Haiti Faces Are Dead
Should I Return to Haiti?
A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.
- Anonymous Chinese proverb.
This assumes we know public opinion, and have the capacity to care. I cannot relate to Twitter or Facebook, these sites assume, and thrive on the assumption we need the approval of the group. Their business model ask the question, do you like my face. I know real faces, and I like them.
I am 10-15 hours away from Port-au-Prince; I have been inundated with emails asking the question,
“Are you going back?”
My self-talk is annoying loud, for each time you ask, I ask myself 50 times. I just woke up, thinking to myself, drilling this question in my mind,
“Should I go back?”
Sosua, Dominican Republic --- Thursday, January 14, 2010
By Andy Graham of HoboTraveler.com
I remember sitting in an internet café in Arbil, Iraq, I asked the same question, in a different time, and a different moment.
“Why should I go to Bagdad?”
I was getting weak, not sure of my motivations, in this time the internet was 10 times more personal. People were not jaded, they tried to help more, I ask my readers, and I received maybe 50 replies in one day.
One man from Spain said,
“Someone needs to go witness.”
This word witness made up my mind, I went to Baghdad and towards the end of the story, I was there, and did this…
This is one of the Travel Insiders buzzwords, a phrase that guidebooks use to endear their company to you, the readers to sell books. When they couple it up with the word Ecotourism, I get annoyed. I think to myself, if you want to be an Eco Tourist, then stay home. The whole reason for Eco-tourism was to offer an alternative to destructive behavior of locals.
Example: The local earns money as a guide, he can feed is family with this money, and does not need to eat a Hippo.
A great idea that has gone astray.
Responsible Travel is Personal
Invariably when a tour is formed, there is a hotel built, when a group is formed, it become more irresponsible than responsible.
Ahimsa applied to Haiti
Sanskrit: First do no harm, this is my guide, this is my decision making, but truly no decision is a yes, or a no, they are all maybe. There is the good balancing argument, can I make a difference that will help more people, than the percentage I harm.
Ahimsa on Wikipedia.org
Serenity Prayer Fails Me
“God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference. “
I think I should try to save life, even when I should accept it is not possible.
We Can Save the World
Travel destroys illusions; there is an Americanism, the delusional belief that the United States of the America can change the world. Right now, in the USA, there is a person who wants to go help the Haitian people. Somehow, this lone person believes an American can do the work better than a Haitian can. This is good intentions, however, I am a Professional Traveler, and I know what I am capable of doing in Haiti.
“I can lift rocks.”
That would be my highest and best use for Andy Graham of HoboTraveler.com after I arrived in Port-au-Prince. However, the truth is, I would need some Haitian person to help me; I would be a burden to the system, one more body in country full of people with nothing to do.
I could Guide Doctors into Haiti
A doctor does not need to speak Creole to do his or her job. It is possible for me to help people enter Haiti very quickly, but time is burning, we have less than 24 hours, maybe 48, the problem is going to find a solution. The people will die; time will demand this to happen.
Contrary to many opinions, I know myself. I do not want controversy; I kill many a comment on the Travel Journal that is too controversial. Controversy makes money, it sells, it by nature is gossip, look at Michael Moore, he has never done anything, and he makes his living by talking about people who do something.
I am controversial because I am honest, honesty is controversial, lies make sense.
Therefore, can I do something in Haiti, even if I wait a week, then return, it would only be giving you a voyeuristic moment. Trust me, I will not go searching for dead people to photograph, I do not want you to see this. I do not take the worst photos, you are my friends, and you do not need to know too clearly.
I want to know if she will smile again as she fills buckets with water. I want to know if the little girl who lives next to me is alive, I want to know if Ronny is alive or dead. I want to know if real people, with real faces, that live my memories still exist. This is selfish; it is me wanting to relieve the pressure.
Giving Hope is Cruel
A responsible travel does not allow locals to have false hope. People appear to have good intentions; they want to be seen as good people. They raise money, they make jobs, and they pull the dreams, hopes, and jobs away when they leave. Saving a life is good; giving false home, with no follow through is cruel.
