Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Few are aware of the impact and extent of destruction in the remote hills of Haiti, Zoranje zone, 6eme seksyon Leyogan. No flooding but high winds, mud blocking the paths and recently-created road, stranding the community for more than a week. The River Momance ran high, so route to Dabon was impassable. Livestock, roofs, homes gine. No loss of life, just the challenge for the living to go on, and pick up the pieces.

Travay agronome - Bos Andre, agriculture technician at work

Before the storm, in August, Bos Andre and our neighbors loaded up compost, kaka bet from Liswa's mule park and built a pepinye a l'air - a raised-bed nursery for seeds.  They put in tomatoes, beets, peppers and...success!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Living Proof

"If people fall, can they not also rise?
If they break away, can they not return?
The stork in the sky knows when to migrate,
the dove and the swallow know the season of return.
What human instinct knows the time to trun back?
What cue sparks the conscience of the soul?
We pray to sense this day anew,
attuned to the call of sacred living."

Poem inspired by verses in Jeremiah 8:4,7 -
by Rabbi Elyse Frishman,
in Mishkan T'Fillah, a Reform Siddur

Kreyol (Gras a ed Google)

Si moun tonbe, ka yo pa tou monte?
Si yo kase asosyasyon yo, ka janm ka tounen?
sigòy a nan syèl la konnen lè emigre,
pijon an ak vale a konnen sezon an tounen-an.
Ki sa ki ensten imen konnen tan an trun tounen ankò?
Ki sa ki Replik etensèl konsyans la nan nanm nan?
Nou priye sans jou sa a ankò,
adapte a apèl la nan k ap viv sakre. 

Si moun tonbe, ka yo pa tou monte?
Si yo kase asosyasyon yo, ka janm ka tounen?
sigòy a nan syèl la konnen lè emigre,
pijon an ak vale a konnen sezon an tounen-an.
Ki sa ki ensten imen konnen tan an trun tounen ankò?
Ki sa ki Replik etensèl konsyans la nan nanm nan?
Nou priye sans jou sa a ankò,
adapte a apèl la nan k ap viv sakre. "
Open in Google Translate

Francais (gras a Google):
Si les gens tombent, peuvent-ils pas aussi augmenter?
Si elles se détachent, ne peuvent-ils revenir?
La cigogne dans le ciel sait quand à migrer,
la colombe et l'hirondelle connaissent la saison de retour.
Quel instinct humain sait le temps de trun retour?
Que cue sparks la conscience de l'âme?
Nous prions pour détecter ce jour nouveau,
l'écoute de l'appel de la vie sacrée ».
Kreyol: (Gras a Google)

Si moun tonbe, ka yo pa tou monte?
Si yo kase asosyasyon yo, ka janm ka tounen?
sigòy a nan syèl la konnen lè emigre,
pijon an ak vale a konnen sezon an tounen-an.
Ki sa ki ensten imen konnen tan an trun tounen ankò?
Ki sa ki Replik etensèl konsyans la nan nanm nan?
Nou priye sans jou sa a ankò,
adapte a apèl la nan k ap viv sakre. "
Open in Google Translate
Open in Google Translate

Friday, July 8, 2016

Today, I Read Rene Depestre in Cranston, Rhode Island

Today, July 8, I read Rene Depestre.

After a week living here with my Haitian Diaspora family, I came across Depestre's poem, Black Ore

Years ago, back when I was still filing papers that had anything to do with the Haitian experience, I had saved it. A paper copy, it shocked me, enthralled me, haunted me these many years.

It is an English translation, of Haitian-born Rene Depestre's poem Mineral Noir (1956) - the closing lines of which have a strong ring of truth today, July 8, 2016. 

Today, July 8, a black sniper killed at least 7 white policemen
Today, in Dallas.  
Today, in a fury against excessive police brutalities - no, let's not gloss over this, against two murders, two murders of African Americans by uniformed police. 

Today, in Dallas, untrammeled hate rose up.  
Seven policemen dead, a dozen police injured.  The bystanders are no longer innocent, they are witnesses. 

A nation scarred.  A nation scared.

Is there a way to understand?  To assimilate, to digest these events?

To understand demands the impossible: to re-live centuries in a black skin. 

