Tag Archives: Blog edited by Ed Darragh

Back to Africa: Nigerian experiences

Visas

I was reminded of just what Nigeria is like when I visited the embassy in Dublin’s leafy upmarket Leeson Place in late June. The visa application office is in the basement of this beautiful old building and it has its own entrance ensuring Joe or Josephine Public is kept far from the embassy offices.

If you’ve ever tried for a Nigerian visa, then you’ll know just how frustrating and protracted it can be. The first time I went to Nigeria I was travelling from Liberia while working for an NGO and it took me five trips before I could gain entry to the embassy. On my fifth attempt, I managed to get my foot inside the door and once achieve, I refused to leave. And that was just to get the application form.

Most of the Nigerians who were queuing in Dublin had Irish passports and required a visa to go back ‘home’. On my first two visits I came well prepared with a book but so swift was my visit I over-paid the parking metre outside. On my third visit Sod’s Law kicked in – I forgot the book and spent my time feeding the metre as I waited for the diplomatic visa to be processed and issued.

On that last visit for the visa, I ended up waiting so long I needed the bathroom. To my surprise, (okay I’m being facetious), the toilets were actually located outside the building; something I don’t imagine exists anywhere else in Dublin in the 21st Century. The inside of the visa application office was reminiscent of a dole office anywhere in Ireland 30 years ago, before the Department of Social Welfare decided they needed to  smarten up and pretend to show a little respect for its clients. The carpet tiles were curling at the edges for the want of a cleaning and the walls hadn’t seen a lick of paint for many, many years. There were notices posted everywhere warning that verbal or physical violence would not be tolerated. Notices also threatened that if you even stopped your car outside the embassy gates for just one minute, you may forget about receiving any service. The Nigerians themselves were true to form and vocal about the treatment of ordinary citizen by their government. One Nigerian man commented that he had lived in Eastern Europe where government officials also “sat upstairs (referring to the embassy offices) scratching their arse.” His words, not mine. Another woman told us she was at the embassy every day at 9 a.m. for one week and came prepared with her lunch box. I have to say – there were more than a few chuckles that day.

Nigeria was just a wee culture shock from my previous posting in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, with its shiny towers, good public transport and general easy lifestyle. While the city of Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria, is in the heart of Africa, it’s quite unlike any other African city I know (outside most of South Africa).

Renting in the federal capital, Abuja

Abuja was created just 40 years ago to gather the country’s civil servants in one spot. A planned city with huge boulevards and motorways, Abuja is like many cities in West Africa, full of (thankfully) Lebanese restaurants and supermarkets and the bonus of it all, some South African supermarkets. The city empties at weekends as most Nigerian civil servants travel back to their villages and towns after the Muslim Friday prayers. This sprawling city has a shortage of accommodation so rent prices are equivalent to the astronomical rents paid in New York or Geneva. Abuja is also where the UN agencies have their country offices and where I’m based for the next few months.

Accommodation is something else and like Dublin there is a shortage of properties to rent. There are an awful lot of very wealthy property owners who exploit the ex-pat community and civil servants who frequently travel to the city. The first apartment myself and another newly arrived colleague went to look at was dingy beyond belief. You could hardly see the hand in front of your face it was so dark and the ceiling was particularly low – the one-bedroomed apartment was renting for US$1,500 per month. It was such a depressing environment I would have ended up on Prozac within a week, if I had chosen to live there. We ended up in a ‘super luxury apartment’ paying half of my salary in rent. To add insult to injury there is a further charge for laundry, with no washing machine in the apartment.  Super luxury the apartment ain’t, but what is luxurious are the number of Mercs and Lexus cars parked outside each day.   There seems to have been some very big party (possibly a wedding) at the complex and a 600SL (but what would I know about cars?), parked outside for a few days with the number plate ‘Emir of Zunu’.

Extreme sports

The one positive aspect of the accommodation is that it is within walking distance of the office and the footpaths are more than decent, ensuring walking is not an extreme sport as it can be in many other cities across Africa. I wouldn’t feel safe enough to walk the 3.2 kilometres home alone and do so only when I have company. Walking back to the accommodation in deep conversation one day there was beeping behind us and as we turned around to see a car travelling at about 20 kph up the footpath we had to scramble to the grassy bank to avoid being run over.

I hate assuming stereotypes, but patience isn’t a strong point for most Nigerians. Sitting with the work driver one day and waiting for the solar powered traffic light to turn green, there was a horn honking behind the first car to make the right turn at the lights. When the driver, respecting the rules of the road and the pedestrian crossing didn’t move, the honking-horn driver mounts the footpath and bypasses the cars waiting at the lights to turn right.

