Monday, February 1, 2021

"Cell Phone Horror Story: Li mouri, li mouri!"

 "Oke, mwen li ti liv sa a"

Back in the days of flip phones comes this tale of resurrection, ingenuity and human intelligence. 

And also, of human stupidity. Ignorance. Blindness.

    I had been formally trained as a public school teacher. 

    I had been taught that if a student provided an answer (be it mathematical or grammatical) best practice was probing the student, i.e.“How do you know?? “How did you get the answer?"

I rigorously deployed this in Haiti. Science of knowledge. How do we know what we know?

So, One day after a hike, there was the disaster of the cell phone. It was back in those days of flip phones.  I had  forgotten not to wrap it carefully, double-bag it, in two plastic bags. It sat in a pouch my backpack on my back and…and  of  course, the rain came down and down. 

When I remembered, pulled it out the phone was dead! My Kreyol gropes for words, and I cry, “Li mouri, li mouri, li pati! 

But says Toma, in  deliberate slow, Kreyol, “Pa enkyete ou Madame Randy, li pa mouri - ou pral wè.”  “Don’t worry Madame Randy, it’s not dead — you’ll see.” 

Then, he pinched it and in front of my shocked eyes, soon had it in two pieces!  My heart is giving way, my stomach ready to heave…Now, I felt truly doomed, marooned! My phone was taken apart and my connection to the outer world gone, gone, gone before my very eyes! But Toma quietly says,  Gade sou glas la, ti boul sa yo? Oke, tout sa nou fè se, nou pral mete telefòn nan nan solèy la sou yon wòch epi ou pral wè demen bul yo pral ale.” “See on the glass, those little bubbles? Well, all we do is, we’re going to put the phone in the sun on a rock and you’ll see tomorrow the bubbles will be gone.”

He tears apart pieces of my phone and removed a tiny sliver of metal. He shows me, “And you see this,  Madame Randy?  This is your SIM card!” 

    Huh?  I had no idea what he was telling me. SIM card? It got worse as he explained,  “It’s all the information in your phone.” Even worse, as he tries to make me understand, “It’s the memory of your phone.” 


    All I could think was, I had lost connection with the outside world! I’m stranded, Robinson Crusoe…

But Toma says, “Pa enkyete w, Do not worry,” as he replacs the SIM card back into a slot, some slot, what do I know? And then closed everything up and… the phone was as good as new!

Ever the teacher deploying pedagogical skills, I probed “Toma, how did you know what to do? How did you know how to solve the problem?” Tools of the science of knowledge, indeed!“Well,” says he, “Madame Randy, You know when you buy a cell phone, it comes with a little book inside the box? Oke, mwen li ti liv sa a! Well, I read that little book!”

He had read the directions! I had not considered that at all.

    I was busy imputing arcane know-how, innate intelligence…Tools of the science of knowledge indeed! 

    Simply, it was that 6 or so years of what passed for schooling in these rural the mountains paid off! 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Technologies, Old and New! A World of Contrasts

We burn trees, we light candles, our kerosene lamps are made from discarded tin cans; we chase signals with a modem in the garden on a stalk of bamboo. And, by God, we got Light, Spunk and Spirit!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A World Beyond Haiti

The Deceptive Present, the Phoenix Year

- a poem by Delmore Schwartz (wish I could write like him, instead of to simply quote, and feel the resonance in my photos,  and try to illustrate)


As I looked, the poplar rose in the shining air
Like a slender throat,
And there was an exaltation of flowers,
The surf of apple tree delicately foaming.

All winter, the trees had been
Silent soldiers, a vigil of woods,
Their hidden feelings
Scrawled and became
Scores of black vines,
Barbed wire sharp against the ice-white sky.
Who could believe then
In the green, glittering vividness of full-leafed summer?

Who will be able to believe, when winter again begins
After the autumn burns down again, and the day is ashen,
And all returns to winter and winter's ashes,
Wet, white, ice, wooden, dulled and dead, brittle or frozen,
Who will believe or feel in mind and heart
The reality of the spring and of birth,
In the green warm opulence of summer, and the inexhaustible vitality and immortality of the earth?