Friday, August 26, 2011


She's got the whole world in her hands - where are you in her future?


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011


He knew well our people in rural Haiti...

Sadly, there's little that's changed since Brother Langston's 6-month sojourn there, in the 1930's.

There is so much misery in the world,
So much poverty and pain,
So many who have no food
Nor shelter from the rain,
So many wandering friendless,
So many facing cold,
So many gnawing bitter bread
And growing old!

What can I do?
And you?
What can we do alone?
How short a way
The few spare crumbs
We have will go!
How short a reach
The hand stretched out
To those who know
No handshake anywhere.
How little help our love
When they themselves
No longer care.
How thin a blanket ours
For the withered body
Of despair!

Our community's needs and development are now supported by Facebook Causes Page: IF PIGS COULD FLY - HAITI! 

Thank you for reflecting on this post.  If you would like to help the community in the mountains of Haiti, please start here:


Haiti Works.  Indeed.

This countryside, this part of Haiti at least, the mountains, have been where maroons, and descendants of maroons, ran to, quitting the plantations before - and after - 1804. It was, and still is, harsh life.

And yet, today, the countryside in Haiti will not rise up for change, as did many countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Why not?

For one thing, folks are way too busy to have any "leisure time" to rebel or join forces. For that, you have to be in the city, where folks are better fed. Why?

'Cause the city's where the food is, where the options - if not opportunities - are. options, chances - you can take your chances. Every day is a risky business but in the city you can carry water for someone, you can shine shoes, be a peddler, you can empty the slop jar you can be a bodyguard or threaten someone so's they'll hire you to be their "Security"!

In the city, chances can be taken. In the countryside, there's no time for that. You plant, you sekle can lend a hand?



They share - why not you and I?
Video, link below, is in Kreyol, but you will understand everything, pictures speak volumes.

They share - why not you and I?

This video is in Kreyol, not yet translated. The two children are cousins. The larger girl lost a father, her mother has 6 children including a new baby. Pastor Dieudonne is doing his best - these are part of his extended family. Very extended.

So yes, the video, link above, is in Kreyol - but, let me know get it?

They share - why not you and I?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reading "The Blue Sweater," Writing "The White Shmate שמאַטע*"

Work in progress.

Reading, excoriating Jacqueline Novogratz' "The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World."

Will there be interest, I wonder, in a sequel, "The White Schmate שמאַטע:  Blood from Stones and Sharing the Pie in Haiti"? 

For those of you - Haitians and friends of Haiti not familiar with Yiddish - that is, for Haitians not from Brooklyn nor the greater metropolitan New York area, the word "שמאַטע  - shmate"  means "rag." 

There  are other differences between Jacqueline's book and mine.  Her's is published.  Mine's not written.  Her's sells, people buy it, libraries stock it.  On the other hand, if you are reading this, well, it’s a start.

Ah, so then. There is nothing new under the sun...perhaps.

I did not find a long-not-lost-but-donated sweater.  Instead, in Haiti I found children in bits of remnants and rags.  I found women washing bits of remnants and rags.
 I found children sporting torn baggy pants, crotch-less legging pants, girls in garish skirts over pants, and kids with no pants. 

Do I say I found bits and pieces of a heart, that heart, mine, that I did not recognize? yes, beating, yes throbbing, yes here, alive.  Now,

Neighbors. Ah, now, here they come – carrying 10 gallons of water on their heads, wearing logo’ed T-shirts that shout out It’s Community Day at Stanford... 

...and look, there’s one, Dance or Die, and another, The Negro Baseball League, now climbs up the Leukemia Foundation, and next a pink be-ribboned on demands Find a Cure!

Cotton shirts, cotton knits, juxtaposed with sturdy, lean, rippled, sinewy arms, chests, torsos, legs of runners, athletes, marathoners, then bare feet, the feet with thick soles that have no need for shoes, have never known shoes, invincible feet that fly over scorched rock and bramble, skip over glass and machetes and climb, and climb,  and speed higher and faster and faster than I  can.

No missing sweaters

Down outside of Darbonne, by the izin sik,  old sugar factory, a woman straddles cement at a pump, draws water into a bucket, turns.  I read:  Neiman Marcus.

No missing sweaters, no donated sweater with my name on it.  Instead, in Haiti, I found Dieula, the girl next door , Dieula and her sisters.  Dieula, one of the 6 girls next door – on the mountain of Mon Bouton, 4000 feet or so above the plain of Leogane.

I find her, she finds me, I find me.

Here she is, in her white shmate, her crowning glory of reddish hair – the kwashiorkor tint – nestled next to someone’s dropped blade of a machete.  

The white shmate gets washed and she has a spare, a faded green stretchy thing that she’ll pull down over her knees when she crouches in my doorway round about 6 a.m.  

Cold.  It's mountains here.

Dieula here.  Always waiting there. Always astonishing.  
Always striking the un-posed pose. 

Dieula always.

Always Dieula.