Transport around Abuja is reasonably cheap but like everywhere else cars are held together with pieces of string and rubber bands. They frequently break down at the side of the road, or sometimes even in the middle of the road, where they can be abandoned.

I’m still in the process of trying to find another Issac, my lovely taxi driver from Nairobi and so far I’m not having much luck – but I will continue to try. The office drivers are available for a few months to bring us in and out of work, but there’s the supermarket shopping at the weekends and the trips to Blu Cabana, a rather nice place so chill out of a Sunday afternoon – not that there’s much else to do on a weekend in Abuja.

Exchange

Sundays’ are not the day to change money, unless you want to chance your arm with the guys lining the street sitting on the chairs under the trees. The official exchange rate for the Naira is fluctuating like a yoyo and frequent trips to the moneychangers rather than the banks will render you a rate of at least 20 per cent better on the official rate. When I arrived early July 2016 there was 260 Naira to the US$ – on 30 July the rate went from 316 to 322 on one day! Black market rates on 29 July were 375 Naira to the US$. Not only will the dropping Naira help make rents cheaper, it will also keep the price of red wine very reasonable, well at least until stocks run out! Some of the best South African wines are available in Nigeria so there are a few great aspects to living here for a few months anyway.

Now work and B0ko Haram antics…. well, that’s a different blog altogether. So until next time, I’ll leave you with some of the photos.

Yours, Fagan.

Advertisements

‘Eye of the storm… before, during and after Typhoon Haiyan’

Disclaimer: These are my own opinions and I do not represent any organisation when expressing my views.  

Images from the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Typhoon Haiyan came in with a bang on 8th November 2013 and for many people in the Philippines, it killed their loved ones, blew away their homes and possessions and destroyed their livelihoods.

In the office we watched the weather systems as it approached, knowing it was going to be a big one and waiting for the disaster assessment teams to arrive from the relatively nearby regional office in Bangkok.  It’s a strange thing to prepare for something that’s inevitable and also knowing it’s going to wreak havoc along its path.  You imagine that if you started to believe there was a god and if you prayed hard enough, that maybe the storm would take a turn and travel in a different direction.  Alas. That didn’t happen.

Lying in bed on the Friday night in the comfort of my Manila apartment and listening to the wind as it howled outside, rattling windows and whistling, as it forced its way through the small gaps in the windows was frightening enough.  A couple of hundred kilometres away it was ripping up homes, blowing off roofs and causing mayhem and havoc on the millions of lives it touched.

The assessment team was booked on a flight to arrive before the storm hit.  Haiyan was expected at 7 a.m. but arrived a few hours earlier at 4 a.m. so the team flight was cancelled.  They were to travel with Government representatives trying to make it down to Tacloban before the storm struck.  They didn’t make it and in some ways, I’m glad. Nobody was safe in Tacloban and the team were much more useful being able bodied.

I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of a typhoon of this magnitude that could throw cars into the air and lift roofs off houses, as if they were Lego toys.  The wealthier people moved into hotels, while the people who lived in the wooden houses remained or moved to evacuation shelters and prayed. 

Back in Manila, phone calls from TV and radio stations around the world started to filter through.  Our head of office began taking the calls and when there were so many calls, I had to start doing the interviews as well.  David was in one office on to BBC while I was in the other office on the Al Jazeera – it was just a sign of things to come. 

One of the first interviews I did, was on Al Jazeera.  I’m in the middle of a live news bulletin and could hear the beep-beep of another call trying to come in, distracting me from the task at hand. Thinking it was the BBC calling for another interview, I was trying to cut them off when I cut myself off a live Al Jazeera news bulletin instead.  It was very embarrassing I have to say.  Two minutes later and this crazy pops up again trying to call.  “Can I ask who is calling,” says I.  “Ah I just saw you on telly and thought you were nice, I’m working on a oil rig,” comes the reply. 

God preserve us from the crazies in this life.  My first TV appearance came complete with my first potential stalker.   As I wished him a good night (not in such polite words), I hit the blocked button and continued on.

I think I spoke from 5 a.m. until 1 a.m. the following morning – it was non-stop.  We were trying to get information from the field to let the public know what was going on while trying to see what UN agencies had people already in place and how they could assist in the initial stages.  Communications were gone and only satellite phones were working and not very well at that. 

