Teeter-totter

I permanently deserted and whole-heartedly committed to Haiti about a dozen times today. With every abandon there was a new joy; with every comfort a new irritation. And so it went, split right along the middle.

Before beginning my day I took the time to organize my room and to meditate. And all was right with the world. Then, in the morning, in the office, there was talk of earth houses and solar pannels and progress. I could all but smell the sweet scent of development. Excitement pulsed.

Only a few moments later I got sucked back into a political game, had to write several strategic and tactful emails (in French nonetheless; which has to be the most diplomatic and roundabout of all modern languages), and made the necessary calls and verifications with the locals so as to make sure to adhere to the local customs and not tread on any toes. A tiring pursuit for someone who enjoys professional informality. And so in my heart I left this mess to bubble and steam without me. Forget it, seriously, why invest time and energy into something so futile, I reasoned.

Nearer to lunchtime I was gifted a beautiful baby avocado tree, sitting proud and perfect on my balcony. It was just looking at me, leaves curled up into delicate, green smiles, inviting me to stay here and plant trees for many years to come. I was easily convinced; my bags were unpacked, my passports and suitcases tucked away. This was good, this was right, this was beautiful. With lunch time came the fresh, local and delicious foods that convinced me fully that I was happy and settled here. Tomatoes sprinkled with rosemary and scrambled eggs blessed with sea salt will do that to me. I was smiling again.

Early afternoon rolled around, and political massaging continued until I didn’t know if it’s a work event I’m planning for next week or the commemoration of the chefs of state of the most important nations under the sun. I had temporarily forgotten that less material wealth can often equal more pride and inflated egos. I was once again ready to leave this place seemingly full of peacock feather fluffing. Irritation ran high. Mentally, I was one foot out the door.

Ater some time I left the office and walked the short distance to my house. I needed to see about a broken water pump – the reason that recent showers and dish washing have been a cold water bucket-and-bowl event. While waiting for the repair guy to show up I sat outside and was thus invited to converse by a local who, I admit it, impressed me by his knowledge of Europe and especially by naming nearly all of the countries constituting former Yugoslavia. Then, we talked about whether or not it’s advantageous for Poland to join the Euro zone. My partner in conversation just happened to be there, and conversation just happened to flow and a little spark of interest and contentment in me burned a little brighter. That is until the repair guy showed up and started fixing the pump, and then the pump not working, and parts missing and waiting for the parts and needing to purchase more water to fill the bassin and more waiting and thus spending nearly 2 hours in the hot sun teasing our own shadows. I again decided that this place must be the biggest waste of time I’ve ever witnessed. Just then the adorable kids next door walked by and gave me big smiles, melting my heart along with the rest of my sweaty, hot self.

By that time however, I was tired, angry and hungry. My roommate wisely suggested we simply close our place down for an hour and get a bite to eat elsewhere. Over a beer and some pasta my strength returned to me and my thoughts turned again to motorcycles, guitars, hiking, beaches and sun. In short, to the pleasures of life I so enjoy here.

After dinner I headed home, but I was surprised to see a car full of people next to my front door. The repair guy had disappeared but these strangers were keen to speak with me. After pleasant introductions (they were family members of the house owner) we treaded into unpleasant waters concerning the rental of the house. Something about removing certain pieces of furniture, and exactly what we were paying for, and in general wouldn’t we like to pay some more. Voices were raised. More Haitians added their voices to the mix. My roommate showed up to defend our cause. I experienced a curious sensation as if I was distanced from all of the yelling and squabbling, and I was simply left to observe how sad the poverty-mentality really is. We’d already paid one month’s rent and now the managers were busy inventing ways we could pay some more before next month rolled around. Previous verbal contracts, respect and common human decency mattered little in light of scraping just-a-little-more. We argued some more in the gathering darkness. Someone forgot to point out amid the finger pointing that our precious life energy was currently being spent on this pathetic and disrespectful argument. How sad. I saw the starved birds flutter down after crumbs only to find pebbles and turn on eachother in frustration. I swore this wasn’t for me and that I was better off seeking higher ground.

I climbed the stairs into my home, and came inside to sit on my bed and write this note. While listening to the women’s sweet singsong voices discuss small and bigger nothings out in the street, I was tucking away for a delicious sleep. Only to do it all again tomorrow.

Today I committed, and refused to commit, to this place called Haiti, about a dozen times.

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