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Cuban bichos have nothing on the Haitians. After ten visits to the toilet here in our camp, I can tell you from firsthand experience these creole suckers are fuerte. Beyond the bloody, liquid stools, I´ve been flattened by fever and withstood painful, poignant cramps. I´ve been taking the bitter pills to combat the nasty Haitian bacteria living in my intestines for a couple of days now and I´m still making the mad dash for the toilet. And here lies the real trouble and adventure.
Our bathroom is the picture of nastiness. Shared by 10 to twelve people and without running water, the mud and leaves, dust and random Port-au-Prince shit gets tracked in and spread by each visitor to its four points. But wait, for the poor slob like me suffering from explosive diarrhea, it gets worse: this lovely baño, where I´ve been bathing, crapping, and occasionally washing the odd pair of underwear in an old paint bucket, is kept under lock and key.
Twelve people sharing one (locked) bathroom, with me shooting liquid from my butt ten times a day. You do the math. Oh, just to make it more challenging still, the generator (and the lights, natch) are cut at 10:30 at night. So imagine me (or better yet, don´t) at 3 in the morning, trying to find the communal key in the dark, locating it on the clothesline finally, struggling to wrangle it from the line, having to give up as the explosive diarrhea and cold stress sweat begin oozing from my body, and just yanking the key off its rope and running madly for the bathroom. But once there, I have to find the key hole, insert said key and cross the anteroom to the actual toilet. I almost made it. Once that indignity was done, I had to fetch that old paint bucket and fill it with water from the ground-level cistern. In the dark.
Repeat tent-bathroom-cistern. Tent-bathroom-cistern. Tent-bathroom-cistern ten times a day. Some of my baño compatriots skip the cistern part and leave me nice, friendly floaters or several inches of acrid piss to face as I sit to let things rip. Nice. Twice as nice is when one of the twelve ¨compañeros¨ with whom I´m sharing the bathroom forgets to replace the key on the clothesline…or hides it. I´ve had to go ¨Woodstock¨ (as we say in my family which is full of people suffering from one kind of explosive diarrhea or another) on more than one occasion here in Haiti. Pretty retro, I know, but until now I´ve been able to resolve a bathroom – all are under lock and key here – in my hour of need. Probably more detrimental to my psyche is the diet I have to follow: no coffee or just a little which for me is an oxymoron, nothing spicy (which if you could see our menu, you would understand why this is so trying), no sweets, no juice or soda, and oh, I´m not supposed to smoke my daily cigar. Ach.
Why am I telling you all this? Maybe I´m hoping ya´ll will send me the healing vibe so I can make it to the ceremony I have to attend tomorrow – an hour away over the dusty, crater-pocked roads leading through and out of Port-au-Prince – without incident. My campmates are advising me to bring a plastic bag por si acaso. I pray that ´just in case´ never comes to pass. I´ll keep you posted.