Sunday, November 28, 2010

Election Day in Haiti - Woy!

So, today is election day in Haiti. I haven't been outside the mission walls at all today, as suggested by our Haitian director here at MOH, so I really haven't seen it for myself...but I've heard news of craziness going on.

For the past month there has been a lot of activity surrounding the elections...posters going up everywhere (and I mean everywhere! Gravestones, broken down vehicles on the side of the road, walls lining the streets, backs of motorcycles and vehicles...everywhere!), random parades on the main roads to promote a specific candidate, t shirts given out (I still really want one), and radio advertisements. I've been asking all my friends here who they would vote for, and they would all answer me with a name...but then when I would ask them if they were going to vote, overwhelmingly the answer was "no." It was so odd to me, and I didn't quite understand it. One friend said he would feel guilty if he voted for a person that became president and then made poor choices for the country, or ended up being a corrupt. Other people told me that they had no confidence in the voting system set up in the country, so they don't bother voting.

I really haven't understood this at all in the past month. All the parades seemed really fun, and everything seemed to be quite fair...just one candidate (Jude Celestin) was being favoured by Preval (the current president), but otherwise, pretty normal and non-chaotic. I didn't feel any threat of elections being a "dangerous" time, although I did hear about past elections and all the jazz that can happen. An email suggesting that we not have any activities off the mission base on election day kind of alerted me to the potential for unrest.

Today was pretty far from normal for me...up at 5:30am to see a team off to the airport (this time with armed security due to it being election day), breakfast at 7 am, church at 9:30am (wait...only 1/4 of the people are here today...weird), lunch at 1pm and then we sat, we made food, we ate food, we napped, we got up and made more food, then ate the food. Weird. I cannot remember the last time we had a day like that here. We actually ended up celebrating American Thanksgiving today...since we couldn't go anywhere anyway...why not?!

Around 5ish we heard back from Ruben who had gone out to vote (hooray!). He said at the polling station there were people everywhere trying to get him to vote for someone specifically, and he had to tell them to all back off. He also said he was listening to the news and heard that 12 of the candidates were leading a protest in Port-au-Prince (Wyclef was involved, who knows why!) because they want to redo the elections, even before the results were out. He also said 2 polling stations were burned down by people. The one place opened at 9am this morning, and were out of ballots right away because apparently someone had already filled out them all for their choice candidate (apparently the guy that the current president was endorsing...hmm...). So, ya. It blew my mind today. I couldn't even imagine that stuff happening at home in Canada. Weird. Or I guess I should say it's just different. It's not weird here. It's expected by the people so it seems. I now understand a bit more why all my friends were saying that they weren't going to vote. It stinks really. At home in Canada I remember being really excited to vote, just because I could and it was my first, it's a pain, it can't be trusted, it's a source of frustration. And how do you change that? How do you change something that huge?!?! Wow.

A line from a song in church this morning has been sticking with me though that says - "Ou se lespwa mwen genyen" - and it's saying that He (Jesus) is the hope we have. So often in Haiti we use the word hope. It's in all the NGO names...Mission of Hope, Real Hope for Haiti, Convoy of Hope...etc. We talk about bringing hope to this nation, but what is that really? Is it that we're putting our hope in the systems of men? Will the UN help bring peace to Haiti? Will enough NGO's raise fund to feed all those that are hungry in Haiti? I think, for me personally, too often I don't think about this one enough, and I find myself with my hope in these systems and absorbed solely in the reality of the physical realm...when really, there's so much more to it than that. At times I feel overwhelmed with how big the task of change is in Haiti, even just figuring out how to deal with all of the garbage and waste, bringing cholera under control, let alone choosing a president! Woy. But, in church this morning, again my friends all around me amazed me! We were praying for the elections...and I felt that hope...hope in something larger. Hope in One who knows, who sees, and who can bring change. I think I felt, even momentarily, true hope for Haiti. He alone is the hope for this nation, and we can't forget that.

And on a slightly different note...I also made my very first pie today:) I'm a little excited about that fact.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What is Normal, Really?

Just a thought I've been thinking a lot about lately, what is normal?

A group that just recently visited MOH mentioned something about how tent cities and various things in Haiti seemed to become "normal" to them during their week long visit, and then commented on how absurd that was, that living in tents would be normal, that going to bed hungry would be normal, that drinking from an unclean water source would be normal. Right, it is absurd, to those of us from North America where Starbucks/Timmy's on every corner is the norm, where 3 bedroom homes with central air and heat is the norm, and worrying about gaining too much weight at Christmas is the norm.

I'm really not being judgmental at this point. When I was home I LOVED Starbucks, daily if I could manage to drive by one. This is just one thought that has stuck with me, because when I was in this debriefing with the team, I found myself agreeing with them, thinking "oh my gosh, this stuff has become normal to me! How awful that I have gotten used to the living conditions in this country." I felt guilty for not being able to fix every bit of hunger that crossed my path here, or for not bringing every sick child back to the mission until they were better. But with a bit more thought in the following days, I realized that this is very much the norm for the Majority World. Not that every developing nation has tent cities or all of the issues that are currently affecting Haiti, but I just feel like it's important for us as North Americans to realize that we are not the norm. Our way of life is not sustainable, and our standards of living are, I want to say, ridiculous. And I did.

I've had some understanding of this concept in the past, but I think it just slapped me in the face in a different way this week. Hopefully it helps you think about this as well.