Indeed, music keeps everything going - from church chorals and whole congregations chanting, drumming, strumming, waving, writhing in prayer to field hands with MP 3 players and transistor radios - music and song is all over Haiti.

Sitting in a tap-tap stuck in the slow grind of traffic through the capital, the blare of music is a relief from tedium. If you are up front with the driver, you get a real loud earful, but what the heck?

It's what's missing here, back home.

"Serve God with joy; come into God's presence with singing," Ivedu - Psalm 120
"Get into the habit of singing a tune. It will give you new life and fill you with joy."  Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav.

 Our mountain ekip (team) was often worn out, I wore them out, the climb wears me out and after a day at the school and clambering over rocks measuring distances for solar panel placement, what else could you do

I'm missing this here, back home. I'm home, I am home right?

Dance or die!

"Morality for Beautiful Girls" and Mon Bouton, Haiti

I am often asked - no, I am always asked - why Haiti? Well, there was a confluence, a conspiracy it seems, of events, that led me to Haiti. But then, it became very natural, as A. McCall Smith's heroine of his series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana, puts it:

“She had often been out of pocket on a case simply because she could not refuse to help a person in need. This is what I am called to do, she said to herself. I must help whomsoever asks for my help. That is my duty: to help other people with the problems in their lives. Not that you could do everything. Africa was full of people in need of help and there had to be a limit. You simply could not help everybody but you could at least help those who came into your life. That principle allowed you to deal with the suffering you saw. That was your suffering. Other people would have to deal with the suffering that they, in their turn, came across.”

p. 116
Alexander McCall Smith
Morality for Beautiful Girls
New York: Anchor Books

Friday, August 12, 2011

WHAT WOMAN WANTS (GOD WANTS): Voices from the Mountains of Haiti

Prelude to Haitian Studies Association presentation, November 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Day in the Life - Mountain Home

Some days - most days - it was just like this. Languid afternoons. What food there was, was eaten. After that, we sat around and listened to music, kibbitzed - made small talk - charged cell phones and flashlights with small solar panels.

It's a "happening" place.

The sewing class was held here, Gran's is the place where the sewing machines are kept. The students were not careful and the machines were in need of repair. Sewing machine oil is on the shopping list.

In the video are: Evelor, mother of the new arrival, 2 month old Samuelson, Gran Dodo, Madame Karolis - she of the clean plate club - her oldest son and mainstay of the household, Ti Eli. With the radio glued to her head like teenagers everywhere is 14 year old Minooche. Gran's place is notable for its chicken coop and a demo site for the traditional skills of pounding rice from husks. The baby is feverish, Evelor has frequent headaches and they start to try and wean Samuelson with some mashed-up rice. Or something.

It can be a bit buggy here. Not sure if it's because of the chickens or the dog...fleas? I look the other way, neglect, ignore or habituate to the grime. I'm just here on vacation, after all.


Saturday, August 6, 2011


Indeed the world seems too much for me, too many helpless ones I can't defend...


Thank you, Malvina Reynolds, for the words and music that sing and rock me.  There's nothing more to write on this subject.

Thursday, August 4, 2011



It's summer in rural Haiti as well, but small groups of students assemble to continue their studies and preparations for the bac, the State exams that may enable some to continue their studies.

Their are few seats at the few public institutions of higher learning, and public does not necessarily mean that there are no fees, and certainly that no palms must be greased for a place. What the future holds for any of these successful youth remains to be seen; I know of one family whose son earned a place as a teacher in a government high school in Port au Prince. One other youth, shown in this clip, has ambitions to study medicine and start a clinic here in the mountain zone.

The tin roof is sweltering; rain brings some relief, but with the noise there can be no lessons nor discussion. A few battered tables have survived rains and hurricanes; the church pews must serve as desks and seats for 140 children during the academic year!

We had some visitors from Digicel this summer, who have promised to try to build a 6-classroom cement structure, with capacity for 250 students. Maybe next summer, we will see this...For now, all contractors are busy with the rebuilding in the city, and, as we were told, Digicel could build TWO schools in the coastal zones for the price of ONE school here in the remote mountains.

Still, it's worth it! Persistence like that shown in this clip merits support. This region has not seen a government presence since the French were dispensed with back in 1804. Indeed, the ancestors of these students built and defended Fort Kampon, another 1000 feet up rocky paths from this school.

Students, parents and teachers of this struggling community, I salute you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


The story: On the long, relentless climb up to Mon Bouton, young Evins held my hand a good part of the last rocky bit. In his other hand was his constant companion, a radio/MP3 player. That, and his cell phone, were just part of the incongruencies to grace my 5 weeks' stay this summer. Well, like everything else, you get used to it. Evins asked me if I like Jamaican music, reggae? At that point, 3500 feet or so, I could walk to anything that would keep me going, one foot in front of the other! The tune, "Prisoner" was GREAT, and quite in keeping with the fallen school, the collapsed church, the persistent lives that we encountered on the way up. Persistent, insistent lives.

I myself was captive, a prisoner too, this summer. But only for summer.