Despestre's words demand: 

Mûris ton grisou dans le secret de ta nuit corporelle
Nul n'osera plus couler des canons et des pièces d'or
Dans le noir métal de ta colère en crues.

"Bring forth your explosive secret body (of) night,
Never again will any dare to cast cannon or coins
From the black metal of your overflowing rage." 

The past week had begun with fireworks at a beach here in Cranston where mine was almost the only white face to redden in the sun.  

Then, a police murder of a young black man in Louisiana, followed by another horrific police killing, witnessed at closest range by a young woman and her child.  She, sitting next to the murdered black man in their vehicle...the 4 year old in the back seat.

And the harsh - to say the least! - harsh, brutal, barbaric treatment of the woman and daughter by the police in the aftermath.  She, on her knees, hand-cuffed.  Her daughter crying out, "Mommy, Mommy, don't worry, I'm here."

This I know:  if it had been me, in my white skin, an ambulance would have arrived at the sound of the bullet.  A PTSD medic would be there.  My daughter would be wrapped in a blanket.  I would have accompanied the slain man, my boyfriend, in an ambulance, not in a police car.

And then, July 8. The...? revenge?  untrammeled rage, penalties, exacted by a black sniper, an Army veteran, lashing out at police during a peaceful protest of the week's police murders. The protest and the sniper held forth in downtown Dallas.

In a sensical translation of Mineral Noir as Black Ore, (or better, Black Gold?)
I read Despestre's fearsome words of more than half a century ago:

"For centuries it has been going on, the extraction
of the riches of my race...
How many pirates have probed with their weapons
The hidden depths of your flesh
How many privateers have hacked their paths
Through your body's rich vegetation of light
Burying your lifetime under piles of dead stalks
And ponds of tears
Despoiled (ravaged) people, people harrowed and heaped
Like earth under the plow
People stripped bare for the profit
Of the great fairs of this world..."

I read, and re-read Despestre's poem.

And yet...

I do not feel that all the understanding one can summon up today, July 8, will ever be able to bridge the hatred, the horror, that has erupted this past summer, 2016.

Monday, June 13, 2016

If Pigs Could Fly - Haiti cooks for the schools!

Our school snack program started out as Mamas Makin' Mamba.  When peanuts were cheap and plentiful, our crew of 6 would roast, grind, smash, stir and beat up fresh peanut butter and serve on locally-made kassava bread or biskwit (kind of like hard tack from the whaling days!) 

Madame Vab has been part of our team since 2001.  She helps transport materials by donkey (or  more recently motorcycle!) She is involved at all levels of the operation: purchasing raw materials, transporting, cooking and serving.
Recently, the price of peanuts has made this effort impractical.  The team decided to fall back on a very traditional - and popular - snack of fried dough, patay. They put a bit of stuffing (green onions, watercress and sometimes anchovy paste or dried fish) inside and fry the dough in a deep fat fryer.  Fried food is considered a delicacy; most food is boiled...and boiled and boiled.
Children at one of the two schools we serve, La Silen.

Ti Eli starts preparing the dough
Ti Eli's strong arms are useful for rolling out batch after batch of dough.

Madame Kawolis distributes the fried dough to a class of
older students at Silen.
Men anpil, chay pa lou. (Many hands make light work.)  Our team is at it from early dawn. That's Gran Dodo in the rear, supervising the team.  She's been part of the effort since 2001.

The warm fried dough is all most children will get before they return
 home at noon.  Most start on an empty stomach.  Wood, water, fire and something to put in the pot all must wait until family members have assembled the necessaries.  There is no refrigeration here, and, indeed, very little is left-over from an evening meal to keep until morning.

Ti Jordi sits with his buddies.  There is a pre-school, as well as several small classes for elementary students.  Typically, older youth have their classes in the afternoon.

Everyone is pretty happy in Silen's primary grades.
Currently, this school feeding program, the veterinary care project and the access to water effort are the three main areas of our work in the mountains above the plain of Leyogan.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Problem at the Pump! Help Keep us Afloat on Mon Bouton

"If Pigs Could Fly - Haiti" 's BIG collaborative effort with the community has been the solar powered pump system, designed to improve access to water at a distant - down and distant - spring.