I do hope you realize, this is my diary, I am not sure what to do. This is a real, I have the ability to do anything I want, I am not afraid of Haiti. If you really read the above explanation of the 15 hours of travel time with a critical mind, you are truly closer than I am. It is all about money, do you have the money to go to Haiti. I know the majority of you feel more empowered than me; you do not have to travel as Hobo because you are richer. If this is true, you can fly to Port-au-Prince, or Santo Domingo easier than I can, I must do seat time. I would guess the rooms are going for 200-300 dollars; I would need to sleep in a tent. I would not take a room, these are for Doctors, and I am just a body.
Funnel Money to Real People
If I had enough money, I could funnel money directly to one family at a time, no intermediary, direct donations. What a horrible dilemma, can I give money to one person, and give temporary relief. The money they need to relocate to a new home.
Artic Para just got me on chat, saying
Artic Para: Are you ok?
ME: I am not so happy
ME: I know my unknown friends are dead
ME: face are dead
Artic Para: yes it's crap ain't it but don't you go getting survivor guilt my friend
ME: Survivors Guilt
Artic Para: as it is so shall it be
ME: I would suspect you understand this more than me
Artic Para: Maybe a little damaged, a former Vietnam Veteran, someone who gave for me, in my stead. Unable to live in the USA for many reasons, this is another story you do not want to understand up close and personal.
Jasmine and Greg from the orphanage helped Roadie, a malnutrition damaged child. I only needed to see the one starfish, by the name or Roadie to know, that was enough. There is a huge difference between the saving of one life, and the delusional ideas of taking one orphan of the street. Saving a life is good, it is a change made, I approve of saving dying babies, and I am not so excited about giving orphans hopeful homes, which may not be their forever.
--- She got me with the Starfish story…
I am American
Today, the USA sends American Soldiers to do good.
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.
Because I am an American, Haiti is my battle, no more, no less, and never simple. I have Roadies face imprinted on mind; sometimes it sucks to be an American.
Haiti Orphanage Photos
The people that surrounded all the faces I know, do not answer the phone. I test the phone numbers every hour or two, they do not answer.
Truly you should not debate what I will do --- you should be debating if you should be doing something, as a traveler, I will say, stay the course.
Haiti Faces Are Dead
- Chris Smith
Andy, every plea I've heard from everyone who knows the country as well as you has been very consistent: "Unless you are a doctor, send money. And if you are a doctor, a suitcase of supplies will matter more than your skills."
In other words, what the country needs most right now is stuff it can purchase: drinking water, medical supplies, food that won't perish quickly. There are plenty of bodies with muscles that can lift rocks. They don't have anything else to do right now anyway---the entire economy has stopped except the aid and rescue economy.
Take the money you would have spent to get there and donate it wisely instead.
Ive been reading your diary off and on for several years... sometimes I delete unread because I am too busy sometimes I read your excellent writing and profound thoughts on traveling as an american with amusement and admiration. Today I read with tears streaming down my face. I have not been to Haiti but I know and love Hatians, my mother worked as a nurse there for many years and told stories of some of the most spiritual and giving people in the world. It will not be this way for white people right now. They will see you as someone to save them, and one thing I have learned as an american abroad and worst of all in asia, that after crisis we are ripe for extortion. I was in Sri Lanka just after the Tsunami. I could lift rocks. I had firstaid training, but no supplies. I was in the way of the carpenters and philanthropists from europe. I came to loathe the red cross. I took one of the many available hotel rooms once I helped shovel the sand off of concrete 1st floor. I slept on salty foam with my beach towel as a blanket. There did not seem to be competition for space with the real relief workers, but seeing the people suffer and despair, looking at me knowing I had a life back home with possibilities and hope for a future in their minds full of riches and glamor, I was asked regularly "why was I there" and the truth was I was not much help. I didn't have money. I could not buy the tools to fix the fishing boats. Raising money at home (NY) would have been more help, buying a boat for a fisherman and his family would have been help. Sweeping sand out of concrete hovels was not real help. I did not want to watch the