Tuesday, August 17, 2010

World Cup a Welcome Distraction in Tent Living

At Delmas 18, Mesye Louis Jean tells of the aftermath of the EQ and his personal loss. He is able to forget, for a little while, with the televised broadcasts of World Cup soccer.

Biznis as usual since Jan. 12 - except this family had to relocate to a tent site. Few here work in the "formal" sector, but all manage to degaje. Louis-Jean, and his aunt, baby cousin and in-living household help, cousin Dieula help Aunt Marie Ange selling staples and dry goods from the "salon," a small tent connected to a larger sleeping space visible here. Fresh eggs are sold, as well as a variety of merchandise and even "donated" cereals dispensed by NGOs - some of which do not understand that CARRYING, transporting, schlepping and distributing stuff is traditionally a money-making activity, going back to freed slavery days. Louis-Jean and Dieula will carry boxes of supplies and Auntie handles the retail. I ask about the price of rices, diri peyi and diri Miami.
The imported rice is lots cheaper than diri peyi --- but this is hardly news. Toma (again) explains to me about "Haitian dollars" - which don't exist, but are a term of reference, and goudes, the official unit of currency. In speaking, Haitians invariably give you the price of stuff in Haitian dollars; I invariably struggle with the math, especially in this climate, in this rather warm - shall we say "warm?" - tent. So, here goes: You multiply the dollars by 5, and get goudes, then you divide by 40 (a generous evaluation of the goudes to the US dollar) and you get the US dollar value...hopefully. Toma and Klo are always reminding me that at the bank, you don't get 40 goudes for your remitted dollar, it is, say, 39 or even 38, they say. But I like round numbers, especially in warm tents.

So, what does rice cost? In the city it is often 30$HD or 150 goudes
(3.20 US; 3 or 4 meals for small family, so ~ 1.00/meal) for about a large coffee can full of rice (Called a gwo mamite, this is a standard unit of measure in Haiti, equivalent to say about 3 lbs.)

I'm reeling and it is not just the heat, because this is about $1.00 per pound for rice - and varieties cost that much at stores in Palo Alto, California - not exactly a low rent district in the U.S.

An early game in the World Cup blares happily over the hubbub of our visit. Louis-Jean and I are fou de futball, fanatik

Baby cuz sleeps through it all.

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