Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rain is water

Two blogs in two weeks. My brain hurts just thinking about it. But if one is  anyplace that has weather, then there is  something to talk about. As I prepare to head back to Haiti, Canada is showing her finery... mountains of multi colored leaves carpeting sidewalks and lawns. And they weren't shed  a minute too soon because last week's snow gave a preview of the winter to come.

In Haiti, a different story. After more than a week of no communication from staff, I finally got through by phone last night. Auguste is sick - most unusual, but his immune system like so many others, has been compromised by the Chikungunya virus. Other opportunistic invaders have seized the day.

With Auguste temporarily out of commission,  it falls to our security coordinator Dieugrand to be the liaison between Sen Rafayel and Cap-Haitien. Up and down the mountain every week in a taptap. For the last month that trip in an open vehicle has been made more uncomfortable and dangerous due to the return of the rainy season. On our last trip to Sen Rafayel before I returned to Canada, it rained. Sen Rafayel is used to rain. It comes fast and furious, destroying gardens, washing away soil, rocks, anything in its path. Heavy rain slows everyone and everything. We're never in a hurry on the mountain . Some of the taptaps which shuttle people and goods up the mountain had pulled off the track to wait it out.

Riding inside is a luxury which costs more.
Supplies such as rice purchased for resale in the village, are ruined.

Every public transit vehicle is always packed, with passengers
hanging off the end.
But Cap-Haitien has been a different story. With no rainy season for 2 years and dry wells everywhere, it seemed as though Nature had bypassed us. Not so.

                      Poor donkeys -- always urged to do more than is physically possible.
Coming into town, the pace picked up. Business as usual. The difference between the haves and have nots is  evident. So many needing to get someplace but with no shelter. Donkeys mingled with push carts and motorcycles. 

The men pushing and pulling the cart go barefoot.
 They work as hard as the donkeys, doing that which seems impossible
for a few pennies.

Roadside signs (above) are printed on canvas.
When the wind picks up, they're gone (below)

RAIN IS WATER. For those who have no access to running water, it is an opportunity to shower.
Although I did not know it at the time, this was the beginning of the long overdue rainy season.
  (In addition to not being a writer, I am also not a photographer. Those blurry objects are  windshield wiper blades and bits of car hood. All pictures taken from inside a moving truck.) 

Running water, no matter how dirty, is a chance to shower. 
One temperature only - cold.

Rain is also an opportunity to get clean and play soccer at the same time.

This young girl took advantage of the rain to shovel
garbage from the street into the fast moving gutter.

A month of heavy rain and thunderstorms has made life very difficult. At least 6 of our kids have lost their housing due to severe flooding. Auguste knows of 7 people (adults and children) who have been killed. Mold and mildew are growing everywhere, bringing more illness.  Waterborne illnesses are  reemerging. Once it stops, mosquitoes will renew their relentless quest to spread Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya to as many as possible.

For the time being the garbage smells are masked by water. But that won't last. Even the rats are hiding. But that won't last.

                                              Garbage and rainwater - a noxious soup.

Day 1 of a month of rain. Inside a katye popile

Whether inside a katye or on a main  street, shelter is anything that gives 
some coverage.

For the second week,  schools  are closed. They did just open last month but the real threat of flooding, mud and rock-slides makes it a prudent decision.  School closure means our drop in centers are busier. In Sen Rafayel, it will keep those who live on the other side of the river away. 

Today is Remembrance Day. My dad was a vet from WW II. My mom died on Nov 11, 2009.   I appreciate a day given to memories and celebration of courage. There are so many battles in life, some personal and some that make the front page or go viral on the internet. Rain in Haiti isn't big news. The battle to survive on this planet is often relegated to a statistic.

Statistics have  faces.  We can't fight the elements, but we can be present and be witness to the struggle. We can put names to the faces. And we can make a difference - even if its  one at a time.

"Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing
economic growth...these are one and the same fight.
We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity,
energy shortages, global health, food security and 
women's empowerment.
Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all."
(Ban Ki-moon)



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