The tsunami-like surge wave that landed in Tacloban destroyed the town.  Tacloban is nestled in a bay with mountains around it so when the wind came in at 300 kph, the town acted like a funnel and forcing the wind into a much smaller, tighter space, multiplying the amount of damage it could cause.  Much of the pre-positioned stock to respond to the typhoon such as food and medicines were taken with the storm.  The wave, much bigger than anything that came with either the Banda Aceh in Indonesia or Japanese tsunami, caused untoward damage and brought many lives with it.

The OCHA team arrived within 12 hours of the typhoon and found scenes of absolute destruction, the town looked like a rubbish tip with bodies lying tangled and strewn on the streets. 

typhoon shipTeam leader, Sebastian Rhodes Stampa (SRS for short, or as I call him SMS), told us over a satellite phone how it was like the Indian Ocean Tsunami; boats were tossed around and came inland; roofs were gone from houses; houses were gone; poles and trees were uprooted; they were met with scenes of biblical proportions.  The World Health Organization had sent their driver and car before the typhoon struck and the driver watched as another car came careering across the road into the WHO car.  The driver was injured with flying glass and went missing in action, left without food and water, as the head of office Julie had search teams out looking for him.  The poor man was traumatised and had to return to Manila, when he was eventually found.

When the team arrived, the roads were so blocked they had to take a government heli from the airport to the town centre, a distance of 11 kilometres.  Water was contaminated by the surge of water; people had no food and began looting in the first day after the storm.

Within 12 hours the road was partially unblocked but the round trip from the town hall to the airport took six hours by truck, making the delivery of food impossible.  The airport closed down to commercial flights and the government delivered food by helicopter.  But we were only addressing the needs of one city. This typhoon travelled across thousands of kilometres and we needed to reach the people who were affected to ensure they were okay.

There were no communications, no access via road, no electricity, crops destroyed, housing demolished and airports in the four major cities hit, all closed down.  At midday on the Friday, while the storm was still raging, OCHA sent another team out by car to Tacloban and they arrived two days later to set up an office where we could work.  The first team that was dispatched ran out of water and were drinking rainwater on the second day after their arrival.  

It’s difficult sitting in Manila and reporting on something that you haven’t seen.  The Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Baroness Valerie Amos came to Manila on the Tuesday and went to Tacloban.  A small entourage went with her, the Humanitarian Coordinator, the head of the OCHA office, our head of security, Valerie’s assistant Nick and myself travelled in a small plane to see the extent of the damage. 

Fuel had run out so the rented car couldn’t travel and Nick and myself were left at the airport while the others went to meet government ministers trying to organise the response efforts.  Food was not getting through and there was a shortage of water. 

I took myself off around the airport speaking to people who were desperate to get out.  One woman I met, Sasha carried her baby, one-month old Isabella and was desperate to get assistance.  Isabella had diarrhoea and needed medical attention.  Elie, 69 was sitting on boxes with his crutches by his side, under an umbrella to protect him from the sun.  He lived alone and his son was in Manila, all he wanted to do was to go to his son.  Another woman was a university lecturer who had a cut on her hand and was very angry with me and angry with everybody.  She was entitled to that, she had just lost her home and all her belongings.  I asked her why she didn’t evacuate, as advised, she told me that they get so many storms every year, but nothing could prepare them for a super typhoon, the biggest storm ever to hit landfall.

People were upset that the response was not quick enough.  The response teams were equally frustrated tying to get flights in and finding difficulties getting goods into the airport, and out on the other end, with no fuel to transport the life-saving goods and equipment.

The Government had invited the Americans to take over the management of the airport and they closed it down the previous day while they moved in their own equipment and supplies.  Thousands gathered at the airport and ports trying to get out to safer havens where their relatives waited.  Limited commercial flights were up and running and the Americans were also transporting people out of Tacloban on C130 aircraft.

When we arrived in Tacloban I needed the bathroom, but there was nowhere to go so I held on for the others to return.  We had travelled on a small single-engine eight-seater plane, with no facilities.  When they arrived back Luiza, the Humanitarian Coordinator also needed the bathroom, so off she marches over the Cebu Airlines who were about to move the steps away from the plane in preparation for take-off.  Marches up the steps with herself and requests the use of their powder room.  It was hilarious.  The air steward radioed up to the captain as we boarded the flight for our ‘urgent request’.  It’s amazing what a UN tshirt will do for you!  I’m very grateful to the UN tshirt and the crew of Cebu Airways though.

