Wednesday, Apr 1 2009
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Update from my sister in Haiti. Follow the link to her pictures.
I moved to Haiti. No really, I moved to Haiti. Most of you know this, but somehow it still hasn’t really hit me. Maybe it’s because I am still living out of my suitcases or maybe it is nature’s way of protecting me from shock. Or maybe, it’s really not that big of a deal.
Things are going well, freakishly well. I remember writing to my mom the first night I arrived in Haiti in 2007 and said “I think I am in love with this country”. Several months later I thought that I had never been more mistaken about a place. But like with most tortured relationships, I decided to leave a good thing and try it again. “Maybe this time it will work out…” So far, so good. It has been great easing back into things here. I’m not surprised by the day to day frustrations, I know what to expect from inter-agency processes, I’m realistic about what we can do in the short-term.
Port-au-Prince feels less tense these days. It doesn’t feel optimistic, but at least I don’t feel like things are going to explode at any given moment. Senatorial elections are coming up in mid-April so we’ll see how that goes. They are very contested and likely to be rejected by the largest opposition party (Fanmi Lavalas). The Security Council, the Secretary General and Bill Clinton came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Guess who everyone was excited to see? Poor Ban ki Moon…
What has been really interesting and important for me to realize is that UNIFEM has prepared me so well for this experience in every possible way. For that I am extremely grateful – from seeing the importance of participation and support to local communities to being sensitive to project management dynamics. It simply isn’t a given that everyone in the UN comes ready to be on that same page.
Things are good with my temporary roommate, Soraya. It’s nice to have someone that I know and can hang out with. It makes dinner out easy and TV time more fun. But, now I know for sure that I need my own space to be happy. I’m looking for an apartment and think I have found one that I really like. But since when did I have such expensive taste? This seems like a tangent, but Kathy (the head of the UNIFEM office here) gave me a little wallet a few months ago that I adore. It’s small, with a beaded veve on the front (a veve is the symbol for a voodoo loa). So I went to look at an apartment, loved the style and how the owner described the décor that she would put in. I took down her name and went home. It’s the same woman that made the wallet. She’s an artist and an interior decorator. No wonder I like the place. As of today, as long as security approves the apartment, I can take it. Wish me luck with the security check!
I’m still trying to sort out work related things. It is very different working under a “mandated directive” rather than development priorities. We have very little flexibility in choosing areas of work and partners. Everything we do is determined by the Security Council’s mandate on Haiti, from the number of projects to the focus of the work. In terms of substance, I think that my work at UNIFEM was more complex, but hopefully this can change over time. I am very fortunate to have a boss who is creative and encourages initiative. Anne Marie is still the standard-bearer when it comes to bosses, but I think I have been very lucky this time around too.
This week we went to the Lodge at Furcy, a German-style lodge nestled in the mountains above Port-au-Prince. The mountains are covered in pine trees and the earth is a deep red. It was very nice to be up above the hotter, more polluted air of Port-au-Prince. We took a long hike this morning and bought fresh mint. The owner is a hilarious American from Massachusets who has lived in Haiti for 37 years. And for the last 3 weekends (including when I was there) he has hosted President Preval and some of his advisers. Next weekend we are likely to go to the beach. As long as a person can afford it, the lifestyle here can be very nice!
But, it’s been hard being away from home and from my parents. Things are not good with my grandma’s health so being far from my mom and dad, and not being able to help or see my grandma has been frustrating. I miss friends, although I am lucky to know as many people here as I do. But nothing beats having dinner with people who know you… Here are some photos of my time so far. You can check periodically for more postings.
All my love,