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It´s dark still but I can´t sleep. The low drone of heavy earthmoving equipment, the lingering smell of burning garbage, the symphony of cell phones chirping with incoming messages all conspire me from sleep. But above all, guilt is due the old ¨gringo alarm clock¨ – cocks crowing incessantly. It´s amazing, the number of roosters, hens, and chicks running around our camp at the defunct military hospital in Port-au-Prince (see note 1). I never understood how owners of free-running (see note 2) chickens keep track of them. Here in post-quake Haiti I´m even more baffled by chicken behavior – how can they run around willy nilly with so many hungry people about?
When I emerge from my blue igloo, the sun hasn´t yet come out. No matter: I´m sweating like a pig. The type of muggy here is like none I´ve known save for on a pre-Giuliani subway in August. Though there´s still no sun, an ominous light I don´t like hovers above the clearing where clothes lines are strung. I walk over to the dangling bras, jeans, and t-shirts to check if the metallic, cold light is the effect of fluorescents – the generators have already started up and the tubes have been flicked on around the camp. But no, it´s just an ugly filtered light hanging there over the piles of dried almond leaves covering the ground.
There´s a spontaneous refugee camp just adjacent to the Cuban installation, a few families is all, and the women and children fill their water buckets at the spigot at the far end of our camp. Since (some) Cubans share genetic similarities with Haitians (note 3), it´s hard to know who is who. I cover all bases with the smiling fellow sweeping up the almond leaves this morning, starting with bonjour followed quickly by buenos días.
Good day? Let´s hope so. Welcome to Haiti, March 2010.
Next up: Visions of Port-au-Prince…
1. Their brethren ended up on my plate twice yesterday, so I guess getting roused at 5:45 in the morning is a small price to pay.
2. I´m talking about chickens that have free reign, not free ranging like in the US. These birds rule the streets, parks, and patios of the developing world. How do their owners identify them? How come they aren´t stolen? How come they don´t make a run for it, the dumb birds? Interesting side note: I have decades of Latin American experience, but still am baffled by simple Latino chicken behavior.
3. And some – like the guy from Villa Clara did, moments before typing this – deny it.