It’s all a bit of a daze for me – days just fused into each other and I left the office at 1 a.m. some mornings, with a 6 a.m. pick up the same day to travel.  Valerie Amos went to Government, went to the global TV and radio stations, reported to the Secretary General, went without sleep to help unblock the obstacles that were preventing the delivery of aid. She is a force of epic proportions in her energy and commitment to relieve human-suffering and for that alone I admire her.

We could do a whole blog of Fagan’s bloopers on TV over the first week.  On CNN outside the Marriot Hotel I was asked “So why are you doing assessments?”  “Well, we get people the life-saving food and water, we need to see their needs.  Why, after all, would you provide somebody with an egg cup, when in fact they need an egg,” I replied.  Sometimes I wonder what is going on in my tiny little mind to come up with lines like that!

OCHA UNUSGValerie [Amos] came back for a second time this week and took off travelling across the country, hitching lifts on aircraft to get her back out to see what progress was being made.  The Canadians provided an aircraft for us to go to Roxas where we met the Governor of Capiz province.  From a population of 75,000 people, 57 died.  They had a very different storm from the one experienced in Tacloban, but 98 per cent of the buildings are partially or totally destroyed and most of the 75,000 people are without homes.  The future is pretty grim for some.

The Governor Victor Tanco, who met us at the airport and accompanied us along the route, is an incredible man.   He went on radio three times a day in the week prior to the storm warning people to go to evacuation centres and get out of their homes.  He has the hospitals and schools doing regular drills for evacuations for every occasion all through the year.  There was concern when we heard he ordered people to be jailed if they refused to evacuate from their homes, but ultimately Victor Tanco has to be hailed as a hero – he saved many lives. 

It was also good to see the Canadian military had set up in Roxas. So many [rescuers] went to Tacloban and with a population of 13 million affected or in terms of population, a country with more citizens than Portugal; focusing the world’s attention on the needs of just one relatively small area seems unfair when others also need assistance.

The typhoon struck on 8th November, so from 6th November we were working flat out.  This was the 25th typhoon to make landfall over the Philippines this year.  I have lost count of the number that required humanitarian intervention from the international community; there was conflict in Zamboanga and that is now largely forgotten, despite the great needs that remain: a bit of an earthquake that is now consumed by Haiyan ……and on it goes.  I thought that after Iraq and Somalia the Philippines would be a quiet life… how wrong could you get?

Yesterday, Saturday 23rd November I had a day off and went for a 2 hour massage, picked up a couple of bottles of wine, dropped them off home, went back out for another massage, returned, cooked dinner, had a glass of wine and went to bed at 9 p.m.

Today the sun is shining and I head to the gym before I go to the office.   I have three more weeks left in the Philippines before the end of the contract.  I just hope that Haiyan marks the end of the typhoon season and the Filipinos have time to catch their breath, mourn their dead and begin to rebuild their lives, before the next typhoon season takes off next year.

Until next time. 

Yours, Fagan

Orla Presser
Press briefing Friday 29th November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan – Orla Fagan Radio Reports from The Philippines

ORLA FAGAN HEAD SHOTOrla Fagan; Spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the PhilippinesFrom Al Jazeera News, VOA, Bloomberg, Financial Times, BBC World, CNN World, ABC Australia to Marian Finucane and Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1, Orla has been working around the clock bringing essential updates on one of the world’s greatest disasters  –  Typhoon Haiyan known locally in the Philippines as ‘Yolanda’, live from the UN / Humanitarian Mission offices in Manila.

Orla Speaking to  Sean O’Rourke Wednesday 13th November 2013 [Travelling with Valerie Amos UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator   in Tacloban]

Click on pic to listen [Duration 08:05]
Click on pic to listen
[Duration 08:05]      
Orla Speaking to  Sean O’Rourke Monday 11th November 2013

Click on pic to listen IN 01:02:00
Click on pic to listen
IN: 01:02:00

Orla speaking to Marian Finucane Sunday 10th November 2013

Click on pic to listen  IN: 58:53
Click on pic to listen
IN: 58:53

Orla speaking to Marian Finucane Saturday 9th November 2013

Click on pic to listen  IN: 37:20
Click on pic to listen
IN: 37:20

TYPHOON HAIYAN -  father by tent in ruins

Dazed survivors of a super typhoon that swept through the central Philippines killing an estimated (unconfirmed) 10,000 possible deaths and millions of people left begging for help and scavenged for food, water and medicine, threatening to overwhelm military and rescue resources.  * Death toll could rise once isolated coastal villages are reached. * Roads, airports and bridges destroyed. * U.S. sends Marines and sailors to help.  The government has not confirmed officials’ estimates over the weekend of 10,000 deaths, but the toll from Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, is clearly far higher than the current official count of 2400. The Armed Forces in the central Philippines  reported a death toll of 942.

http://www.independent.ie/world-news/typhoon-survivors-beg-for-help-philippine-rescuers-struggle-29743547.html

Bodies litter streets as at least 2400 killed by Typhoon Haiyan –  latest report say the number dead may increase.

RESCUERS in the central Philippines counted thousands dead and many more injured today, a day after one of the most powerful typhoons on record ripped through the region, wiping away buildings and levelling seaside homes with massive storm surges….. read on…..

http://www.independent.ie/world-news/asia-pacific/bodies-litter-streets-as-at-least-100-killed-by-typhoon-haiyan-29740182.html

CLIMATE CHANGE CAN NO LONGER BE IGNORED

The typhoon that struck the Philippines produced an outpouring of emotion on Monday at United Nations talks on a global climate treaty in Warsaw, where delegates were quick to suggest that a warming planet had turned the storm into a lethal monster….read on….

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/world/asia/typhoon-in-philippines-casts-long-shadow-over-un-talks-on-climate-treaty.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

RTE GALLERY OF TYPHOON PICTURES

typhoon ship

coastal shot

see more here….

http://www.rte.ie/news/galleries/2013/1112/486112-typhoon-haiyan-strikes-the-philippines/

AID URGENTLY REQUIRED DONATE HERE

https://www.unicef.ie/Monthly-Donation-47.aspx?gclid=CPj8o4OV5LoCFQo72wod-yUAqA

Related articles

Blog Edited by Ed Darragh for Orla Fagan in the Philippines
 

Reporting for Trocaire in Haiti – Mud huts and washrooms

In 2006 while travelling for Trócaire I made a trip to Haiti to report on the work of Trócaire’s partners, mainly working with women’s groups.  The difficulty with documenting some of the horror stories of the women’s experiences is that it has to be sanitized enough so it doesn’t cause offence to a first world audience.  Documenting stories of rape and violence was no easy task as I set about trying to word it so it was palatable enough for people who know nothing about the developing world or issues of violence against women, to be able to read over their muesli in the morning.

Screwing it up

haiti map1Haiti is just out on its own.  Not exactly your regular tourist destination and it was never on my must see before I die places to visit.  It’s Africa in the Caribbean – the oldest self ruled black country, gaining autonomy in 1804 – they had 200 plus years to screw it up and they did a good job.  It shares the island with the Dominican Republic and when you fly over you can see how there is practically no forest left in Haiti while in neighbouring Dominican Republic is lush and green, as it should be.

At the time I travelled it was estimated that 8 out of every 10 women in Haiti suffer domestic violence and the law only changed in 2005 to make rape within marriage illegal.  I know they had a series of despot leaders from Papa Doc, to Baby Doc to Jean-Baptise Astride but that would be only the last 50/60 years.  It should be a tropical paradise but instead it’s so dangerous that as a visitor you can’t leave your hotel unaccompanied.  It makes Somalia look tame.

haiti_gourdes_1000They even have their own virtual currency here.  I was in the supermarket buying water and couldn’t figure out the change.  They had charged dollars but the change in the currency ‘Gourdes’ didn’t add up.  Apparently 20 years ago when the US dollar was worth 5 Gourdes, 5 Gouds was referred to as a dollar.  Although 39.75 Gourdes is worth 1 US dollar – 5 Gourdes is called 1 $. Confused?  Good – because I have never been more confused in my life.  It was just as well there was somebody accompanying me the whole time because I felt like some little old lady who couldn’t figure out the ‘new’ money.

Port_au_prince-haitiI was mainly staying around Port-au-Prince, the capital.  As usual, Trócaire had one of their local partner organisations take care of me while I was in the country.  Unlike the other countries I visited Trócaire’s local partners were anxious to show me their work so I could say nice things about them when I reported back.  This time it was a little different, the man who was charged with my itinerary unceremoniously dumped me back at the hotel at 4 p.m. every day and picked me up the next morning at 8 a.m.  Let’s say he didn’t go out of his way to make Haiti any more appealing. 