pile of dead bodies burn. It was not good for my psyche. It was not good for my soul. Mother nature is not malicious, she did not send a scourge upon an already impoverished people. Shit happens... and traveler to traveler... STAY THE COURSE. You will not been seen as relief aid. Leave that to the redcross and doctors without borders, they will do 2-6weeks of 'work' and return to their 'lives' back home. You will be extorted and your guilt will cause you to spend money you do not have. I did nothing for the long term residents of Una Watuna, I amused the Italian carpenters who were actually building new homes for these people. I helped the occasional old man dig his canoe out of the sand. I carried babies of mothers begging other white folks for money. They will say to you (those that speak english) "my friend, my friend, what do you have for me?" Like they did to me... and I bought them tobacco and beetlenut... why, because thats what they wanted. It was not relief. It was not help. Stay the course, my friend. Find a simple beach to grieve for your friends and move on, or come home and take a break and raise money if you feel so inclined. I will say ~70 the money raised for survivors of the Tsunami was wasted by the fly by night relief groups. I know I am not helping you feel better... but I will say I felt like I went to help, and left feeling like I gave hundreds of dollars to drunks and addicts. I was in Laos when the tsunami hit, dodged a bullet like you... consider yourself blessed, and talkstory with the people you meet about the beautiful people you dont know whether live or are dead. Keep things in perspective, and stay the course.
You should help but not necessarily go back to port au prince. You're a businessman, perhaps the best thing you can do is organize a supply convoy from DR to haiti. They need bottled water, nutrient dense food, basic first aid supplies and blankets. Perhaps a million people are now homeless and on the street the best use of your abilities is to organize the transport of very needed essentials. God be with you.
Even if you do not wear his medal or believe in Saint Christopher , the patron Saint of travelers , something got you out of Haiti in time to avoid disaster . Don't tempt fate ! My pain is for the population and a dream country that has vanished forever . Count your blessings and move on .
The ICRC has a list where people who survived can register (searching for relatives) Here is a link to the list
Maybe you will find someone.
Remembering the faces of the people we knew as they lived,is most times better than remembering their faces or the faces of those that loved them after they are gone. A nurse that lived in my town, had just checked into her hotel in Port au Prince, when the earthquake struck. She was killed in the rubble. Although we didn't know her personally, it still is better to remember her for what she was doing there and how she "lived" here.
Stay Safe and remember those you have met.
Frank Gray did a piece on you today in JG from the Fort. Your old hometown USA, my present town USA. I have been keeping up O.L.C.H. on facebook site, they are alive, but their safety is in question.....maybe this will bring you a little bit of peace.
Charlie, I never mentioned them once, because I can only mention what I see. I did not talk about Voodou, it never entered my world. I do not search for a something to write about. This is reality, not story telling.
I was in Port-au-Prince living for three weeks on Rue Lamarre. I think time I met one girl who as White American. Patricia was there for 16 months and went anywhere, and everywhere. There were some Lebanon people who owned the grocery store close to the Palace.
I would suspect maybe there coule be 30-40,000 number of Haitian people, who naturalized to the USA and come back to visit.. I met a two of them, but no difference, except for the passport.
There is no way there was 40,000 people like me who stuck out in the crowd. I was one of the few white people in the country.
Please go to the country.
I don't know why,but that link didn't work. I hope this one does.
I can't imagine how heart wrenching it must be for you having just been in Haiti. Back in 1985 I left Mexico City 1 week before they had a 8.1 quake. It too was a devestating earthquake. It was days before I heard anything about my family or friends. I wanted to go back, but I had to realize there wasn't much I could have done. That said, that is what worked for me, you can only do what is best for you. My prayers to you and your friends. I hope all turns out ok.
Reports are there are 30-45,000 Americans living in Haiti. It doesn't say they are all in Port Au Prince, neither do they HAVE TO BE WHITE.
Blinders on Andy.
Glad you're safe Andy and I understand the burden, felt the same thing in Indonesia.
People in the US with mobile phones can help Haiti in just 5 seconds - I just wrote about it: