekend, Ben and I began moving into a tranquil off-the-grid cottage in the mountains above Port-au-Prince.

We've been desperately in need of change that will ground us to the earth, to god, to more simplicity, intention and space. Our lives in Port-au-Prince have become too busy, too plugged in, too full of politics and constant reaction to crisis. We have become overly judgmental and cynicism has crept into our work and our relationships in unhealthy ways.

Thus, for at least the next six months we'll be living in Kenscoff on a farm and eco-preserve that is only accessible by foot. The land belongs to a dear friend, and we'll be helping her make plans for it, work it, grow in it and build on it.

We will be living in a lush, foggy, quiet, bio-diverse wonderland where there are birds and butterflies and frogs that sound like tinkling bells. We will have a pet horse. We will wake up to this view every single day:

Meanwhile, Ben will continue to work as a photographer and I will continue to work for Other Worlds, but part-time. We've found a roommate for our house in Pétionville so that we can still have a place to stay down the mountain when needed.

We don't feel tired anymore. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Thinking about changes we need to make 
 for more balance, space and spiritual grounding in our lives...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lots of Avocados

...that we didn't have to pick ourselves, because the storm did it for us!

In all seriousness, though, it's bad news 'round here. The storm had a devastating impact on displacement camps. See: Reflections on Hurricane Sandy. And on agriculture. See: Storm damages crops in Haiti, fueling food price woes. As to be expected, four consecutive days of rain has also already caused a spike in the number of reported cholera cases.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Sandy, can't you see, [we're] in misery..."

When John Travolta sang about Sandy, he was stranded at the drive-in. I'm stranded at home without Ben, who is in NYC, but with extra water, propane, gas for our little generator and the company of Luna and a houseguest. I am not, like so many, in a displacement camp, or on a precarious hillside, or living on the bank of a river.

Port-au-Prince is wet and cold. It's been raining for more than 72 hours, and forecasted to continue to rain for at least the next day. Schools, businesses and the embassy are closed. Many towns and villages in Haiti's south are flooded, as are low-laying parts of Port-au-Prince. Sandy has caused landslides, bridges to wash out, and power outages. Rivers are surging their banks. Homes have collapsed. Fields of crops have been wiped out. So far, 16 people have lost their lives.

I know it's frivolous to compare this storm to the 1978 soundtrack of a teen's breaking heart, but we are all sitting and wondering why-y-y the rain won't stop.

This is the River Grise in Croix-des-Missions, on the northern edge of Port-au-Prince:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

poverty problem

It's Saturday morning, and here are five calls we've received so far today:
  • A community organizer that lives - or lived - in a displacement camp. Last night, in the middle of the night, the landowner sent guys in to light the camp on fire and forcibly evict all of the families living there. There was shooting (though no-one was injured) and violence. They don't know where to go or what to do.
  • A young photographer friend who recently published photos of a couple gang murders in his (rough) neighborhood. Since then, the gang has been after him. Last month they tried to grab him and ended up shooting him in the hip. Yesterday, they kidnapped his little brother. 
  • My friend whose daughter has undiagnosable mental issues and other teenage daughter just had a baby. The friend's blood pressure is so high that she has fainted several times in the past few days and hasn't been able to see a doctor.
  • Another friend who has been homeless since the earthquake, and is afraid that she is about to lose the space that that she and her family have been renting for their tarp shelter. 
  • The man who sells toilet paper, candles and crackers across the street needs to borrow money because his business is floundering and he has to pay his kids' school fees.

In Haiti tragedy after tragedy occurs as a lack of infrastructure, security and the basic services (like: affordable healthcare and education, housing, a functional JUSTice system...) that every single human being deserves.

The longer we live here, the more frequently we are called upon in times of crisis. Each and every time, we feel helpless. We can connect friends to human rights organizations or to journalists. Sometimes we can provide transportation or some money or help to fill out an online form. Sometimes all we can do is care. It never feels like enough.

Today is one of those (many) days that I am angry. Unreasonably angry that I - with my lack of resources and practical skills - am called upon again and again to meet needs that I cannot meet.

This is not just a Haiti problem. It is a poverty problem. It is the problem with an unjust economic system wherein so much wealth is concentrated among so few, while the majority on this planet face a life of grinding poverty and hardship. It is a problem of humanitarian organizations spending thousands of dollars on landscaping when people can't see a doctor or pay school fees. It's a global problem. And, like it or not, we're all a part of it somehow.


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