Accommodation

When I arrived, he tried putting me in a convent-type accommodation.  In the heat of the day, we must have climbed 50 or 60 steps, with me struggling with my luggage, camera bags and lap top and he frolicked up the steps, arms swinging.  I registered at reception and when I was shown to the room with no air conditioning, no ensuite, no internet and no fan, I said “no way” and checked out.  It didn’t get a whole lot better when he brought me to another accommodation. The US $65 a night seemed a little steep at the time but at least there was guaranteed air-condition, even if they charged an extra $8 per day for electricity on the bill!!.

Violence

haiti women 4 shotHaiti is a very violent society with impunity for many men who commit violent acts and rape on women. I was brought around to meet women in a shelter, who were the victims of violence.  Often their stories were so horrific I would sit and cry with them as they would recount to me their experiences.  One woman was brave enough to report the rape of her daughter, but when she did so, the perpetrators returned the following evening, murdered her daughter and raped her.  Somebody had taken a photo of her dead daughter and she sobbed , she turned to me and asked “Who will take my photo?” It was a horrific story and just one of many I documented on the visit to Haiti.

I did have one trip down the country to a community only about 160 kilometres distance – it took 4.5 hours to travel the 160 kilometres and the 10 kilometres through a few mountains in a 4-wheel drive took up one whole hour.  It was a bit of a trek, bouncing around in a car for the whole journey.  Most of the roads were covered in pot holes and it felt as if the whole journey was off-road driving.

Mud huts and washrooms

orange mud hutFor some reason I thought I would be staying in a bed and breakfast type accommodation.  The penny should have dropped when we called to pick up supplies in a local shop.  We arrived and I was shown to my accommodation, which was the house of a local woman who had travelled to Port-au-Prince for a few nights.  The accommodation was a mud hut, complete with a thatched roof and spotlessly clean.  She had obviously gone out of her way to prepare for the visitor she wasn’t going to meet. I was however, a little perturbed not being able to find the bathroom facilities; either shower or toilet.

I travelled with two men from a non-government organisation Trócaire was supporting , we arrived in the late afternoon, so not a lot of opportunity to talk to the community who were busy preparing for supper.  While the food we brought was being prepared by some local women, my two carers announced it was time to wash before supper.  I quietly mentioned that I had no towel so one of the men kindly provided me with his towel.  I was accompanied down to the river as we passed men swimming in one area, we moved upstream to a more secluded part.

There was a young girl sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, with nothing on except a pair of panties, washing. She was like some exoctic sprite and looked at me smiling.  There was another large rock beside her and one of the women pointed, indicating that the second rock had my name on it.  I was expected to whip off my clothes down to my panties, wade out to the middle of the river and provide the evening’s entertainment with a gang of kids all standing with their mouths hitting the ground.  I waved at some of the women who actually waved back at me. I felt as if every women and child in the village had come to watch. 

I moved closer to the water, trying to avoid the stones under my feet as they laughed at my feeble efforts to wade barefoot into the river.  As expectations were mounting and women and children were vying for space to get a better look, I was determined not to become the topic of conversation for the next month in the village.  I stood at the edge, wrapped in a towel and threw water over the visible bits. I simply refused to exhibit my blue-white body to a whole village.

Darkness fell very early in the evening and with no electricity, there was nothing to do except go to the house.  I felt as if the whole village was sitting outside watching, so when it began to rain heavily, I was relieved.  My bladder was bursting and I needed to pee really badly.  I stepped outside the house in the pouring rain and relieved myself.  A couple of hours later, a knock came to the door and a young girl handed me a plastic basin.  I scratched my head unsure whether it was for washing or using as a potty in the middle of the night. I used it as a potty.

The son of the school teacher in the village was about 5-years old and took such a shine to me.  He was the cutest little thing and every time I looked around he was sitting beside me, batting his eyelashes at me.  At one stage he sat beside me and tried to put his arms around me as if I was his girlfriend.  I could have taken him home and indeed one of the men asked would I not take him home.  He (the child)  sat and explained in Creole all about the orange trees and how the women collected the avocados and about his dad and the school.  He told me all about the woman whose house I was staying and followed me everywhere for the time I was in the village. I would loved to have been able to communicate with him and he was trying so hard.  

Every time I looked out of the house, he was either coming down the pathway or sitting on the rocks outside, waiting patiently.  When it came time for my departure, he was so upset and no amount of cajoling could get a smile from him.  He stood at the gate in floods of tears as I left.

I was glad to have visited the village and experience rural Haiti, where life seemed a little less violent and the community seemed more in hamony with nature and life.

Until next time.

Yours,

Fagan

DSCF1423