Water is pumped up from the Ouache Ouache - "Wash Wash" (!) to a cement tank  (shown in later photos) closer to households sprinkled on the hillside.  Is this a time-saver?  Maybe.  But, it is definitely a calorie saver! The women and children who are the usual water bearers do not have to expend as much energy to bring water to their homes.  In this region, where food is not taken for granted and harvests are uncertain, malnutrition is rife.  Our team is tackling the food crop issue as well, with irrigation hoses running to a small vegetable garden. Pumping water uphill is more than effective, it has been life-changing.

That is, until rust began eating away at one of the pumps.  We need to get a replacement.  Yesterday.

All of us will be grateful to all of you if you can Go Fund Me so's we can get another pump from Shur Flow on Amazon for $600.00 and schlepp it as a carry on next month!

Our "Water Master," Nelis, on his TDY, checking the two panels and pumps.
Nelis displays the pump with a rust problem. It's serious. Very.

Nelis investigating the second pump

Testing, testing, testing

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Song of Songs

"Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me."

My beloved is mine and I am his;
    he browses among the lilies.
My beloved spoke and said to me,
    “Arise, my darling,
    my beautiful one, come with me.
 See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
 Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have stolen my heart…
Until the day breaks
    and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
    and to the hill of incense.

(Song of Songs, 2:16, 3:6, 4:9, 16)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pig Does Not Fly in Haiti

Sunset in Mon Bouton

A source of peace comes at sunset here in the mountains. Skies fade from turquoise, orange and fiery reds to purple. Palm fronds frame the scene spectacularly, sharp and distinct. If I step out on the promontory near Sove’s house, I can see Gran Riviere, I can follow it towards Leogane, I can see, far away, the lights that are - that can only be - Poprens, the capital.

I look forward to this time. Looming black birds - Sonel tells me they are “hawks” - begin caw-cawing —children are playing (still!) noisily in the flat yard. I hear the singing, from down the tricky path from the latrine, through the igname, sweet potato vines, huge manyok, taro leaves and fallen banane.

Free of burdens, the girls are strong and their voices rise to meet the top of the kokoye.  Their bare feet pummel the dust as they jump rope, an de, twa ansanm, the three youngest girls vie for first place.  First Dieula, then Wozanna, then Jezi.  An, de twa, an de twa.  Nana joins in, breaks the rhythm, all giggle.  Ou pedi, ou pedi!  You lose!

Drawn by their chants and giggles, I carefully descend the path.  It’s a hazardous descent - I must not fall - but worth the effort. I am party to their childhood, in the hills of rural Haiti; it’s is a surprise to me and I feel honored. Golden tinctured moments few others share, with the families in the mountains.

But of course, the girls want photos, want to see themselves, and I get to share in their squeals, their delight.

The boys jump in as well - well, maybe not as well.  One after another, they rotate as rope turners and jumpers, just as I remember from my own girlhood in Brooklyn, New York.  There, we played on cement, on hard pavement, watching out for cars. A world away, light years. One, two, three…A my name is Alice…

There is only a little light left now, and the children reluctantly leave off their games.  Squabbling, who won the most, who jumped the most, who lost. Jezi grabs the rope, winds it on her arm. They scatter, down to Kay Madame Jean, Kay Gistav, up to Kay Sove’s. 


Jaden pou toulemonde!

Kiltivate Premye Klas!
Last summer we sowed the seeds...er, cleared the land, readied the soil, burned some brush and followed Mesye Nelis, first-class gardener and tiller of soil in our mountain zone.

Gwo gwo betrav!
Gwo gwo chou!
The cement tank, storing water from the spring, does need maintenance and cleaning. Nelis monitors and maintains water quality and smooth running of the apparatus.

Met Toma arranges the flexible solar panels and adjustable tripods.

Carrots, among other vegetables, need reliable watering.  For that, Mesye Nelis tapped into our tank, our solar powered pumps, and some 400 feet of kawachoute, aerated hose as well...

And everyone works, everyone helps, young and old.
Hard worker, hungry worker
Input from the mountain community

Ti Eli is a valuable member of our team

Gran Dodo gets it done!

Everyone works, mwen menm tou!