Today I am sick. I knew I was sick when I woke up, but I went to work anyway for two reasons: First, I am paranoid that people will think I’m faking, and second, I was really excited about the science lesson I had planned for this afternoon. Unfortunately, I felt so awful I asked if I could leave around 11:30 and was able to. I don’t know who covered my classroom. Since this morning, I had about 6 ounces of yogurt with the last of my homemade granola, and a banana from the students’ universal breakfast program. It is 4:30. I have no appetite whatsoever. It is unfortunate because food usually brings me joy (but fortunate because my weight is a few pounds heavier at this point than ever before) but of course it got me thinking about Haiti.
Haiti is an amazing, beautiful country being strangled of its potential. It was once one of the richest nations in the Western Hemisphere, and is now the poorest. Because of its equatorial climate, there is no reason it should not be growing and exporting mango, avocado, bananas, plantain, and so much more. In Haiti, nothing beats fried plantain with avocado according to my palate. Unfortunately, due to many factors but mostly bureaucracy, Haiti lacks crop rotation, fertile soil, and a method of mass export. Unfortunately many Haitians may eat the amount of food I ate today, or less, and not be “un-hungry” like me, just might not have the means to get more.
I was in Haiti only for one short week, primarily to teach knitting basics and leave knitting materials with people who took my class. This is what happened on one of my toughest days there. I woke up early to teach knitting for 2 and a half hours at Vilaj Karyib in Jakmel. I quickly ate a Clif bar and drank some water before the class. I thought I would have plenty of time to stop back for lunch since this class ended at 11:30 and my afternoon class at Jakmel Ekspresyon started at 4. I stashed another Clif bar and some water in my bag, just in case.
When the first workshop was over, I met with a friend at Jakmel Ekspresyon to get the key for my afternoon workshop. She had the key and a small group of friends with her. We chatted for a bit, then realized there was no water at Jakmel Ekspresyon. The reservoir was empty, which necessitated calling a water truck. Many homes and businesses have running water, but it is not a constant supply. When the water runs out, you need to pay to get a refill. A Haitian friend called the water truck and the others left me there to wait for it. The truck was on the way.
An hour later, the water truck showed up. It took at least an hour to fill the reservoir due to the truck continuously stalling out and getting restarted. They started it the way one starts a lawnmower, with a pull cord, but this was a shoelace or some other string that they attached just before pulling each time. The truck resembled a clear cement mixer filled with water, with a hose that extended into the homes or businesses they refilled. They also kindly sprayed the walls and floor of the first floor, essentially pressure washing everything to the outside. This water is non-potable, but is used for flushing the toilet, cleaning, or washing hands. The water truck left, and it was a bit past 2:00pm.
Then the pipes started leaking. I searched for buckets but only found one already half full with soap. I used it anyway. I found two more as I emptied that one outside, but I couldn’t figure out why water wasn’t collecting in them. Oh, they had a large hole drilled into the bottom of them. The place was filled with about an inch of water, the water we just paid for, I had a class soon with at least one person on crutches and it was slippery! My Toms (not recommended for third world countries) were soaked. I called the co-director of Jakmel Ekspresyon and asked him to come help me. He got there in about 40 minutes and plugged the leak, which had slowed considerably in that time.
By this time, I was getting hungry (still, unlike today). Everything was finally taken care of, cleaned up, and it was about 3:30. The only bad thing was that I didn’t bring enough materials with me for this workshop since I had planned to stop home, but now I wouldn’t have time. I was about to eat my Clif bar before the two hour class. I had taken off my water-logged shoes and set them in the sun. I then looked up, and the first workshop participants was there. I didn’t feel as though I could eat in front of him, not knowing whether or not he was hungry, and I didn’t have another bar. I suppose I could have offered to split it, but he didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak French or Kreyol. He did get the message across that I could go ahead and start early, and two of his friends showed up soon after.
Soon the class was full, and my belly was still empty. I felt like I was starving in a country that really knows what starvation is while I, and most Americans in my generation, have never actually encountered scarcity.